Landscaping “Sticker Shock”

The cost of landscaping can be a shock to homeowners! Why and where should you invest your budget in a landscaping renovation?

Whether you are planning a new landscape design or sprucing up your back yard, navigating the multiple decisions can be trying when it comes to knowing where to invest your money. The following post will help to unearth the process and costs to consider when you are planning a landscape project.

1. An Overall Master Plan

Like any big decision in life, a master plan is always a good idea. Before you reach out for professional advice or design quotes, get clear about what you actually want to accomplish and how much money you can allocate to a new landscaping project. Even though you may feel overwhelmed by the details of what plants you need, what style of garden you want or even the overall design, asking yourself a few questions can alleviate some stress and give you a clearer picture that will be helpful to your landscape contractor.

  • What do I know about gardening?
  • Do I enjoy gardening or do I just want my gardens to look beautiful?
  • What parts of my landscaping need to be installed/renovated? Do I want it all done now? Or can it be done in stages?
  • Why do I want landscaping done? (Improve curb appeal? Increase home value? Need more shade? Need a leisure area in the back yard?)
  • What colours do I like/dislike? Do I prefer mostly greenery & shrubs? Or do I prefer lots of flowers and colour? Do I need large trees planted?
  • Do I want just plants (soft-scaping) or do I need walkways, patios or decks (hardscaping)?
  • What impact could my landscaping have on my pets? Or visa-versa?

Once you’ve answered these questions (and perhaps others questions that are important to you) then you can begin to think about your budget. In my experience, the subject of budgeting is one of the least talked about parts of the landscaping design & install process. It is difficult to understand the cost of a project if you are not clear on what you want. That being said, what we want and what is affordable, or even appropriate does not always align.

2. Budget

A good designer and/or contractor will have the horticultural education and work experience to guide you through the design process and help you achieve an overall look that will satisfy your wants and fit your budget. A master plan by a designer or landscape architect may feel expensive upfront. Fees can start at $1000-$1500 and go upwards to 10%-20% of the total cost of the install depending on what is included (site survey, scaled drawings, planting bed layouts, lighting, permit handling etc.). Hiring a designer/contractor who can provide you with a reliable master plan is comparable to having a good Real Estate Agent. If you have a well equipped, experienced agent who knows the housing market, they will help guide you through the experience from start to finish. Yes, you are paying them but they will work to sell and/or find you a new home that fits your needs and budget while alleviating the stress involved with moving. Including a master plan in your landscape budget will help avoid unaccounted for pitfalls and save you money in the long run.

3. Installation

The design plan is a great way to start your project! But the design is somewhat conceptual and requires the knowledge and expertise of seasoned installers. Knowing the crew installing your plants and/or hardscaping have the experience to implement the design properly will give you assurance that your design concept will come to life in the best way possible. Proper planting techniques, interpretation of the design plan, precise measurements and finishing details like mulching are all factors that will save you time and money in the long run. Knowing the appropriate plants for each location in your garden were planted properly with care and detail, will help to ensure successful growth for years to come.

4. Site Challenges

There is rarely a landscape without some problem areas. Whether it’s a steep slope, a low area that collects water, deeply shaded spaces or underground utilities, a good contractor will not gloss over these issues or try to implement quick fixes. Look for signs that your designer/contractor is aware of problem areas and discuss appropriate solutions. Even though solutions to the problem areas may feel costly, quick fixes usually cause more problems down the road and end up costing you much more! Finding a solution that will meet your needs within your budget is a welcomed challenge for a caring and invested designer and/or contractor.

5. Hidden Costs

There should NOT be any hidden costs when you are working with a design/installation team! Look for designers/contractors that communicate clearly and promptly about what is involved in the project from start to finish. Keep in mind, this does not necessarily mean new concepts or amendments to the project will not arise. What it does mean is your designer/contractor should be upfront and communicate clearly about additions or changes to the master plan BEFORE they go ahead. They are the expert and should inform you of all the details required to complete your project in a professional way, with outstanding satisfaction. This includes but is not limited to: Design fees, Project time lines, Permit Costs, Client Contracts, Start Date, Accurate Quotes, Project Deposit Percentages, Payment schedule, Availability of Materials, Hourly Labour Rates, Plant and Material Warranties, After Care & Maintenance.

6. The Cost of Business

No one goes into business to lose money. Just as you go to work each day to provide for your family, your future and your fun, business owners also get up each morning and offer their services in order to make provisions for their families and personal lives. The cost of running a business can be challenging. At the end of the day any errors, increases in supply costs and projects that were under-quoted fall on the shoulders of the business owner. An ethical and conscientious business owner will be fair about their rates while considering their personal income requirements. In my own experience and the experience of others I’ve talked to, new business owners sometimes don’t even draw a salary for the first few years. Keep in mind what it is you are actually paying for: expertise, your free time, convenience, labour, increased property value, a space to entertain friends and family, personal enjoyment, beautiful design, quality goods etc. Even though your designer/contractor is dealing with plants, soil and other materials the nuanced benefits of the project are likely further reaching for you.

Things you may not have thought about:

  • A good designer spends countless hours researching, scaling, drawing and planning jobsite designs and discussing logistics with contractors before your project even begins.
  • A contractor and their crew work several hours before arriving and after leaving a jobsite, loading and unloading tools, materials, supplies and waste. These are early mornings and long days for the installation crew!
  • A dedicated contractor spends many hours talking with reliable suppliers, sourcing and costing materials and products to ensure availability and best pricing for you.
  • Business owners/contractors pay for extra fuel, HST, delivery fees, disposal fees and have equipment & fleet maintenance costs before, during and after project completion.
  • Crews and contractors spend time and fuel picking up supplies and delivering them to jobsites before and during project installations.
  • There are many factors to completing a successful landscape job including: grading, excavation, soil amendment/additions, weeding, edging, measuring/surveying, lighting or irrigation requirements, properly mulching and sufficient clean-up upon completion.
  • Most importantly, a reliable designer and/or contractor loves what they do, communicates clearly & honestly, understands and respects your budget and works with you to provide the services you need with outstanding customer service!

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