Landscaping a yard or a larger plot of property is an investment. How much does landscaping cost? It depends on myriad factors.
Landscaping costs can range from a $100 stop at the garden center to tens of thousands of dollars in moving earth and revamping the contours of the landscape. Considering all the information we provide below, you can expect to spend anywhere from $4 to $40 per square foot in landscaping costs.
The Landscaping Vision
When you look out into your yard or across your property, what do you see? Lawn? Structures? Vast nothingness? With a plan and a lot of work, you can convert whatever it is into the landscaping oasis of your visions.
Like most home improvement projects, outlining an accurate budget for your landscaping wish list takes a bit of research. Start with a list of the "must haves." Will you need a lawn, a sitting area, an outdoor pizza oven, or a play structure? Do you plan to have a garden? Will you be building a shed?
Also consider the overall vibe you’re hoping to achieve. A formal English garden will have different requirements from a wild garden, and a Japanese garden will vary widely from an entertaining space with a swimming pool as the focal point.
Create a line-item budget taking all this into consideration. Separate it into mandatory and optional items so you can get a precise idea of where your money will go.
Before you can get to work on any landscaping project, you’ll need to have access to the area. This might mean having room to bring in big rigs for digging out the pool or grading the land.
If your home is located on a steep grade or you need to enter your property via a neighbor’s lot, you’ll need to prepare in advance and get some bids on any work you plan to have done.
On some sites you may need to install some form of road before you can work on landscaping.
Many items can be lifted into place with a crane, even if you don’t have great access. For example, if you want to place a hot tub on a deck on the downhill side of the house, this might be the only way in. Be sure to include $500 to $1,500 for the service, but check with the professionals to see what the going rate is in your area.
Hiring the Pros
Speaking of the pros, part or all of your landscaping project may require the services of electricians, plumbers, concrete pourers, surveyors, engineers, and other professionals.
At the beginning stages of your project, consider the associated costs of these services.
Again, you can get a bid from a landscaping crew if your project involves grading, mounding, or adjusting slopes. You might also need big machinery to place large rocks or bring in heavy beams.
Some machinery you can rent and operate yourself if you’re inclined. Either way, you need to evaluate costs with a few phone calls and some time on the internet.
Also remember to add in delivery costs for major shipments like loads of lumber or a stock tank for a pool.
Of course labor costs will be part of the equation unless you plan to do the job entirely yourself and with the aid of helpful friends and neighbors. The real question is what these labor costs will add up to.
In addition to cranes, graders, and backhoes, and professionals to plumb and add a gas line to your outdoor kitchen, you may need to hire a crew to haul paver stones, shovel dirt, plant trees, and more.
Whether this is through a notable local service or through the aid of some neighborhood kids, do research, establish pricing, and add it to the budget.
Material costs will vary depending on the project at hand. You may need fill dirt, stone, lumber, pavers, bricks, and more.
The key here is in the planning. If you’re hiring out for the initial land prep, the bid should include any materials needed to get the job done. For example, you may need to supplement areas with fill dirt to create level ground. Typically though, you’re just moving dirt from one location to another.
Once the ground is prepped, raised beds and pathways may require weed block paper, bags of sand, and paver stones. If you’re building a deck, arbor, pergola, or gazebo you’ll be looking at lumber and hardware costs.
For garden boxes you may need wood, hardware, and soil.
Build Raised Beds DIY
Whether a garden is a main goal or a small portion of your overall landscaping design, consider the costs involved. While you can buy prefabricated garden boxes, you can lower the budget and increase your personal satisfaction by building raised garden beds yourself.
Decide on a size that allows you to access plants from all sides. Your raised garden beds can be square, rectangular, or even triangular.
With a size in mind, source recycled wood from pallets, barn wood, fencing, or other projects. Securely attach the four corners with appropriate hardware and a vertical support inside each corner.
A raised bed really just needs sides. You can make them tall so you can tend to your garden from working height, or you can keep them within a foot of the ground to contain soil, minimize weeds, and make watering more efficient.
Building your own raised beds can save you hundreds of dollars.
Other Flower Beds
The flower beds around your yard may take shape as raised beds or even retaining walls that keep slopes from shifting downhill.
If you don’t require or desire raised beds, you can still design flower beds that are distinctly separate from your lawn and walkways.
Designate the beds with a mowing strip made up of paver stones. You can also build a paver stone walkway that acts as a divider between the lawn and the beds.
This is another way you can trim the budget. Having professional landscapers do the install can topple the budget, but if you’re willing and capable of doing the task the only costs will be in the materials.
An arbor offers support for climbing vines like ivy, hops, clematis, wisteria, roses, and more. The arbor itself can be bought and easily installed. Arbors help designate transitions within the landscape, such as from a gate to a walkway or from a sitting area to an entertaining space.
Arbors are also a DIY-friendly project, making this a project where you can save a few bucks.
A pergola offers filtered shade for sitting areas or cooking spaces. They can be equipped with sheeting to act as a roofing material or left open to filter the sunlight.
Prefabricated pergolas run a few thousand dollars while building one yourself will cost several hundred, depending on the size.
A gazebo is a more complex structure that can be a DIY project for the handy homeowner. However, it requires pouring concrete supports and some gazebos also feature a concrete foundation.
On the other hand, they can be built entirely out of wood. Taking all this into consideration, the cost of a gazebo can run anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000.
Part of your landscaping costs might include an outbuilding, such as a tool shed, play house, carport, pool house, boat house, or other type of structure.
Obviously costs will vary significantly between these types of building, especially when you map it out for your desired size.
Do your research, get bids, and put it as a line item on your budget.
In warmer climates, a swimming pool may take center stage in your landscaping plan. If this is the case for you, you’ll find there’s countless options, and the matching budget to go with it.
For example, a simple seasonal pool can be had for a few hundred dollars, a DIY stock tank pool will run $800-$3,000, and an in-ground pool will cost between $35,000 and $70,000.
Patio and Other Paved Areas
It’s likely that your landscaping project will include some sitting areas, pathways, and/or play and cooking areas. If you choose to have any of these spaces paved, you’ll need to add up the associated costs.
Pouring concrete involves preparing the land, placing frames, and bringing in the big trucks. On a smaller scale, you can mix your own cement in a bucket, wheelbarrow, or rented cement mixer.
For larger jobs, you’ll likely outsource. As a general guideline, having a company pour an average-sized 12x12 patio can run anywhere from $5,000-$18,000. There are many factors to consider including size, location, prep work requirements, shape, and ornate details, to name a few.
Similarly, a wood or composite deck will be a significant line item on your budget. Decks are an approachable DIY project and not paying extra for labor means having more funds for other aspects of your landscaping project.
A wood deck can cost as little as $1,500 for a basic design without stairs or railings. An average sized deck will run around $4,000 for supplies if you build it yourself.
If you’re paying someone to build your deck, you can expect costs to range from $4,000-$12,000 for wood. Upgrading to Trex or another similar composite product comes as a cost. Expect it to run $5,000-$20,000.
Designing and installing a play area can be another must-have in your landscaping design. For kids, that might mean a sandbox, a swing set, a play structure, or a trampoline.
For adults, it might mean a putting green, horseshoe pit, or cornhole station.
Whatever your play area looks like, plan for prepping the ground, hauling in gravel, sand, or bark, and paying for the equipment required, including delivery costs.
A lush, green lawn is a common goal in many neighborhoods. It offers a connection with nature, a pleasant view, softness underfoot, and the ideal landscape for bocce ball or croquet.
It’s also a foundational element of many overall landscape design themes. However, contouring the land to create the perfect lawn can be a major undertaking. Evaluate where you’re starting and what the end goal is. From the most undeveloped plot, you’ll need earth movers to create the proper grade.
On the other hand, if you’re moving into a newly built or previously owned home, your lawn will likely already be established, so costs will be low in making minor changes or simply maintaining it.
Trees, Plants, and Flowers
While it may not seem like a significant cost, each seed, shrub, bulb, and tree will add up when it comes time to put plantings in place.
What this looks like on the budget depends on many factors, including the maturity of the plants you purchase. Small, young plants are significantly less expensive than those that have been nurtured for a few years.
You can save money by gathering clippings from members of your local community, neighbors, friends, and family. If you build a greenhouse, you can grow many types of plants from seed until they are well established and ready for transplanting.
Also look to your local extension office. Many offer annual sales of native plants. Not only are native plants affordable when purchased locally, but they require minimal water, chemicals, or other amendments. They also establish easily and are fire and pest resistant.
Again, it’s difficult to make a blanket statement about the cost of fencing. There are many factors to consider. Obviously the material you choose will make a difference, but you’ll also need to consider the length of your fencing needs.
A ranch with hundreds of acres will require a different materials list than a basic backyard privacy fence.
In order to calculate your own costs, get it on the wish list and do your research. Be sure to find the actual costs of supplies and get bids on labor if someone else will be doing the installation.
In short, landscaping is a combination of preparing the land, building structures, and incorporating plants. With all of this in mind, you can expect to spend $4,000-$50,000.
Better understand the requirements of your landscaping task in our related articles Lawn Landscaping Basics and Inexpensive but Stunning Landscaping Ideas.