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Spending Green on Green Space

Yard and landscaping projects can add up; here’s what to know to be better prepared

By Dina Cheney, Bankrate.com
Published: September 2, 2023, 6:02am
2 Photos
Among home renovation projects, landscaping is one of the most varied out there.
Among home renovation projects, landscaping is one of the most varied out there. (Dreamstime) Photo Gallery

You’re finally ready to tackle that yard redo but you have a lot of questions: what to plant, where to plant it and — last but not least — how much green you should spend on your green space.

The latter in particular is tricky to answer, because, among home renovation projects, landscaping is one of the most varied out there — there’s a lot of ground to cover, estimate-wise. To give you a rough sense, the average cost of landscaping per square foot (as it’s generally calculated) ranges from $4.50 to $12, according to contractor search site Angi.

That equates to $1,500-$5,000 for the average front yard ($3,496 is the average spend) and $15,000 to $50,000 for the average backyard (a full redo). Backyards are harder to average, since landscaping can vary so, from swimming pools to covered patios, from a few new plants to an elaborate, solar-paneled pergola. But for just the basics, figure on $3,000 to $15,000 for sod, walkways, bushes and trees. Fixr.com puts the average at $10,000.

Landscaping project costs

If you’ve got no green thumb, turn to the pros for your project. A professional landscaper or landscaping company (charging an average hourly rate of $50 to $100, Angi says) can tackle a variety of tasks, from developing a plan to purchasing materials and installing plants.

Project costs

Sprinkler installation $1,673-$3,547

Deck installation $4,157-$11,887

Outdoor lighting installation $2,000-$6,000

Fountain installation $929-$4,715

Pond installation $335-$10,500

Lawn seeding $438-$1,694

Sod $1,060-$3,000

Flower garden planting $800-$3,000

Patio installation $1,953-$5,722

Maintenance costs

Here are average price ranges for common landscaping projects:

Weed control $70-$150

General cleanup $190-$1,000

Tree trimming $75-$1,800

Tree removal $200-$2,000

Tree stump removal $300-$500

Tree stump grinding $170-$500

Lawn fertilization $76-$394

Source: Angi

For a more significant remodel, consider hiring a landscape designer or architect (with an average hourly rate of $50-$150). This sort of pro will design the space and recommend plants, while a landscape architect will also advise on the type and placement of hard structures, like a gazebo or waterfall.

Sprinkler system

By installing a sprinkler system, you won’t need to worry about watering your plants. More common in drier climates, these systems are typically installed underground, with only the sprinkler heads visible above ground.

Deck

Decks are a perennially popular way to expand your external living quarters. The cost to install a deck varies greatly, depending on the size, number of levels, and materials, whether wood or composite.

Outdoor lighting

By adding lighting, your yard becomes usable into the wee hours. Costs for outdoor lighting hinge on the number and type of lights plus their distance from electrical outlets. LED lights tend to have the highest ROI, says Angie Hicks, chief customer officer, Angi, and co-founder, Angie’s List.

Fountain and pond

Water features can serve as garden centerpieces and add soothing sounds. Costs vary depending on the size and materials. Expect to spend more if you line and filter your pond and include plants, fish or turtles.

Lawn seeding or sodding

Lawn seeding is more affordable than installing sod. However, with sod, you reap the instant gratification of a lawn. With seeding, you wait for the grass to grow.

Flower garden

Adding color and texture to your yard, a flower garden can range from a simple bed with plantings to a more elaborate area, with walkways, a trellis and a gazebo.

Patio

Perhaps the most common add-on, patios truly make a yard an outdoor room for entertaining, relaxing or even working. The cost depends on the size and materials.

Main types of landscaping

Experts break down landscaping into three main categories: softscaping, hardscaping, and xeriscaping. Here’s a look at each one, with their costs courtesy of Angi.

Landscaping type, typical cost:

Softscaping: $800-$10,000

Hardscaping: $300-$30,000

Xeriscaping: $3,000-$24,000

What is softscaping and what does it cost?

Softscaping covers all plant life, including flowers, trees, shrubs, and grass. On average, expect to spend $800 to $10,000.

What is hardscaping and what does it cost?

Hardscaping includes all nonliving elements, like structures, patios, and lighting. The cost can range from $300 to $30,000 depending on the project scope, running an average of $5 to $25 per square foot.

What is xeriscaping and what does it cost?

Xeriscaping refers to projects that aim to reduce water usage. Encompassing plants and systems, the average cost to xeriscape a yard is $17,000, but ranges from $3,000 to $24,000.

Maintenance costs

Expect your yard to require ongoing TLC. Without regular upkeep, you’ll ultimately spend more time and money on repairs and cleanup. Here are a few common maintenance chores and their prices.

  • Weed control: Uproot unwanted greenery on a regular basis.
  • General cleanup: Weed, dead-head, mulch, and more for tidy and attractive landscaping.
  • Tree trimming and removal: Trim large trees to keep them healthy and lessen the chances their branches will fall on your home or yard. Remove trees that are dead or could pose a threat or interfere with your landscaping plan. Hire a pro for larger trees and, if it’s in your budget, ask them to remove and grind stumps.
  • Lawn fertilization: Consider fertilizing once or twice a year to help grass grow and discourage weeds.

Tips for lowering landscaping costs

Try these strategies to prune your landscaping expenses (pun intended).

  • DIY. Even if you’re not big on hammering, hauling or gardening, consider handling simple projects, like laying mulch or paver stones, yourself.
  • Give pros a starting point. To reduce their hours, approach landscape architects or designers with a basic design plan and budget.
  • Keep existing softscape, especially trees. Trees can be expensive to purchase and install. Try to incorporate existing plantings into your plan so you avoid the time- and money-consuming removal process.
  • Replace mulch with pavers or rocks. Rocks and gravel are often less expensive and require less long-term maintenance than soil and grass.
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