Many of the most sought-after communities in Tampa Bay are managed by Home Owner’s Associations (HOA). In neighborhoods governed by an HOA, owners pay a monthly fee for maintaining the common areas of their neighborhood. Florida homeowners pay a premium for tree-lined parkways, scenic courtyards, and an endless array of flowering plants and manicured lawns. That’s why landscaping and maintenance of the common grounds is such a large part of many HOA’s budgets. But, it’s important to remember that a landscaping company alone will not necessarily keep your property beautiful and thriving.
When the landscapers leave for the week, or month, their handiwork is entrusted to a network of commercial irrigation, or sprinkler systems to properly and efficiently water the ground sin order for plants and lawns to thrive. However, many neighborhoods neglect the importance of having a high quality, comprehensive system installed and many HOA’s are losing money with systems that are inefficient or constantly in need of repairs.
Many HOA’s put the job of installing and maintaining their irrigation systems to the landscapers. While there are certainly a small handful of landscaping companies with some expertise, the installation and maintenance of your neighborhood’s sprinkler system should be left to a commercial irrigation contractor to get the job done right and get the most out of your system. However, finding the right contractor for the job can be difficult as there is often an overwhelming number of choices. To help you make the right one, we’ve put together a quick list of tips. Let’s get started.
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Look Inside, Before You Look Outside
Sometimes the best contractors are those who are referred to us by people we already know. So the first step is to get out there and talk to people — family, friends, board members, home owners and professionals, like realtors, who work with irrigation contractors every day. You never know who you might find in your inner circle until you look.
Set a Plan and Compare Notes
Once you know what needs to be done, you’ll want to put a project plan together. This should contain an itemized list of tasks, products and materials — and charges for each contractor. Once the quotes start rolling in, this document will help you make a more detailed comparison.
Keep It Competitive
Once you have a project plan together, go out and get a few quotes — and let it be known that you’re shopping around. This will encourage your contractors to give you more competitive quotes. Just remember: The cheapest quote isn’t always the best quote. You don’t want a contractor who cuts corners, you want someone who takes the time to create a custom solution for your community — a solution that uses specialized products and methods to optimize water distribution, conserve water, and provide more value over time.
Most companies should have an “About Us” page on their website — I know we do — but we encourage you to go beyond the company bio to make sure whoever you hire is who they say they are. Here are a few things you can verify fairly easily:
Licenses – Any contractor you hire, should have a professional license, especially if it’s required for the kind of work they do. In Florida, irrigation licenses are required by law and can be verified online.
Insurance Coverage —Before you sign the dotted line, ask to see a copy of the irrigation specialist’s liability insurance. This should cover any work-related damages, injuries and health risks that occur on the job site, and it should include worker’s compensation.
References — When it comes to references, what you get back depends on what you put in. For instance, if you ask for references without specifying the kind of information you’re looking for, you’ll get the contractors greatest hits of all time. But, if you ask for references from the last 18 months concerning properties that are similar to your own, that information will be more telling. You’ll even have the opportunity to see some of the contractor’s most recent work.
Reviews — Do a few Google searches. Check for complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau. Skim through the reviews on sites like Yelp, HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List. These can often show you how the contractor’s customers are treated and how complaints are resolved
Trade Associations and Awards— Is your contractor certified or awarded by respected trade groups? He or she could be in high demand.
Test Their Knowledge
In any corporate job, there are a number of permits that need to be obtained and water restriction laws that need to be abided by in Hillsborough County. Your contractor should know these rules like the back of their hand. If a contractor is asking you to secure all of the permits for the job, consider that a red flag.
See If They Stand Behind Their Work
Good contractors don’t just insist on quality, they define it, and then, they actually measure it. Drawings are made, checklists are completed and satisfaction is guaranteed. Payment is always tied to a job well done.
This list should serve as a good starting point for helping your Home Owner’s association identify the right specialist for your community’s next commercial irrigation system repair or sprinkler installation project. If you’re in the Tampa Bay, area and would like to get a quote from our company, please call 727-772-3819 or email us at [email protected].
Former U.S. Coast Guard and Tampa-native Joseph Swett is the owner of Sunrise Irrigation, a Palm Harbor-based company that has been providing sprinkler and irrigation services in the Tampa Bay Area, Florida, for more than 20 years. A RainBird-trained landscape specialist, Mr. Swett is dedicated to helping Florida homes and businesses implement effective irrigation technologies and transition towards smart water conservation. In his spare time, Joe sponsors and plays in two men’s softball leagues, but also enjoys surfing and going fishing with his family.