Landscape contractors work from outdoor architectural or design plans to build and install hardscaping or softscaping for the client, much as a general contractor uses architectural designs to build a house. Landscape contractors are experts in soil drainage, grading, hardscaping (installing concrete paths and retaining wall, building ponds, etc.), and planting. They have heavy equipment such as excavators and tractors to prepare the land as needed.
Some landscape contractors are also landscape architects or landscape designers. The titles can be compared with those in home construction: A building or landscape architect must earn a specialized architecture degree and pass an exam to have a license. A designer — whether an interior designer or a landscape designer — does not usually require a license to work. Landscape contractors are not required by law to work from plans designed by a landscape architect, so you may work directly with the landscape contractor to specify the work you’d like done. The national average cost for large-scale landscaping projects is $10,160. Pricing can vary greatly depending on the project scope, materials and design.
Hiring a landscape architect is an investment in your home. Landscaping can reduce water bills, improve your home resale value, add to your daily living experience and significantly boost curb appeal. A landscape architect will draw the designs for your new landscape; you’ll want to hire a landscape contractor to carry out the plans. Many companies provide design-build landscaping services, with a company architect creating plans for your vision and the landscape contractor executing the vision. With the proper academic background and licensing, a person can be both landscape architect and landscape contractor. Here are a few tips for finding a great landscape architect:
- Research online portfolios and find several landscape architects whose work interests you.
- Read online reviews of client experiences.
- Research whether the landscape architects you are interested in are currently licensed and in good standing with the licensing board, and check whether any complaints have been issued against them. Each state will have their own searchable database. For example, you can search for California landscape architects via the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs.
- Request bids from your selected landscape architects.
- Hire the one you like the most, taking care to have a clearly written contract outlining scope of work.
For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.
Prices for landscaping your front yard can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the scale of your front yard project. Your landscaping price will reflect how much change you implement, how much labor is required, and the cost of materials.
Landscaping is typically made up of softscaping and hardscaping. Softscaping refers to selecting trees, bushes, flowers and plants to achieve a desired aesthetic and to meet goals such as having a drought-tolerant yard. Hardscaping refers to moving earth, installing structures, and putting in decorative stonework, sidewalks or lighting. For softscaping, you may want to hire a landscape designer to consult on your plants and layout, and then do the digging and planting yourself or hire a gardner to handle the heavy lifting. A landscape designer’s hourly rate may range from $50 to $150 or more. If you want a turnkey approach, meaning someone who works with you to create the vision and then executes all the work, landscaping pricing will typically come down to a cost per square foot rather than an hourly rate. It’s a solid investment: Great landscaping can add up to 28 percent value to your home.
Regular lawn maintenance can do wonders for your home’s curb appeal. Professional lawn care prices will vary based on the regional cost to do business and regional cost of labor, the size of your lawn, and any additional services you may desire such as edging or mulching. The national average for lawn mowing costs is $30-$50. Pros may charge an hourly rate, a flat rate or by the square foot (an acre contains 43,560 square feet). Square footage rates factor in the professional’s time, the use of their equipment, and the gas to operate the mower. Distance may also affect cost: If you live outside the company’s standard service range, you may pay an additional travel fee. Here are some examples of average prices for mowing and lawn maintenance:
- Up to 8,000-square-foot property: $30 per week/$120 per month.
- Bimonthly: $40 per service/$80 per month.
- One time only: $45 per service.
- Prices include mowing all turf grass areas; trimming grass away from fences, structures, trees, and lawn edges; and clearing or blowing all grass trimmings from driveways, sidewalks, curbs, etc.
- Hourly rate: $25 per hour (including travel, equipment costs and labor).
- Lot size:
- Smaller lots in subdivisions: $35.
- Half-acre lot: $50.
- One-acre lot: $100.
Landscaping can be costly — though it usually pays off in curb appeal and home resale value — so finding a landscaper who is worth the investment is important. When hiring a landscaper, look for proven success with the type of results you want. For example, if you know you want a drought-tolerant yard, research websites, reviews and portfolios that showcase beautiful drought-tolerant yards that the landscaper has installed. In addition to relevant experience, you’ll want to find a landscape contractor who has good client reviews. Good communication skills are another important quality in a landscape contractor, since everything from plant selection to hardscape installation needs to be discussed and agreed upon. A landscape contractor who is reliable, easy to understand and able to listen to what you want will help make the process seamless and enjoyable.