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.
When you’re ready to have a tree on your property come down, it’s time to call an arborist. The national average price range for tree-trimming costs is $270-$450. Tree removal costs can vary based on the height, diameter, location and health of the tree, and on whether you want to remove the stump. Height plays a major role in tree removal costs. Small trees, no more than 30 feet tall, are usually thinner in diameter and easier and safer for an arborist to manage. Removal of a small tree can cost anywhere from under $150 to over $450. Removal of medium-height trees, from 30 feet to 60 feet tall, could cost anywhere between $150 and $850 or more. Tall trees, typically 60 feet to 80 feet tall, may start at $500 or cost more than $1,000 to cut down. As the height and diameter increase, so does the cost.
Location is critical, too. Removing a tree in an open space is quicker and presents fewer obstacles than removing a tree that is growing flush to your house. Arborists can assess your tree and provide you with quotes based on the variables involved. For example, removing a medium-size hackberry tree that was growing too close to a home — the roots were damaging the home’s foundation — cost $1,500. This price included rope-down, house protection, tree quartering and stacking, and stump removal.
If you need to have a tree cut down, have you planned what will happen next? Arborists often charge an additional fee to quarter and remove the fallen tree from your property, so anticipate this as part of your tree removal costs. You can elect to have the wood cut for use in your fireplace, or you may prefer to have it hauled away completely.
Tree removal costs may vary based on the height and the width of the felled tree. Size affects the labor required for removal, which will be reflected in the cost. For example, a tree service company may charge an additional $100-$120 to haul away the pieces of a felled tree. The service may cost as little as $75 in some regions and more than $150 in others. Regional labor rates, the cost of living and the cost to do business in your area will be reflected in your tree removal cost.
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.