Recent Review: We started with just a big lawn and an old rickety deck in our backyard and nothing else, and planned on a massive project with an equally massive total budget of about $200,000 to put in a new in-ground swimming pool, new deck, new concrete patio with outdoor kitchen, vinyl gazebo, planting beds, trees, fence, and revised drainage scheme for our fairly flat lot with clay soil and poor drainage, plus a small home addition to our house as well. Sculptured Earth was to be our landscape contractor and project manager to coordinate all the various other contractors. Josh (the owner of the company) promptly met with us at our appointment time at our home and reviewed our "needs and wants" for our project. He met with us again a week later with 3 rough drawings/concepts for our yard, and after taking our suggestions and noting our likes and dislikes about each, he came back for a third meeting with a "semi-final" plan with an initial itemized contract showing the price. Up to this point, Josh REQUIRED NO MONEY UP FRONT and NO CONTRACT for all that design work (which must have been several hours worth of work), and only when we decided that this "semi-final" plan was what we wanted, did he ask for a deposit and a signed contract. (Ultimately this was one of the reasons we hired Josh, including his impeccable references. We had interviewed 2 other contractors, one who never called us back after the first meeting, and another who wanted a $1000 retainer to just start the design process). He also discussed various scenarios for staging the project in parts so that we could opt to only do portions at a time, in case our budget required it, but fortunately we were in a position to do the entire project at once. He did allow us to modify some items as the project was in progress when we changed our minds about certain details, or wanted to add components along the way. No "hidden fees" or "change order fees" were ever added on, just the cost of the work and materials. We added and subtracted a few things along the 4 months (Apr-July) that it took to complete everything, which did increase the projected completion time somewhat, but we also had a few delays due to the usual weather issues, and also a 10-day delay that was entirely due to an electrical subcontractor (who was hired through the pool contractor) who couldn't keep to his promised schedule dates. This was not Josh's fault. He was always responsive whenever we had concerns. He always returned my phone calls within a day. Josh's business philosophy is that until his customer is satisfied, he will not be either. His crew was always polite and on time each day. A project of this scope can be expected to have glitches along the way, and ours was no exception. Whenever a problem arose, Josh was always receptive to our wishes when a solution was devised. An example: Josh's concrete subcontractor made a critical error in distorting the pool's autocover housing, such that the cover couldn't be installed. The concrete guy wanted to do a "shortcut" fix which was not something that we would have been satisfied with. I emphasized this point to Josh, and he made the concrete guy do it the way we wanted it, which was going to involve removing and re-pouring 3 times more concrete than the concrete subcontractor wanted to, but would result in a much more structurely sound patio. To be honest, Josh and his crew didn't catch all the problems that arose. Not because they ignored them, but because a project of this size is difficult to keep a handle on for anyone. So I did act as my own "general contractor" to keep tabs on things. I caught the electrical contractor accidentally kinking one of the gas lines to the pool heater. This is not something I would necessarily expect Josh's crew to see. I had to make the calls to the gas subcontractor to make sure this was repaired before the gas line was buried. There was another error that Josh missed which I was able to catch when I noticed that it didn't appear that the deck stairs would reach the concrete patio as intended based on where the forms were relative to the partially-completed deck stair landing. Apparently Josh's error was in assuming the deck plans were completely accurate from the deck contractor, but there was a slight variance in the actual deck stairs once built. It probably would've been better if Josh had verified with the decking contractor where the stairs would end at the bottom instead of assuming things by the plans. But again, I know that Josh would've fixed it if it hadn't been caught by me and the concrete was poured incorrectly. I just helped to circumvent a mistake before it happened. Another potential error happened at the beginning where Josh's crew starting building the stone steps to our shed area, but had to re-do it 3 times because they kept making them stick out into our yard a little too far for our liking. But Josh was more than happy to make the necessary changes (with no additional cost to us) until we were happy with the result. A final glitch happened when Josh was spraying a muriatic acid solution around our newly installed outdoor stainless steel refridgerator, grill, cabinet doors, etc. The refridgerator door was etched by the solution, and I pointed it out to Josh. He reimbursed me for the $200 it would cost to get a new door for the refridgerator. One time, his crew was digging the drainage trench for the French drain, and they damaged the gas line also. Josh notified me immediately and arranged to have the gas subcontractor out to the house ASAP, and he covered that cost without question. I don't want to paint a negative picture about Josh and Sculptured Earth by mentioning these errors. Quite the contrary, because a big project like this has a good probability that mistakes can and will happen even with our painstakingly detailed planning, the homeowner wants the contractor(s) involved to take ownership of the errors and make things right to the satisfaction of the homeowner. What you don't want is a contractor who makes excuses and tries to avoid fixing the problem, or tries to get away with a "shortcut." Worse yet, you don't want a contractor who will try to hide the mistake from the homeowner. I wanted to highlight that Josh is the type of contractor who will do whatever is necessary to fix any glitches along the way. He runs his business with the utmost integrity, his crew works extremely hard to make sure the homeowner is satisfied, and in the end they do fabulous work! If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely hire Josh again. In fact, when we get around to doing our front and side yards, I'll be calling Josh and Sculptured Earth to do the job.