“Ten Questions that you should you ask your contractor before considering them for your project“
Below are 10 questions that you should ask your contractor before considering them for your project. These are ten questions most contractors would rather not have to answer. If you ask your potential pond builder these questions, you will lessen your chances of your pond becoming a disaster.
We are located in Southern California hence, the “So-Cal” in So-Cal Ponds, Inc. so you will hear us make reference to “California’s State Laws” and regulations. Some states DO NOT require a contractor’s license, making this list of questions that much more valuable for people to contract for pond construction.
- Are you a licensed landscape contractor that specializes in pond construction and pond design and may I please see a copy of your contractor’s license?
Most landscape contractors have a copy of their landscape contractors license in their design portfolio or have their contractor identification card in their wallet and should be eager to show it off. Unlicensed pond and landscape construction activity happens frequently and puts both yourself and the alleged contractor at risk. Contracting without a license is a misdemeanor offense, and anyone who does so is subject to serious penalties including jail time. It is also a misdemeanor for a pond contractor to advertise as such in a classification other than that for which he is specifically licensed, although a licensed general engineering or general building contractor may advertise as a general contractor. Additionally, Certified Contractor Programs promoted by pond manufactures, unfortunately, do not mean the builder is a California licensed contractor. Just because they have completed a manufactures training course or have a sticker on their truck doesn’t mean they are a legit contractor. A licensed pond construction contractor who contracts with or aids an unlicensed person, or allows an unlicensed person to use his or her contractor’s license, is subject to a citation from the Registrar and a civil penalty of up to $15,000. The Contractors State License Board is your only defense against the fly-by-night pond construction contractors.
- What is your guarantee on your pond construction workmanship?
The California State Law is to guarantee all workmanship and materials for one year. Once again, the California State Board is your only defense. If you contract with an unlicensed landscaper in order to save money on your investment with your pond design, koi pond, or landscape construction and run into trouble with workmanship issues, you may be out of luck and will be looking at spending more money than you saved to fix your pond construction problem(s).
- After I sign a pond design contract for pond construction and have second thoughts, what are my rights?
You have rights! California’s State Law requires any contractor, including pond construction contractors to offer a Notice of Cancellation within three days for a full refund. The buyer in a home solicitation contract has the right to cancel the contract at any time prior to midnight of the third business day following the signing of the pond design contract.
Business days, in this case, include all calendar days except Sundays and legal holidays. LEGALLY, The home solicitation contract MUST include a Notice of Cancellation form and the following statement: “You, the buyer, may cancel this transaction at any time prior to midnight of the third business day after the date of this transaction.“Ask to see the pond construction contractor’s notice of cancellation form for an explanation of this right. Once a home solicitation contract has been legally canceled, the pond construction contractor is required to return any payments received IN FULL WITHIN TEN DAYS following the cancellation of the contract.
- Do you have proof of your Worker’s Compensation and General Liability Insurance?
Protect yourself against lawsuits. Be sure the contractor you are using to create your pond or landscape design is properly insured. Not only is it against the law in the state of California to employ employees without workers compensation insurance, but also if any one of their employees or day laborers is injured on your property and is not covered by the pond construction contractor’s workers compensation insurance, believe it or not, that employee may collect compensation for injuries from YOUR Homeowners Insurance.
Beware: If you choose a contractor approved by a “Certified Contractor Program” promoted by a pond manufacturing company, you should know that proof of insurance wasn’t one of the requirements of the certification process and that you will need to request proof of insurance to protect yourself.
- How long will this pond construction project take you to complete?
Talk about immediate gratification! A pond construction specialist that runs a full-time pond construction crew, specializing in hybrid koi ponds and water gardens, could complete a simple 10×15 pond in as little as three or four days.
Yes, three or four days and you can expect little to no disturbance to your existing landscape. You can expect the highest quality workmanship and continued customer service from a pond construction specialist that you have posed these questions.
If the landscaper who bids your 11′ x 15′ pond design and tells you it will take then several weeks to complete, you can be certain they don’t run a full-time pond crew and they are likely not the pond construction specialist for you.
- Will my natural pond ecosystem circulate 24 hours per day?
This question is important so that you may understand your contractor’s pond construction techniques. Unfortunately, we still see a lot of ponds built by swimming pool construction companies. These contractors use what they are familiar with which is unfortunately pool equipment, which is not always cost-effective for the homeowner to run continuously. They may suggest running your pump only a few hours a day or use a variable speed pump that reduces flow and circulation to offset operating expense.
That sounds like a simple solution, however, the beneficial bacteria that colonize in your pond filters require constant oxygenation and can be oxygen-deprived to death in less than one hour. A properly designed waterscape or hybrid koi pond by a pond construction specialist will be constructed with high-efficiency pumps that are designed for waterscapes and ponds that are economical to run twenty-four hours a day.
Remember, your water garden or koi pond should be ecologically balanced, low maintenance, and be circulating 24 hours a day! If anyone tells you differently, be WARE!
- Do you plan to use concrete or a rubber liner?
For years ponds were built with concrete using construction techniques similar to swimming pool construction. Concrete is the preferred pond construction method of the PAST!
Building with concrete not only adds cost to your pond construction project and takes longer to install, but it is more often, far from natural-looking, unyielding to future expansion, and if not cured properly can be FATAL to your aquatic inhabitants. Not the best decision for a sustainable koi pond design. At So-Cal Ponds, we design natural, sustainable ponds only with liner.
When constructing water gardens, pondless waterfalls, or koi ponds any pond construction specialist should use the highest quality 45 mil E.P.D.M. rubber liner. So don’t hesitate to ask what milliner they will be using in your pond design.
- Do you have a design portfolio and pond construction testimonials?
A pond design portfolio is a nice way for you to get a look at some of their work, presumable their best, so let’s hope you fall in love with what you see! If you like what you see in print ask if the photos are of the contractor's work or did they purchase the photos from their manufacturer. Trust me it happens, all the time! We run across websites with pond photo galleries that are filled with other contractors' work! Ask the contractor if you can visit some of their work in person! Yes, a picture speaks a thousand words but standing in front of one of these pond contractors' waterscapes should seal the deal or be a deal-breaker. We want you to make the right decision.
Now testimonials give you a chance to hear a voice from some of their happy customers, but remember anyone can have their mother produce a letter of testimonial! Wouldn’t it be an interesting twist to see complaint letter testimonials? This could illustrate how well the pond construction specialist responds to problems that inevitably may arise.
The true question is how well and how fast this individual with whom you are entrusting, without doubt, a substantial amount of money will respond to the needs of their existing customer base, rather than chasing down new business after you have paid your pond construction contractor in full. Click here to view our Ponds & Water Garden Portfolio.
- Do you charge for design consultations or give FREE pond construction estimates?
Free estimates for pond construction should be easily delivered over the phone, however, a good pond design consultant will charge for their time if you ask them to come to your home. In most cases, this pond design fee should be rebated back into the contract price for your custom water garden or koi pond construction.
Licensed contractors that specialize in pond construction are in popular demand. If they offered free pond design consultations, serious tire kickers could detain them for hours! Ultimately, a pond designer that offers FREE pond design consultations would have to compensate themselves for time lost in the next signed pond construction contract, quite possibly yours!
Generally speaking, you should be willing to pay for a design consultation. This will not only save time and money long term, but you should be wondering why the other companies are willing to visit you for free. Are they short of work? Will the price be hidden in the build cost anyway? Similarly, do not expect to get a wealth of information and ideas for nothing.
Pond Design consultation fees typically range from $75.00 to $150.00 and are usually accompanied by contract review, possible pond construction dates, a firm price for your water garden or koi pond, a portfolio/testimonial, and a video presentation.
- As a landscape contractor do you specialize in waterscapes and have a background in pond design and aquatic life care?
When hiring someone to build your pond or water garden, you want to make sure they’ve obtained a landscape contractor’s license. A landscape contractor's license covers a wide range of construction and is one of the best licenses to obtain. However, for your dream koi pond or pondless waterfall, you want to find a landscape contractor that specializes in koi pond construction and design. These contractors are experienced and knowledgeable on pond ecology, aquatic life care, and the various types of natural water features.
You want to ask a contractor how many ponds they’ve built in the last year or so. A landscape contractor who specializes in pond and water garden design and construction, with a knowledgeable and efficient crew, will have built more ponds in a month than a landscape contractor with no specialty has built-in a year! It’s important that the design and construction of a koi pond or water garden are done right. Due to a lack of knowledge of both the “jack of all trades” contractor and the homeowner, homeowners often end up with a sloppy eyesore rather than a beautiful and relaxing water feature!
In the pond construction process, it is all too easy to get too close to the design yourself and miss some interesting ideas you may not have thought of. A good specialist may ask you lifestyle questions to figure out what style feature is best for you. So be open and honest with your answers! With the experience of building and maintaining many different types of pond and water features, a seasoned pond specialist will be able to suggest what will work best for you and your water garden.
Making Pond Construction & Pond Design Choices
Ponds and water features are alluring because they provide a tranquil and relaxing environment. There’s nothing better than the sight and sound of water in your own backyard. A well-designed pond will turn your outdoor space into a vacation-like retreat, where you can get away from the busy world. With a pond, you’ll be able to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature including unique aquatic plants, running water, and possibly even some koi fish.
It’s important that the design and construction of a garden pond are done right. Familiarize yourself with the basics of pond placement and construction so that when you hire a professional you’ll be able to work together to create an incredible pond.
Whether you are dealing with a Certified Pond Contractor endorsed by a manufacturer, an independent association, or a California Landscape Contractor, I suggest that you ask these ten questions, get a couple of pond design estimates from other landscape contractors that specialize in pond construction, check references, go on a pond tour, and use your gut to make the decision on which pond contractor to use. Just be sure to choose a contractor that specializes in pond construction and pond design!
To be connected with a pond design specialist near you, call our pond construction headquarters at (818) 541-9944. If you are not in our pond design radius, have no fear. We work with a network of pond construction specialists across the country. We will gladly connect you with a pond construction contractor in our network.