How Much Does Landscaping Cost?
Are you frustrated with your yard and feel ready to make some changes this spring but don’t know how much money you’ll need to spend? Read further to get all the juicy details you need to know before you start looking around for landscapers. How much will this cost you? Of course the answer to this question is multi faceted. What sort of work are you looking to do? Do you want to spruce up a few areas or do you need a complete overhaul? What is the fair price for a good quality landscape that will thrive for years to come? Will you be using natural stone materials or paver products? Do you have old materials like overgrown shrubs or concrete that have to be removed? Is the site where you need your yard fixed up easily accessible? These are all factors that affect the final cost of a project.
At Lauren’s Garden Service we know that what you really WANT to know before embarking on a new landscape project is, HOW MUCH IS THIS GOING TO COST ME? We want to be transparent about what things cost so the best way to do that is to share some photos of common jobs we do each garden season and a price tag on how much the project cost. We will also discuss things to keep in mind when starting a landscape project to determine if a company is a good fit for your project.
Cost Per Square Foot
Many companies (especially the larger ones) have set rates they charge per square foot of service. The reason they set these rates is because time is money. It takes time to go do a site visit and work up a complete estimate on a project that a client may or may not go with. In the spring so many clients call at the same time when the weather warms up and the tax refund checks come in. Giving a quick ballpark pricing range ahead of the site visit, if possible, is helpful to see if the client has a realistic budget in mind. This can be a little tricky without a site visit because of all of the factors I’m discussing in this article that affect the final price. Someone who knows their business should be able to give you a close range of project cost if you send them photos of their area and give them a square footage of area for project. I always recommend having at least 3 companies come out and tell you what they plan to do and what it would cost. Every company will have a different plan/solution to offer you. Smaller companies will likely customize each estimate based on information they gather from your site rather than going by a basic per square foot estimation model. Most companies will offer this estimate as a free service.
If you would like the company to discuss materials selections, design and plant selection specifics there is usually an up front fee like a design deposit, a consultation fee. Its really helpful to think about your budget for the project ahead of time. A lot of clients aren’t sure how much landscaping costs if they’ve never hired a professional before. If you are not sure you can afford the project than its good to discuss this with the company. We’ve had clients who live far away email us photos of the areas they would like serviced. If they give us a description of what they want and a photo then we can usually give them a pretty accurate budget range BEFORE coming out for a site visit. Below we talk about things to keep in mind when talking to a company and we list some before and after photos of some common jobs clients ask us to do with the price tag associated with those projects.
You’ll want to gather information from the potential landscape contractors you hire like:
When can you schedule the work?
How long will the work take?
Will you work each day to finish the project or be taking breaks to work on other projects in between?
Have you worked on projects like this before?
Is this the type of work your company likes to do?
Are license and insured? Are you bonded? What is your MHIC number?
Things That Affect the Cost of Landscaping
Time of Year
Landscaping prices should be pretty consistent across the year for the most part. In the springtime, right when the weather warms up there is a huge rush in phone calls. If you have a big project in mind and wait to call a landscape contractor at this time you will likely have to wait about a month or more until your project can get started. Many companies book out 4-6 weeks in advance in the spring rush. That is why its important to start your planning in January-early March in order to beat the rush. Sometimes the pricing of projects increase if a company books out far in advance or if many of the local companies are all booked up. Its the old supply and demand economic dynamics. If you are shopping for the cheapest price then you can attempt to get some landscaping done in the winter when some companies will want/need the work and most people aren’t hiring. The risk you run at that time of year is a limitation in plant supply, possible/likely frozen ground which would delay the project, wet and muddy ground which causes compaction, makes a mess and destroys grass, or snow on the ground which means you can’t really do the work until it melts or the work crews are off for the winter!
My favorite time of year for planting projects is fall (the roots have a chance to establish and requires less of a time requirement for watering) and early spring. Plant projects can be installed in summer but the client will need to set up regular irrigation like a soaker hose on a timer to make sure watering is regular and complete to get the new plantings through the summer heat. Winter would work for new plantings as long as the ground is not frozen. Some plants shouldn’t be planted in winter because they get heaved, which means pushed up out of the ground (heuchera, tiarella) or are sensitive to cold (crape myrtle). Most things can be planted in winter and in our experience have a 90% survival rate the following season.
If you are located in an area that is harder to access like a row home in Baltimore where the project is accessed by a narrow alley behind the house or a hard to reach area in the middle of Washington DC you will need to pay more than someone who lives somewhere that is more accessible and has less traffic. Most landscape companies will need to factor in charging for travel time.
If you are having your backyard redone and you have a steep slope in the back and the only way to access it is through a boulder stepping stone pathway and you want 50ft of new retaining walls and a new 250sq ft patio your cost is going to go up compared to someone who is getting that same 50ft wall and 250sq ft patio in a level yard that is easily accessed by the driveway. All of the stone, dirt and base stone materials will need to be transported by hand by wheelbarrow which adds additional labor cost.
A new landscape going in where the old shrubs and weeds have been cleared already will be more inexpensive than one where removal is included.
Pricing out a project using bluestone will cost more than using another material such as pea gravel. We had a client this year that wanted to install a bluestone patio but their budget didn’t allow. So we did a pea gravel patio for now and when their budget is ready we can install the bluestone on top of the pea gravel. A pea gravel or #57 stone garden pathway lined with metal edging will be considerably less expensive than a a solid paver pathway with custom cut curves. A modern bluestone patio that is built with permeable joints will be less expensive per square foot than a flagstone patio that needs to be pieced together carefully with a lot of stone cutting in the process.
A patio going in an area that has poor drainage will need a deeper #57 stone base, which means more excavating, more materials and more labor. Its important to talk with a few landscape contractors so that you find a company you know and trust. Any good quality landscape contractor won’t give in to your pressure for a cheaper price but will tell you honestly, in their experience, what the realistic cost will be for them to complete the project you want with the level of quality, planning and design that is necessary to do the project correctly for the most longevity. They’ll also be able to help you figure out what you can do for the budget you have planned.
A good designer will help you discuss your budget and help you select materials that will look good, fit the aesthetic of your house and the style of project you want. Please don’t expect a designer to select all of these details before you commit to a project or give a deposit for a design or a project deposit. A good designer has honed their skills over the years and applies their expertise and experience. Its hard to create a good plan/design on the spot and verbally explain to the customer on the first site visit. Usually extensive photos are taken of the property and the designer will take notes on site characteristics, goals of the clients for the finished product (often curb appeal, low maintenance, deer resistant, all year interest). Much of the creative work is done in the office determining the best plant selections for your site, style, deer resistance or shade and much more. We get questions at estimates a lot where people would like plant selections on the spot which is really hard to do instantly. I let my clients know that I take all of my notes and make selections at my desk as I look at the photos and my extensive library of plant books and lists.
We give our clientele a general idea of how many plants of what quantity and type on our estimates but we don’t make plant selections until we know we will be moving forward on a project. So an estimate may say “shape and edge beds, create plan and plant 3 3gal medium sized full sun deer resistant shrubs, 12 1 gal perennials and 2 4-5ft spring blooming trees for $1200”. Then when the client sends in the 1/3 deposit we will send the estimate back with wording like this “shape and edge beds, create plan and plant 3 3gal Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’, 12 1 gal Amsonia hubrechtii and 2 4-5ft Cherokee Brave dogwood trees for $1200”. The client then has a chance to review the plant selections and make changes. Some clients would like to see a design first. We charge anywhere from $125-$650 for a design, depending on how extensive it is and how much area it covers. Some clients would rather just have us develop the verbal plan above to save money, others would rather pay the money to see the plan sketched out. This is how we run our system, other landscapers likely have different set ups. Some may design for free or get a design deposit that will be waived if you hire the company to do the work that was designed. We like to have an option for clients who would rather pay for a design and a cheaper option for people who what a good plan but want to save money.
Formalized Design vs Informal Design
If you are looking for a new landscape you have a few options on how that plan will be developed. You can hire a landscape architect who will charge between 7-10% of the project total to work with you and develop a formal landscape plan. You can also work with a landscape designer who will usually be a little more inexpensive than an landscape architect. If you have a large project that includes a pool, extensive hardscaping, drainage plans, patios, gardens, irrigation, lighting and more you’ll want to go with a larger firm that is used to designing at this level our service or other local companies like Sun Nurseries, Rhine Landscaping, Rowan Landscaping or Town Creek Landscaping. Some other larger companies in the Baltimore area are Pinehurst and Maxalea. Some large local commercial companies are Chapel Valley and Ruppert. Many of these companies only do installs or large projects only. Some other larger companies that do larger projects with more formalized designs area Botanical Decorators, Garden Gate Design, Ecological Landscape Design and Country Gentleman Landscaping. Some of the larger companies will have minimum project costs that they will come out for so be prepared to talk budget when calling to schedule an estimate.
The lowest budget projects are generally for smaller lawn companies that are primarily mow and blow. They use some of the most common landscape shrubs and based on feedback from clients, sometimes they are not as knowledgable about plant selections. Often there is no formalized design training and a very informal sketch of the plan, if any. Of course this is a blanket statement and some of the small lawn companies do have landscape bed experience.
Quality of Work
It’s tempting to shop around for the cheapest price for landscape contractor installation costs but in the end its worth paying a little more to use a company that will listen to and implement your needs. Some landscape architects won’t put their name on installation projects if you don’t go with their recommended installers because there is a large discrepancy from what is indicated in the design as compared to the landscape you end up with. If you can find a company that has in-house designers you have the benefit of a close relationship between the designer and the installer. Designers struggle with this issue a lot. They put a lot of effort and care into developing a design and sometimes the installer doesn’t follow the specifications when building the new landscape. That is why designers develop strong relationships with a particular landscape contractor when they find one that communicates well, interprets the design well and is open to discussing changes or corrections if necessary.
A company that has design, install and maintain all under one roof will deliver a project that thrives from design to installation to maintenance. This means that each step of the way there is communication on what works well between all aspects of the company. When a designer is able to see how a landscape they designed looks 5-10 years down the road because the company is still maintaining the landscape then a lot has been learned. Sometimes designers can make a nice design/structure but don’t have a lot of information/knowledge about if that plant performs well in our area. On the flip side, if a new company comes in to maintain a landscape and they are not familiar with the initial design they may not maintain the landscape within the design goals. The trend in landscaping these days is to get everyone in communication with each other so the design, install and maintain crews can all be in concert with each other.
The best way to determine the quality of work from the company you are considering hiring is to ask a recent client how their project went. Any good landscape contractor will be willing to supply a few references. Ask the client if the installation went as planned, if the budget changed at all and if there was something they would do differently if they did the project over again.
Taking Care of Your New Landscape
Its good to be realistic ahead of time about what taking care of your new investment will entail. Many landscapes are designed these days for curb appeal and low maintenance. That being said- low maintenance does not mean no maintenance! You’ll want to have a solid plan in place for watering in the new plantings. The quickest and easiest option is a soaker hose connected to a timer. A good place to start is 1 inch of water per week. The amount of water your new landscape will need totally depends on your soil, amount of sun and plants. In the beginning you’ll need to check the plants regularly to see if they are getting enough water. Here is a link to some landscape care information for after new garden and landscape plantings.
So, how much does landscaping cost? By now you’ve read all the factors above and realize: It depends! Here are some numbers to help you get started on what to expect! Again, the more realistic you are about keeping in mind what budget you have to spend on your project, the more the landscape contractors you call will be able to help you get the biggest bang for your buck!
A new front foundation landscape for an average single family home starts at $800 for a landscape renovation (keep some, add new) to $8000 and up for a whole new project with plants. If you need some hardscaping done like a garden wall, retaining wall, a pathway or patio AND new plantings you can expect to spend around $4600-$10,000 or more depending on size and how extensive the new garden beds or hardscaping are. Here is an example of a project with cost in another blog that was written a few years ago.
Ellicott City Old Outdated Landscape Redo
Baltimore New Front Yard Garden Landscape
New Federal Hill Dog Friendly Backyard
Clarksville New Family Outdoor Living Area
New Baltimore Patio Garden
New walkway- Last one of the season
New Flagstone Permeable Patio and Raised Garden Bed
Client goals were to remove turf grass and install new patio, dry river bed and native landscape for whole front and back yard. Irregular permeable 150sq ft flagstone patio- $2700. Dry river bed to help with water moving through yard from back yard, through side and front yard- $1450. Removal of all turf grass and plant all new landscape front and back yard- $3300. This project took about 4 days from beginning to end. We maintain the gardens twice a year.
Cost of a New Pathway
Covering a tired old cement pathway with bluestone on top of the old cement start at $1250-$5500 depending on size of area to cover. To demo the cement and add a paver walk with curves and a proper drainage base would be around $4200 for an average 28ft x 3ft walkway.
If you are wondering how much a project you have in mind costs give us a call or email some pictures and we’ll help you price it out! Stay tuned to our blog for more posts on pricing or whatever else you would like to know! Email us questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-461-2535!