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.
Professional landscaping can help reinvent your outdoor space, boost your curb appeal and get a major return on investment with. Landscaping can encompass anything from adding new plants, trees and shrubs, to leveling the ground and laying sod for a lawn, to building in hardscaping such as sidewalks, water features or retaining walls. The national average landscaping price is $10,160. Landscaping prices can be far lower (with hourly rates ranging from $50 to $150) if you’re only seeking professional help with softscaping or seeking consultation on landscape design. Softscaping means adding or changing horticultural elements, such as planting a garden or adding a hedge. Hardscaping is where costs can really start to rise. Hardscaping requires labor and heavy equipment to excavate the earth; you may need to pour concrete, or you may need a pro who can transport and place gravel and other inorganic elements. Your total landscaping cost will vary based on the amount of work you want done, how much labor is required, and the cost of the materials you are using. A good rule of thumb for a major landscaping project, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects, is to budget 5 percent to 10 percent of the value of your home.
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.
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.