20 Ways to Save on Landscaping Costs with an Outdoor Project

Where to save and where to splurge? Landscaping costs can get out of hand very quickly whether you are starting a new project or maintaining your present outdoor space.

Our yearly maintenance costs to maintain our lawn and landscape is expensive! Between the weekly mowings, lawn treatments, weed control, mulching and clean up, the costs add up quickly. But the discussion of maintenance costs for lawn care is a topic for another day, today I want to talk about how to save on landscaping costs relating to outdoor projects.

What is the Difference Between Hardscape and Softcape?

But first, let’s differentiate between the types of landscape. Hardscape is the hard stuff in your yard: concrete, bricks, and stone. Softscape is the soft, growing stuff, like perennial flowers, shrubs, and trees. Softscape is living; hardscape is not. Ideally, a beautifully designed landscape incorporates both elements creating a nice balance between the two.

Where to Splurge and Where to Save?

Our big outdoor project is complete. I am still playing around with softscape a bit but the pool and pool house are done.

While we spent a significant amount on the project as a whole, we splurged on the hardscape costs while trying to keep the softscape down. The general rule of thumb for landscape costs is that it should be 10% of the overall budget costs. Our hardscape costs outweighed the softscape costs. Why? Because materials and labor for the hardscape are expensive! The pavers and installation were beaucoup bucks 😬 which was pricier than the softscape costs. The biggest driver of our softscape costs was the sod. If you have ever had stonework done, the price per square foot to install gets very expensive. I want to give you my thoughts on the process and things you might want to consider.

As many of you know, I designed our outdoor space. I did not hire a landscape company to come up with a softscape design for our outdoor space. In Is it Worth the Money to Hire a Landscaping Company, I give you my 2 cents on whether it’s worth the cost.

10 Ways to Save on Hardscape Costs During an Outdoor Project

1.) Purchase the materials yourself. Visit stone quarries and compare the prices of different stones and materials. Talk to the sales person and ask for a contractor discount, tell them who is installing the stone and see if they have any special discounts for that contractor. The discount percentage may depend on how much work the contractor does with the shop.

2.) Compare installation prices with different contractors. You would be surprised at the wide range of costs among installers. I got about 5 quotes with different contractors/installers to compare price per sq foot.

3.) Make sure you are comparing apples to apples when you get an install price per sq foot. What does the install price include? Materials like grout, sand and concrete? Clean up? Delivery? Or just strictly the install price?

4.) Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate with your installer. Ask your installer for their best possible price for the job.

5.) Use smaller tiles over larger ones. If you are selecting pavers such as travertine or tiles for your outdoor patio, using smaller ones are generally more cost effective than larger ones. We used very large pavers for our pool surround but could have selected smaller ones at a great cost savings.

6.) If you are paying labor costs by square footage, try to reduce the square feet if possible. You don’t want to pay for unnecessary stone work that won’t be utilized, make sure every square foot counts and eliminate what doesn’t.

7.) Materials and labor are expensive and you can save considerably if you select a more cost effective ground covering. A poured concrete patio or walkway is more cost effective than concrete pavers or stone. Stamped concrete is also something to consider and is quite cost effective for a pool surround area.

8.) Pick up the materials yourself if possible. Delivery fees are HIGH! If you have the means to rent a truck for a few hours, it may save you hundreds compared to what a quarry might charge you.

9.) Compare cost of materials with different vendors. Once I had selected our stone, I called around to every quarry I could find in our area to compare prices on the exact product I wanted and they ranged dramatically!

10.) When installing stone, you will pay higher installation costs to have permanent grout between the pavers vs using sand. I should do a separate post about that process, let me know in the comments below if you would be interested in hearing more about this topic.

I learned many of these tips as I went along the process of building our space. Of course…I did not follow all these tips to save money and we splurged in several area like ADDING more square footage, GROUTING between stones and CHOOSING tiles as large as possible! But I have no regrets in the process and we are thrilled with the space. These decisions are personal and everyone needs to do what’s right for them and their situation.

Now, let’s discuss ways to save with softscape costs.

10 Ways to Save Softscape Costs with an Outdoor Project

1.) When designing your project, try to incorporate softscape elements into your initial design. Forward thinking will make the process easier and the result better.

During my design phase, I knew I wanted to add boxwoods around the spa and in front of the pool house. Incorporating this idea into the overall design plan gave us a leg up with the completed product.

2.) Recycle elements you already have in the yard.

During the digging of our pool, we hit a lot of rock! Hitting Rock During Inground Pool Construction – What are the Options? many be of interest to you.

We were left with very large boulders in our yard which we recycled to use in our landscape design. You may also be interested in Retaining Rock Wall Ideas for a Sloped Yard.

3.) Read books and magazines that help assist you with landscape design. Some contain DIY plans and planting guides that work with your hardiness zone.

4.) Implement your design in phases. If you are doing much of the digging, time is on your side and you can take advantage of sales to buy plants. If your design is simple, you may be able to dig, plant and mulch on your own.

This landscaped area of our yard is new and developed over time. I added and removed plants trying to recycle what we had. Some worked some didn’t, I even planted annuals that I thought were perennials and was so surprised when they didn’t come back! 🤦‍♀️ Important to read labels carefully.

5.) Get labor help from teenagers in your neighborhood looking to make a few extra bucks over the summer.

6.) Purchase trees, shrubs, and perennials near the end of season when they’re on sale.

7.) Compare prices between garden centers, smaller retailers and stores. Plant goods at small retailers is often considerably cheaper, and often they sell unique varieties unavailable at big-box garden centers. My favorite place to purchase premium plants at a great price is Costco.

All of our limelight hydrangea trees are from Costco online. They are beautiful and were very affordable compared to other retailers.

8.) Check farmers’ markets and garden club sales, usually earlier in the growing season for native plants.

9.) Grow perennial flowers from seeds. Seeds cost a small fraction of what potted flowers cost. Planting grass seed is also much more economical than sod, we splurged on sod and spent hours upon hours trying to keep in green.

10.) To avoid the costly mistake of transplanting shrubs or replacing flowers, make sure you check the sun exposure requirements before purchasing. It’s very frustrating when a plant doesn’t thrive due to lack of sun or worse..dies altogether.

Final Thoughts

It’s so important for the scale of your outdoor project to match the scale of your home. If your home is small, add a moderately sized pool and pool house. If your house is large, the scale of your pool and pool should match your house. Scale is very important and should be thought about carefully.

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4 thoughts on “20 Ways to Save on Landscaping Costs with an Outdoor Project

  1. You did a beautiful job!! Your backyard looks amazing.I love the stone you used around the pool. Can you please share what it is.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Patti, thank you so much!! The pavers are travertine. Glad you like them! They are extra large and in the versailles pattern.

  2. You always tell us things I never would have thought of! 😀 Thanks for the fabulously informative post Denise, and as a living example, you are superb! Yours is one of the loveliest pool areas I’ve ever seen. Hope you’ve been having a wonderful summer in it my friend!

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