Landscaping typically costs significantly more than most of us expect – unless you are just looking at a planting upgrade, think of it as a major building project not a furnishing exercise.
Ball park estimates can be unhelpful, but looking at cost ranges may inform the process and avoid complete shocks.
The larger the project the more of it is likely to be optional or at least variable. This gives you far more options when it comes to trying to reduce the budget and we suggest you develop a good rapport with the build team and focus on scope and deliverables.
On smaller projects, to a large extent the cost is just the cost, although on these it may be worth seeking a quote from a number of contractors as the costs can vary considerably according to proximity and local conditions.
We are always happy to do as much or as little as suits our clients on a build – we love to do the whole project if it makes sense for our clients, but we know we may not always be the best option to do everything. Our advice on costings is independent of our role in the project.
Drivers of costs
The cost of a garden is complex – largely driven by quality, scope and scale, with a sprinkling of aspiration in there! Tight time pressure of a ‘drop dead date’ also adds to the cost, as do awkward sites (tight access, roof terraces, steep slopes and retaining structures).
Quality of chosen features and materials can shift the budget by a multiple of 2-10 or even more, but assume this is a choice on where to ‘push the boat out’ more than opportunity to save versus a base budget. Preliminary costings are usually based on an informed idea of what you are expecting not a gold plated version.
Material costs are typically only 30-50% of the total so labour is key and skilled reliable labour is more expensive than most people expect.
In larger and more complex jobs project management becomes more important – you may be happy to do some of this, but it is a skilled job and a huge time-sink so we generally cost to do it for you.
Our experience is that budget ranges can be very unhelpful if not based on some actual costs for a measured design. The next question will always be either “does this include….” or “how can we reduce this…”, which cannot be answered without a real design in place (even a pretty basic one). Having said that, it is worth stating that landscaping costs a great deal more than most people expect. Whilst the ranges between a small simple level plot and a complex large one are big, the average spend of landscaping clients in the last 5 years ranges from £26,000 on small sites to over £200,000 on large ones, with a spread nearly as large within the averages.
How to Manage Build Costs in a Design Process
We find a process along the following lines to be effective. It assumes our clients are keen to be involved in the real numbers, and it can be iterative but is the best ‘real world’ approach.
We have in-house costings capabilities and 20 years of experience at assisting our clients to get the balance between their aspirations and their budgets – this should be a sensible discussion over priorities and real costs not a negotiation!