How Much Does It Cost to Redo the Landscape at My House?
By Zack Thomas
March 14, 2019
How to budget for a yard renovation.
This is a great question to be thinking about early in your project and, as it turns out, also a challenge to find guidance on at the same time.
While there are many ways to start the budget discussion, our method is to start by connecting your landscape budget to the current value of your house. It turns out, that’s a great idea both for the design (the best exterior spaces are a seamless addition to your interior spaces) and budget.
Calculating your landscape budget based on your home value.
Using the value of your home to estimate a landscape improvement budget works because:
- Your home’s current value is easy to find out through Zillow, Redfin, and other websites. And…
- It’s an integrated metric which represents several key factors, including the overall condition of the economy, your neighborhood, and the cost of constructing specific improvements (more on this last item further down).
Anyone who’s bought (or tried to buy) a home in this region in recent years is probably familiar with how the red hot economy is reflected in rising home values. Hand in hand with that rise in value, the cost of residential construction has gone up as well, and that includes landscape construction. Your neighborhood’s influence on your home value is important because it also reflects how much your neighbors have spent on their yards and gardens. Not that you have to spend more or less! But it does set an average level for your area that’s good to consider as you turn your attention to your yard.
Caveat! Before we launch into more details, keep in mind that all of the numbers we’re about to discuss are approximate and are great for the purposes of planning your upcoming landscape project, but don’t take them as the final cost of construction! That will come later in the process when you have a design in hand and a specific contractor bidding the work.
Here are the final assumptions to keep in mind before we look at budget levels:
- These budget levels assume you have a typical-size lot and home for the Seattle area. If you have a lot that is larger or smaller, then adjust the numbers accordingly.
- These budget levels assume you’ll address the entire site (front and back) so, like above, if you’re only doing part of your yard, adjust the numbers accordingly.
- Your property does not include any unusually complex features, existing non-conformities, or other conditions, such as limited construction access, a steep slope requiring retaining walls, or an environmentally critical area (ECA) that triggers extensive permitting.
So, now that you know (or can quickly determine) the value of your house, let's get into the details.
The cost of specific improvements to your landscape.
Let's take a look at what can you expect to achieve with landscape improvements at various budget levels.
10% of Home Value
We encourage setting the landscape budget at 10% of your home value as a starting point if you are going to stay in your current home for at least the next 3-5 years. Can you spend less? Of course! However, at this budget level, you should be able to do the following:
- Editing and refreshing existing planting beds.
- New planting beds with amended soils and simple irrigation on a controller.
- Renovated, or new, lawn areas with irrigation.
- Wood fencing that’s not too custom or elaborate.
- Some areas of hardscape limited to paths and/or inexpensive materials. (Think about gravel paths or flagstone that you might set yourself.)
- Some landscape lighting. (We advise using fewer and sturdier LED fixtures such as those manufactured by Volt, BK Lighting, or FX Luminaire.)
If you carefully target your budget, phase the improvements, and/or self-perform some of the work, you can stretch the budget further.
15% of Home Value
If your budget is around this level, you should be able to achieve the items at the 10% level, and expand your scope to include:
- Moderate-sized hardscaping and paths (wood deck, sand set pavers, cast in place concrete, perhaps some limited stone).
- Source and install some custom planting elements, such as larger trees, rain gardens, or an instant hedge for screening.
- A custom-fabricated fire feature, hot tub, small water feature, and/or a simple built-in BBQ area. (Depending on how many other improvements are on your list, you may only be able to do one of these.)
- Wood fencing for most-to-all of the perimeter of your yard and/or build a custom feature such as a bike shed.
- Add underdrainage to your lawn areas to increase usability during the long wet season, and/or swap out part of your lawn for artificial turf for the same reason.
- Enhanced landscape lighting that’s dialed-in to create specific moods and effects.
If your site needs some terracing or re-grading to create or increase usable area, that could be performed within this budget but it’s expensive, so you will have to sacrifice some other improvements
As with the previous budget level, if you carefully target your budget or phase improvements, you can stretch the budget and possibly get some of the items listed in the following budget category.
20% of Home Value
If your budget is around this level, you can do all of the items in the previous categories, and start thinking about custom items such as:
- Retaining walls (CIP, dry stack, rockery), and/or moderate terracing and re-grading of your site.
- Extensive hardscape areas and decks with custom elements (seat walls, built-in benches, a custom fire feature, etc.).
- An outdoor kitchen with built-in features (cooking appliance(s), sink, undercounter refrigerator, pizza oven, etc.).
- Targeted interventions to your house to get your yard and interior spaces to better connect and flow. For example, adding or relocating french doors for better access between the kitchen and a revamped deck.
- A larger and/or more complex water feature.
- Overhead structures, such as extending the roof of your home.
- Custom-built elements that require structural engineering and a permit from the city (such as a custom shed or accessory building).
There are definitely landscape projects where the budget exceeds 25% of the house value (and higher!). For example, since our firm also includes architects and interior designers, we often work on projects that include backyard cabins, or treehouses, and those budgets can be more reflective of the costs of new home construction as a result. (And, we can help you develop that budget, as well.)
If you’re put off by the numbers above, don’t be! The great thing about the exterior space around your house is it can be as simple or as elaborate as you want to make it. It’s important to be realistic, but we also always strive to deliver something our clients will love. On the flip side, let’s be frank, if your budget is completely out of sync with the above parameters, then you may need to set your expectations appropriately (and lower).
Just to reiterate the earlier caveat: use these numbers for planning and discussion purposes only! As your project design develops, so will the pricing and budget.
Now that you have a start on the construction costs of your landscape project, how much should you budget for the design services? 8-12% of construction cost is the industry average (and where we generally land as well). A final caveat: if your project is more complex, expect the cost of designing it to reflect that. The reverse should hold if your project is straightforward.