Why Is Landscaping So Expensive And How To Reduce Costs?


Getting your property spruced up has never been easier thanks to the sheer number of landscaping companies and door-to-door yard workers available to you. Of course, all the good work comes at a cost…but how much exactly?

Landscaping is expensive mainly because of labor costs to the company hired to do the job. Other expensive pieces are the materials and machinery used. The number one way to cut down on these costs is to buy your own equipment and do the work yourself.

That is what we’re taking a look at today, as we dive into the individual costs that add up to your landscaping bill. We will also talk about the most expensive parts of landscaping, as well as the general amounts you can expect to pay. We will also look at steps you can take to trim the total landscaping cost.

What Makes Landscaping So Expensive?

The days when you could pay a neighbor’s kid $15 to mow your lawn while you watch Sunday afternoon football are pretty much ancient history.

Nowadays, if you are unable to tend to your property yourself, you will probably have to enlist the services of professional landscapers…and that isn’t always cheap, especially if you are starting a landscaping project from scratch.

Landscaping costs are expensive because of the labor, materials, machinery, as well as the insurance for professional crews. The ever increasing costs of running a landscaping or lawn crew is passed on to the customer. Different companies have different pricing, but most stay in the same range.

You see, landscapers are well aware that the practicality and aesthetic benefits of their work can significantly increase your home’s property value. If the site is used for commercial enterprise, well-manicured grounds could also attract more customers/clients to you. As such, these landscapers are prepared to take advantage.

Factors That Contribute To Expensive Landscaping Fees

Several factors contribute to the total cost of landscaping. Some may have greater influence than others in certain scenarios, but we must examine as many as possible.

Greater Lot Size Equals Greater Cost

The size of the site is perhaps the biggest factor behind the landscaping costs. Naturally, the larger the work area, the more you have to pay. Bigger yards, parks, campuses, etc. will require more manpower, tools, and other resources to develop and maintain. This is why mowing a golf course, for instance, is more expensive than trimming a one-acre public square.

Landscaping Labor Costs

Labor is another major factor. Most landscape workers are paid by the hour and your property might need a lot of man-hours to be complete. Additionally, bigger projects will likely require more workers if they are to be completed on time.

One cost-contributing factor that is related to labor is your location. Labor costs across different cities, counties, and states are known to vary drastically. Landscaping work done in California, for instance, might be much more expensive than an equally difficult project in Alabama.

Landscaping Machinery Upkeep Increases The Bottom Line

Next, we have machinery. Landscaping machinery can range from simple push mowers and edge trimmers to commercial zero-turns and earthmoving equipment. Typically, a landscape contractor will charge you for the fuel required to run these machines, as well as the skill required to operate them.

Materials Cause Landscaping Fees To Rise

Materials are another consideration. Depending on your tastes, this can easily be the most expensive part of a landscaping project. An exotic marble countertop for your outdoor grilling station would be much more expensive than locally sourced rock, for example.

Your taste in grass and vegetation also impact landscaping costs. Rare and exotic grasses, trees, and flowers can cost a pretty penny. There is also the level of care required in planting certain vegetations. You can also expect to pay a premium for artificial grass if that’s your cup of tea.

Environmental Laws Play A Part In Rising Landscaping Costs

Waste management is one thing that is growing in significance…and cost. As environmental laws become stricter, the crosshairs have been shifted on to how private and corporate entities dispose of garden/grounds waste. If you are unable to compost or mulch your garden waste, you may have to enlist the services of a garden waste management company…and that’s not cheap.

Terrain Can Affect The Amount You Pay For Landscaping

Although the size of your yard or plot is a major part of landscape costs, you cannot forget about the overall difficulty of the project. Difficulty factors in things like access, the intricacy of tasks, weather conditions, time of the day, and project timeline.

If the project involves cutting down massive trees that are dangerously close to buildings, for example, you can expect to be charged a higher price. If your contractor gives you an expected timeline for a project, but you insist that it be completed sooner, you will have to pay for additional workers or overtime hours.

Brand Name Crews Cost More

Finally, we have the prestige of the landscaping contractors and designers in question. Like with most industries, the best operators can usually name their price since they are in such high demand. If you want the most reputable landscaping crew in your city or state, prepare to pay top-dollar.

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What Part Of Landscaping Is So Expensive?

Since landscaping projects vary, it is not always easy to point out the biggest cost contributor. In general though, what is the most expensive part of landscaping?

By far, the most expensive part of landscaping is the labor costs. Not only are dependable workers for this labor intensive job difficult to find, their hourly wage is just the start. There is liability insurance, social security payments, worker’s comp., and health insurance.

A project on a small yard might be more expensive than one on a much larger one because of access. Likewise, contractors with more machinery might be more affordable than those who lean more on manpower alone. It all depends on the organization of the workers and their available equipment to speed up the job.

However, generally speaking, labor costs tend to be the biggest landscaping costs for both residential and commercial projects. The hourly rates can be dizzying and, if the workers are employed full-time, there may be health and insurance benefits to factor in as well.

That said, the scale of the project can be a catalyst to your overall cost. The same goes for the cost of materials if you have expensive taste. Machinery costs can also claim one of the top-spots, especially if we’re talking about reforming the landscape with earthmoving equipment.

Check out some of my other articles here…

What Should Owners Spend On Landscaping?

There is no fixed amount for what you should expect to pay because that can vary depending on the factors discussed above. However, I can give you a general “skeleton” guide of what you can expect to pay. 

Work on small yards can range between $5,000-$15,000. Medium yardwork can range between $10,000 and $30,000. Work on larger areas can be as low as $10,000 and exceed $100,000. These ranges exist because things like terrain, access, materials needed, crew size, and deadlines matter.

Again, these figures are very rough estimates.

Keep in mind that small, medium, and large yards refer to:

  • Small – less than or equal to 1/2 acre
  • Medium – 1/2 acre to 1 acre
  • Large – Anything over 1 acre

Average cost of landscaping

Landscaping JobU.S. National Averages
Softscape
Small yard complete landscaping work$8000
Small yard lawn care$2500 per year
Medium yard complete landscaping work $20,000
Medium yard lawn care $3500 to $5000 per year
Large yard complete landscaping work $20,000 to $100,000
Large yard lawn care $10,000 – $24,000 per year
Hardscape
Above ground pools$3000
Below ground pools$30,000
Decks$10,000
Retaining walls$7000
Patios$6000
Fencing$3000 to $12,000

The cost of landscaping is highly dependent on the work area, labor, difficulty, location, and a host of other factors.

Contractors are known to charge between $50-$100 per hour or $4-$12 per square foot.

The U.S. average cost is around $10,000, with a minimum cost of about $3,000 and a maximum cost of just over $20,000. 

According to industry leaders, Special features like patios and swimming pools can set you back anywhere between $2,000-$60,000.

It is not unheard of for a pool and spa setup to exceed $100,000.

Outdoor lighting can also be quite pricey. This feature can range between $2,000-$10,000 depending on your needs.

One of the most tedious tasks in the lawn care and landscaping business is weeding flowerbeds. It is an expense that can be avoided with the right gardener’s cloth under the mulch and the proper amount of groundcover in the bed.

Weeding varies by area and crew, but generally it will run you around $30 per hour with workers usually working at a medium to slow pace.

Expert tip: Most workers on landscaping or lawn crews despise weeding flower beds. They see this as a ‘low man on the totem’ type of job which may cause foreman or company owners to quote higher prices for these types of bids. The cheapest way to get this done is included in a seasonal or yearly contract.

How Can You Reduce The Cost Of Landscaping?

Some of the figures highlighted above may certainly be daunting for some but, luckily, there are some penny-pinching strategies you can employ to lower your overall costs.

Here are some of the best ways to make landscaping more affordable for you:

  • Get free seed and seedlings from neighbors and friends.

Family friends and neighbors will at times like to talk about their plants, shrubs, and trees. Some see it as a hobby will be complimented if you show interest. You can persuade garden and lawn enthusiasts many times to share some of their seeds, clippings, or even whole plants.

  • Install footpaths or barricades to minimize lawn foot traffic.

To avoid the costly yearly seeding of high trafficked areas of your lawn, designate specific paths for people to walk on using stone, wood, fencing, and obvious manicured flower bed areas. Some areas in a lawn can also be more susceptible to foot traffic if it is overly shaded or has poor drainage.

  • Avoid expensive materials and try to repurpose items you may have lying around.

There are many things that can be used in a yard to cut down on costs. Old tires can be used as raised beds for a unique look. Found stones can be used as bed and garden boarders. Larger boulders on the property can become focal points and utilizing existing trees rather than clearing the lawn can save a lot of money.

  • Avoid expensive renovations like patios or pools.

Some of the most expensive types of landscaping tends to be hardscaping. This is using concrete or similar materials to make patios and pools. The expenses on these jobs top the list for any property size.

  • Mow your lawn yourself.

This may sound simple and it comes with the upfront costs of mowers and other materials, but the overall cost is usually significantly lower than hiring out the work. On the other hand, this also depends on how much time it takes and what other things you do to make money or save money during that time.

An example of someone this might not work for would be executives, some business owners, and CEOs that have high stress jobs that need all the ‘down time’ they can get. It is not always the case that doing it yourself will pay off in the end.

  • Compare contractor quotations and be on the lookout for discounts/ specials.

Like with most quotes, don’t go with the first one you get simply to save time. There are many things to consider and if they are not taken into account, you could be overcharged for your area or receive a hastily done, subpar service. Compare prices, reviews, recommendations, ask for examples of their work, and make sure the company is insured.

  • Install artificial grass (cheaper in the long run).

This would be a more practical suggestion for smaller yards, but it can be a great one especially in harsh climates or in extreme shade. The cost of keeping up even small lawns can be excessive if extremes like continual standing water, blazing heat, or deep shade are present.

  • Most medium to large cities have inexpensive mulch sourced from roadside trimming crews.

Not all areas will have this option, but road crews have to do something with the trimmed branches and underbrush that they clear from the sides of some roads. Many grind it into mulch for sale. Call your city officials to find out about availability. Prices for this mulch are generally lower than gardening centers, though the quality is a bit lower.

  • Only hire crews for what you can’t physically do yourself.

If you are handy at all, parts of landscaping are much more forgiving than house building or other trades like car mechanics or plumbing. Take on smaller tasks and teach yourself as you go. Soon you may find that you like the challenge and are saving money with each new task. You may also surprise yourself on what you can accomplish.

  • Spray areas with herbicides that normally are dealt with using a weedeater.

This is an old landscapers trick for very large estates with large out of the way grassy areas. To cut down on the labor cost, herbicides are sprayed along edges, around trees, and along riprap and shorelines. Homeowners can use this trick as well to their time or money paid to landscapers.

  • Agree to pickup sticks and debris from your yard before crews arrive.

I mentioned before that weeding flower beds is a dreaded job by many landscapers, but there is one other that tops is on some people’s list. Stick pickup before a mowing, especially when there is lots of debris is seen as a menial task even for a new laborer. This takes more time that it seems it should for most crews. Do it yourself and it can reduce your cost.

  • Do prep work for hardscaped areas yourself.

Many times when there is hardscape work to be done, deals with contractors can be struck if you agree to do much of the prep work and cleanup before and after a job. Clearing bushes and beds, taking out sod, removing debris, and other tasks can help before work begins. Cleaning up afterward can also save a lot of money.

The Final Touches On Why Landscaping Is So Expensive…

Hopefully this overview of costs associated with landscaping helps you better understand the jobs you have in mind. It is always important to count the costs of any endeavor before starting.

With the right attitude, preparation, and knowledge, you can definitely save money on what can be a very high installation or maintenance cost in your lawn.

To read more about this and other topics, see my articles…

References

https://backyardway.com/why-is-landscaping-so-expensive-cost-included/#:~:text=Landscaping%20is%20expensive%20because%20of%20many%20factors%2C%20such,costs%20include%20a%20patio%2C%20outdoor%20kitchen%2C%20and%20pool.

https://www.fixr.com/costs/landscaping

https://mikesbackyardgarden.org/why-garden-landscaping-is-so-expensive/

https://www.thespruce.com/landscaping-tips-to-lower-costs-2131966

Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

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