Why Does Landscaping Cost So Much?

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How to Fit Landscaping Costs to Your Landscape Dreams

So, your grand plans for building the backyard landscape of your dreams have bumped into a stubborn wall of reality?

Once you’ve done preliminary research and collected some ideas, the most common challenge homeowners face is how to manage landscaping costs and budgeting

Getting the size of your landscape dreams to fit with the size of your landscape budget is always a delicate balancing act. Don’t worry. This happens almost all the time with almost all landscaping projects.

garden gate of redwood and stone

Understanding Landscaping Cost Estimates

Understanding costs can be particularly challenging if you are evaluating landscaping cost estimates from several companies. You may be presented with widely differing quotes for what appears to be the same project. 

Generally, landscaping companies fall into low-medium-high price categories. The cost differences typically relate to the differences between companies in these core areas.

  1. Experience. An established high-end company has the knowledge base to assess a project’s scope of work in fine detail and estimate all the anticipated costs with a high degree of accuracy
  2. Expertise. The capability of a given company to successfully fulfill your specific type and size of project corresponds directly to the expertise of their staff and resources within their command
  3. Organization. Well-organized companies can estimate projects and deliver services efficiently and cost-effectively without cutting corners
  4. Creativity. The best companies display a portfolio of work that proves their ability to consistently overcome obstacles and deliver beautiful landscapes in a variety of settings.

A well-established high-end landscaping company will provide an accurate and comprehensive estimate. But it is still up to you to ask questions so that you can be certain that your idea of what you will be getting is exactly what is planned for your project. Does this all seem a bit much? If that’s the case, you could eliminate the need to evaluate multiple estimates by working with a landscape architecture firm that offers a design-build approach.

Other Factors That Influence the Cost of Landscaping

Be sure that the estimate you are reviewing does not omit important steps like grading, drainage, soil preparation, and high-quality materials that ensure the success and longevity of your landscape. In addition, ask about:

  • Design detail. How detailed are construction specifications?
  • Site Preparation. Does the design include a custom-engineered drainage plan?
  • Planting plan. What quality and size of plant materials is your estimate based on?
  • Construction materials. What is the quality level of finish materials to be installed?

The existing conditions on your property may significantly influence the potential direction of the project and therefore the potential cost.

  • Topography – steep slopes, soil drainage, soil stability – all present different physical/structural challenges that may affect the cost of landscaping and must be addressed before you can focus on the aesthetic portion of your landscape dreams
  • Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) – A proposed landscaping project must account for how installations on the property may impact drainage and runoff into resource protection areas.

This is where your landscape architect can be an invaluable resource and advisor, saving you time and money by guiding you through these complexities.

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What to Do When You Can’t Do It All

Once you’ve spoken to a landscape architect, you should have a clear picture of the conditions that must be met and a realistic price tag attached to your wish list. At this point, some people may find that they have to adjust their budget or rethink the scope of their landscape plan.

Since it is usually the cost of landscaping that puts limits on our desires, let’s look into that first. There are two possible approaches to designing your project that can help you achieve your goals:

backyard firepit patio

The Phased Master Plan Approach

Create a master plan to be implemented in phases thus spreading the cost over several years. Taking a phased approach to a master landscaping plan can give you the ability to divide the project installation and costs into manageable parcels. Prioritize what you want to include in the landscape, then let your landscape architect help you figure out a timeline that spells out where the various components should be located on the site and the order in which they should be installed.

The Selective Plan Approach

Take the selective plan approach. Sharpen your wish list by selecting your one or two “must haves”, then build your design around those key features. Selectively add back in other features that will work together with those centerpieces up to the point that your budget or other limitations such as lot size will allow.

Working with a creative, experienced landscape architect is essential to gaining a realistic idea of landscaping costs, identifying relevant site conditions, and exploring the available options. 

The initial meetings with your landscape architect are meant to be exploratory. It’s your time to dream and list everything you want so your architect can fully understand what is important to you. Then, if necessary, you’ll be prepared to pare down your ideas to the essentials and transfer as many of those “must haves” as possible into a realistic plan that fulfills a version of your dream that may even be better than the original idea!

If you’ve been considering investing in a landscape design project, our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.

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