It can be overwhelming to know where to start when it comes to maintaining your lawn. There are aesthetic considerations, like the design and layout of the landscaping you’ll use. There are also more technical things to think about. For example, will you use drip irrigation or a sprinkler system?
If you’re not someone with a green thumb or need help getting started, you might consider hiring a landscape professional.
The following are some things to know before working with someone.
Services Landscapers Provide
A landscaper or landscape contractor might specialize in one area over another, but in general, some of the services you might expect from these professionals include:
- Clearing and grading land
- Building hardscape features like masonry walls, water features, decks, and patios
- Installation and management of irrigation systems
- Application of herbicides and pesticides
- Landscape lighting installation
Once you know a little more about the services provided and have a general idea about what you need, you’ll need to narrow it down a bit more before you begin your search.
For example, do you need a full-service landscape contracting company, or do you just need maintenance landscaping?
Knowing the scope of your project will help you save time as you connect with a company.
When you start contacting companies, you’ll want to ask them the type of services they offer right off the bat. You may be able to eliminate some of them simply because they don’t provide what you need.
As a side note—we mentioned above a full-service versus a maintenance company.
A full-service landscape company does everything, including design, installation, and maintenance. These companies will have designers and a crew to provide you with any services you need.
On the other hand, a maintenance company will usually just provide things like mowing, leaf clean-up, and perhaps shrub pruning.
It isn’t easy to give an accurate cost estimate for landscaping services because they can vary so much depending on the individual project and where you live.
However, the average price for landscaping installation for residential properties is around $3,300, according to data from HomeAdvisor.
For landscape architecture services, the price ranges from $1,000 to $4,600 on average. For installing a sprinkler system, costs can be anywhere from $1,700 to upwards of $3,600. For leveling or regrading a lawn, you could pay from $1,000 to $3,000.
Big Companies vs. Independent Contractors
There are big, full-service companies, but you can save money and perhaps get more personalized attention from smaller companies and independent contractors.
At the same time, that can go the other way too. A smaller company or independent contractor may put you on a waiting list because they’re trying to juggle other clients, and they may have fewer resources to dedicate to you.
If you’re going the independent route, you need to vet contractors carefully. Ensure they have current license and liability insurance.
You also want to be very clear and concise with what you need and your expectations before hiring anyone, and remember to ask for references.
What Does a Landscape Designer or Architect Do?
Depending on your yard and your goals, you may need to hire a landscape designer or architect. You can hire a full-service company, and they may have design services, or you might hire this person separately and then bring on subcontractors to bring their vision to life.
An architect has a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited university. They’ll also be licensed in their state. A designer may be self-taught, and they don’t need a license.
Architects tend to work on large-scale projects. For example, they may design certain structures, optimize slopes, or plan your entire property.
They can also layout plans and flowers. A landscape architect will usually charge by the hour, and it may be anywhere from 5-15% of your total project. A designer is similar.
You should have a list of at least two or three professionals who seem to fit your needs, and you’ll interview them from there.
Some of the questions you should ask include:
- How long they’ve been in business
- Whether they’re bonded and insured
- For references for a few projects that are relatively similar in scope to yours
- Whether they use subcontractors
- Photos of finished projects
- Who’s responsible for pulling permits that may be needed
- Whether they provide you with a drawing of their plans
- If they offer warranties for plants and workmanship
- Payment expectations
Get Estimates in Writing
Any time you’re working with home professionals or contractors, get estimates in writing. Ideally, you should get at least three estimates. If you’re getting any installation or hardscape work done, the company should send someone out to your home to measure and talk about the plants that could work in your space.
The estimates you receive from potential contractors should include their contact information and the total cost, including taxes. They should consist of the project’s scope, plant specifications, and a maintenance schedule. Payment terms should be clearly spelled out, and warranty information for plants and work should be included in the estimate.
Guarantees or warranties are a big one but are often overlooked when homeowners are hiring landscaping professionals.
You need to find out if, for example, your landscaper will come back and repair your patio if it starts to settle unevenly. What about assurances about the treatments they provide? Will your lawn stay lush and green, and if it doesn’t, what will their remedy be?
You need to find someone who’s going to commit to quality, and if something does happen that’s not up to par, they need to guarantee they’re going to fix it.
Finally, don’t simply choose a landscaper, architect, designer, contractor, or any professional just because they say they’ll do the job for the lowest price. Don’t look exclusively for the lowest price. Instead, consider value.
You may pay a little more, for example, but the job might be done correctly, creating value and making your home more beautiful. Your landscaping is a major investment that can significantly improve your home or worsen it.