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Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by MichaelB, Apr 28, 2003.

  1. MichaelB

    MichaelB LawnSite Member
    from OR
    Messages: 4

    A buddy and I are thinking about starting a small hydroseed business for many of the subdivisions going in, in our area. Are average job size would be about 4000 sq ft.

    In order to get an Oregon landscaping license you have to have a landscape contractor license for which you have to show 2 years expererience. Other other states like this? This seems pretty restricitve for spraying seed on the ground.

    Are thoughts are to go ahead and get bodned and insured, but keep out jobs under $500 so we would not be required to get a license or hire a landscaping contractor as a consultant so we could get our license. Any ideas?

    **Maybe wrong forum sorry.
  2. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,774

    Your state is over regulated. Remember this next time you go vote.

    Oregon is a state that tries to legislate professionalism. It screws the people like yourself that are just trying to start out. Instead it gives Mr. Big the opportunity to pay you low wages and work for him while reducing his competition at the same time. The little guy gets screwed by people that are trying to save the world. That is my opinion.

    By committing to do <$500 jobs you are going to have a higher % of overhead than your competitors. This will also keep you from getting that 2 years of experience under an approved contractor. I think it would be best to play their game so that when you go into it you can operate with all the advantages of the others. Go through the licensing because there will be more competition at that unlicensed level.

    Once you have that license, it will be working for you by keeping competition down. Look at the playing field and make it work for you. Patience is the key.
  3. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    THAT'S an understatement! This state's licensing requirements for Landscapers is rediculous. You can build a friggin' whole sub-division of homes with less testing and licensing requirements than you need to plant $501 worth of plants or lay $501 worth of sod. It's so rediculous it's laughable.

    My advice - move to Vancouver, WA. Licensing in WA is SIMPLE! Just get workers' comp. and a bond and you're a contractor!

    Otherwise, there's no way around it, Michael. Other than to try to disband the State Landscape Contractors Board (which has been done in other states in the past when their boards became overzealous). If you're going to be doing this kind of work, you'll need the license. And trust me, the test is a *****. Just check out the sample test on their website. And check out the list of necessary reading materials to study for the test. It's totally rediculous. If enough people like you and me got together and fought the system, ONE DAY we could get it abolished. It would have been easy if Kevin Mannix would have won the election. He was all about abolishing useless government agencies. And I have two big connections with Kevin. So that would have been easy to do.

    There is one other solution to your problem. But we need to talk privately. Email me. -Jim
  4. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,946

    I almost hate to say this, but I agree with J. Lewis on aspects of this issue.

    When I took my Oregon landscape tests about 6 years ago, I thought the questions were challenging, but fair.

    That test was not the test offered now.

    I will be introducing, at the next Oregon Landscape Contractors Board meeting, that the tests be reduced. My personal feeling is that the deck related questions should be removed.

    This opinion does not reflect the stand of the entire board, but is my personal view.

    M. D. Vaden
    Board Member - Oregon Landscape Contractors Board

    The construction contractors cannot be compared to landscaping. Landscaping must be handled on its own merits. When a house is built, it cannot be occupied unless it has been inspected for plumbing, electrical, lumber size and framing codes, fire barriers, etc.. So the checks-and-balances exist in that trade.

    Landscaping has no code inspectors, or licensed plumbers, or licensed electricians. So landscaping cannot go unregulated completely, especially with all the migrants that want to get into that field without education or experience.

    But the devices and licenses should be fair, reasonable and attainable.

    The landscape thing reminds me of the medical field. In medicine, the knowledge has become so extensive, that no doctor is expected to know everything. Specializing is available.

    Landscape technology, and the number of plant varieties, has become so enormous, along with the pesticide side of things, that at some point, it becomes unreasonable to expect a landscape person to know everything about everything.

    That's what can happen when one person is expected to pass a test that covers every aspect of an entire field (plus decks).

    One of the best ways to do your part regarding testing, is to write your contribution or ideas in a concise, courteous and professional letter to the Oregon Landscape Contractors Board.

    You also can send a copy of letters like that to your local congressman, or, write your congressman.

    You will have better results if you can find at least one, two or more people to co-sign, or also submit letters with you.

    That's because one strong voice in the industry is the Oregon Landscape Contractors Association. They have a lobbyist, and they do get involved. Some of them feel they are the voice of the industry.

    Personally, I have told their new president, that I only give them credit for one voice. That's because although they have 1/2 the landscape contractors as members, THEY DO NOT have the other 1/2 as members.

    For that reason, I only give them 1 voice, or 7 - one for each of their board members. For the 500 landscapers they don't have as members, I give those people 500 voices - one for each company.

    I feel this is fair, since not every member of the association agrees completely. So only 7 voices max for them.

    But politically, the landscape association does have an impact. The landscape board may or may not agree with that association, and the vision statement of the State board differs from that of the landscape association.

    Also, the landscape board did not bring itself into being. It was made, or "created" due to landscape contractors, the public and congressmen.

    The landscape board can have great flexibility over the degree of test difficulty.

    And the test committee happens to have people like contractors, college landscape program department heads and a landscape architect.


    I don't expect any of you to like or dislike the tests, the board, the associations, other landscapers opinions, etc..

    But at least you can see the different levels of this issue. It can also show you where you can intervene.

    If you are a landscape contractor, you should give a shot at applying for the landscape board. You can actually make a difference. I changed the course of one action at my very first meeting.

    So all this licensing stuff is not etched in stone just because it has reached this level, or has been this way. It is alway possible to increase, reduce or alter the licensing methods.

    One thing is certain. If you take no action, no "ripples" or change will ever occur from your center of reference.

    REMEMBER, what is written here are not the views of the entire Oregon landscape board. This is my personal view and a reflection of my ethics toward my method of contribution.
  5. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,872

    That's true. There are sometimes more inspections, etc. in contruction trade. But still, it seems rediculous that someone can get a construction contractor's license and build a huge deck onto a house, with little testing and ZERO inspections easier than someone can plant $501 worth of plants. I understand where certain risks are involved in certain kinds of landscaping (e.g. backflow or large retaining walls) but there is a TON of landscaping work that can be done with very little risk. For instance, removing a lawn and installing a new one. Or doing a $2000 plant installation job. Or building a cottage stone retaining wall 1.5' tall and 50' wide. Or installing a 50' x 3' flagstone pathway. All of these things have very minor chance of doing any major harm to anything. And as long as you're covered by a bond, worker's comp., and liability insurance, I don't see why you need to pass this very challenging test in order to do stuff like this. And apparently, a lot of other states agree.

    I am not saying licensing shouldn't exist. But the threshold for what kinds of jobs a license (or at least a license that requires a stringent test) is required should be a LOT higher than it is now.

    Well, that's my 2 cents.
  6. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,946

    You know, it is not a parallel situation since landscapers get tested heavy, and the construction guys barely.

    One way to look at it would not be that landscapers have it hard, but that construction has it easy.

    I think I'd like to see an easier landscape exam though.

    In some ways, the landscape board does a better job. The Construction Contractors Board's administrator mentioned that the landscape board requirements for contracts are better than the construction board.

    For example, landscapers must list a completion date, or tentative date. Construction guys don't. And I found out about that when our window were slow in being replaced. I looked at the contract and found out that there was no completion date. The window guy could have dragged it on for months if he wanted to. Of course he didn't, but I learned a lesson.

    That's why we can't compare the landscape board to the construction board. What they don't have to do, is not a valid reason to justify that landscapers have it hard.

    A valid reason to justify that landscapers have it hard, is merely to point it out.

    One reason people may not want to drag the construction boards lack of tough testing into this arguement is this:

    If this does get handled or discussed in meeting or hearings, it may give boards, the public, or lawmakers the idea that contractors have its easy, and instead "beef-up" the construction contractors tests, rather than decrease the landscape contractors tests.

    Oh, when you sit on a board, you must make decisions in light of the public need, not what you like.

    For example, I had to vote to raise our license fees, because there was no alternative. The wheels of the landscape board leaving the construction board office, as a separate entity, were already in motion before I ever came on the board. So when the landscape board was moved by lawmakers, there was a bare bones minimum amount of cash needed to keep enforcement and licensing functioning. That was voted for.

    In fact, I proposed, and offered that we established landscapers pay $10 a year more, so that the new first time licensees could get their first license at the old lower price. But I was voted down 6 to 1.

    I introduced that our bond was not proper. The $3000 bond was what it was in 1970s. The price indexes show that our bond should be about $10,000 to accomplish the same task. This is only in discussion. And I never like paying more money myself, but my job is that I was appointed by the governor to make decisions in the publics interest, not mine.

    The reason I mentioned the bond thing; Jim Lewis mentioned the $500 exemption category. Best I know, that dollar amount was set years ago. Maybe some of you should research that issue. Find out when the $500 sum began. Then use a price index and find out what amount of money is comparible now. Then maybe you can propose raising the exemption.

    There is a big difference in what you can do between $500 and $1000. Or, between $500 and say $1500.
  7. MichaelB

    MichaelB LawnSite Member
    from OR
    Messages: 4

    The problem is that the Landscape Board has made an aritifical barrier to entry which only reason could be to protect large lanscaping firm, not protect the public.

    If I understand the bonding and insurance requirements, they are reasonable (if not argueably inadequate), and they protect the public by giving them recourse. The years of experience requirement however does nothing to protect the public it only protects existing lanscapers from competition.

    They way I understand it now the $500 limit does not help in anyway because you still can not adverstise or solict work any way you can only do jobs that fall in you lap and are under $500.00.

    By denying licenses to those that do not meet the license requirement but otherwise meet the contractor requirement licenses, the board is incouraging start-up operators in this situation to disregard getting licensed and possibly getting bonded and insured and working anyway, under the guise of the $500.00 limit or otherwise. How does this protect the public or landscapers repuations.

    The is nothing but bueracracy at work.
  8. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,946

    You sound like my friend's wife. He is a licensed landscaper, and she complains about licensing, etc..

    She did not have much to say, except for a look of shock on her face when I asked if she preferred the alternative:

    Remove the landscape board and the license.

    I read off the benefits:

    1. No license required for ANYBODY.
    2. No experience required for ANYBODY.
    3. No insurance required for ANYBODY.
    4. No education required for ANYBODY.

    That thought clammed her up in a hurry as she realized how much worse the business environment would become.

    To see what people without landscape business interests thought, I did a survey in our area from homeowners.

    Every one of the people in the survey, except one, thought that even landscape maintenance companies should be required to have a bond and insurance.

    So much for the excuses about landscape company interest on that particular aspect.

    That still leaves testing.

    Oregon requires 2 years. Only a bone-head is fool enough to think they can present themselves as qualified to take care of full sets of landscapes without having at least 5, if not 7 to 10 years of experience.

    Oregon's experience requirement is way below the safe level for business practice. The only reason Oregon does not require more, is that they realize that even though 2 years experience is required, hardly anyone is going to pass the tests unless they have 4,5, or 6 years experience - or maybe a college horticulture degree.

    Also, I don't recall who, but they were mentioning other state agencies and the budgets of those - that's irrelevant, Oregon's landscape board is isolated. It collects money for its own licensing, testing, and enforcement. It does not draw from the state budget. In fact, before it left the construction board, the landscape board gave 80% of its license fees to the state budget. Now all 100% goes to the benefit of the landscape industry.

    Hey, some people can whine like babies about enforcement (effectiveness of) in other states, but check out the advertising in Oregon.

    Newspaper ads
    Yellow page ads
    Even the internet

    Its rare to find illegal advertising, because the enforcement works.

    There is a little monkey business - but even one of those "monkeys" said that they had to "tip toe" around, because they realize the potential for trespassing the law in Oregon.

    Actually, the test I saw about 6 years ago, was so fair, that anyone that could not pass it, had no justification for calling themselves a professional landscape person - for all phases.

    Now where some work is easier to learn, like turf identification and care, maybe it would be reasonable to start license catergories.

    One reason the landscape board eliminated license categories when those did exist, was due to abuse - landscapers working out of their class. So some violaters caused consequences or problems for masses.
  9. MichaelB

    MichaelB LawnSite Member
    from OR
    Messages: 4

    First, Lets bring the argument back to the central issue. I did not say that the Landscape board should not exist, nor did I say that, insurance and bonding should not be required. In fact, I stated just the opposite. Why? becuase these requirements do protect the public, by giving the recource in case of incident in the form of insurance and bonding as well as a license on file so that owners of the company could be readily identified.

    So of course, Anybody in their right mind would having work done on their property from any kind of contractor would want them to be insured and bonded.

    Now on to education. Can you justify to me why someone wanting to put grasss seed down would need to know:

    1.Which of the following deciduous shrubs is noted for the display of its berries?
    A. Pyracantha coccinea
    B. Ilex aquifolium
    C. Symphoricarpos albus
    D. Mahonia repens


    2. Which of the following shrubs would be best in a sunny bed with reflected heat?
    A. Skimmia japonica
    B. llex cornuta
    C. Abelia grandiflora
    D. Tilia americana

    25% of the test is such questions. Or how about deck framing etc.

    Could you imagine if we made general contractors pass the plumbing, electrical, framing, etc, etc, tests. Or more analigous; make the plumbers pass the electrical and framing, the electricians pass the plumbers and HVAC, etc, etc.

    Now if you say " One reason the landscape board eliminated license categories when those did exist, was due to abuse - landscapers working out of their class. So some violaters caused consequences or problems for masses."

    If enfocement is so effective than this shouldn't be an issue.

    and ..thank you for making my point -

    "Actually, the test I saw about 6 years ago, was so fair, that anyone that could not pass it, had no justification for calling themselves a professional landscape person - for all phases."
  10. mdvaden

    mdvaden LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,946

    It would not matter to the home owner that wants grass whether or not you knew about Snowberry.

    A license for turf - to me - would make sense, and would be fair.

    As long as the contractors did not work out of their category.

    One Idea a few landscapers have suggested that could help that, is requiring letters on the vehicles with the license number that indicate the license category.

    Now my license is 7114.

    Under a catergory system, if I was licensed for Grass, Irrigation, and let's say Tree pruning was added, my license would read:

    7114 GIT

    GIT for Grass, Irrigation and Trees.

    I think it makes more sense for the economy of a state to have as many qualified people doing as much work as they are capable of doing.

    Now for sod, grass seed or hydroturf, those would have to be one category. There is no way that those will ever get put into 3 classes.

    So that means at least 2 of them can get involved with grading, and soil preparation. A landscaper should be able to demonstrate a knowledge of soil, grading and drainage (which may be altered).

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