“Are you sitting down?” When the installation estimate arrives via the friendly landscape contractor, it’s a good idea to be resting comfortably on the sofa. Most folks simply do not have a good idea of what an outdoor project will cost. This is understandable. not only do labor or materials prices fluctuate, but it is difficult to grasp the many hidden facets that take time and resources in creating a landscape.
“I want to convert to drought tolerant plants.” This statement sounds simple but this project is often not as straight forward as it seems. Taking out a lawn and putting in drought tolerant landscaping may seems easy, but usually includes not only the cost of installing the new plants but the added price tag to remove the existing landscape along with possible equipment rentals, trucking and dump fees, grading, irrigation work, drainage installation, rock and gravel additions, soil amendments, mulches, and so on. Add delivery fees and a porta-potty to the estimate and suddenly this small project has grown tremendously in scope. Imagine the hidden complexities and resulting costs of projects with walls, patio and walkway surfaces, overheads, water elements, outdoor kitchens, and fireplaces?
I fully understand why homeowners do not realize the costs of these projects because it is sometimes difficult for me to comprehend all the costs involved, at least until the final plan is in hand and the materials and labor are calculated. As the designer, I try to educate my clients as to what to expect on installation costs, while working with budget goal that has been established. Once the design is complete, if the installation estimates exceed this budget goal then it is time to scale back the features in the landscape or possibly implement the landscape in phases. In other words, we can shoot for the dream landscape and see where we land. The good news: we do often land right around our target number. And for a fortunate few, the final cost is below the budgeted amount.