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4 Common Landscape Design Pricing Options in Lancaster, PA

Posted On: May 03,2018 By: Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Landscape design architecture PAThe cost of a landscape design plan may seem confusing. That’s because there are a lot of different ways that landscape companies charge for their design services. These options can vary dramatically based on everything from their level of experience to how time-involved your project may be.

While you might be certain that you want to hire a landscape design company, you might have no clue what pricing option is best for your project. No matter what, you want to be able to get a unique design and if you pay for one, you want it to be well worth the expense.

In order to help simplify what’s involved, we’ll look at the four most common ways in which landscapers charge for design as well as what option might be best for you.

If you’re having a project built that is anything more than a simple landscape bed or two, it’s important that you have a design. No one should have a project built without knowing exactly where (and what) is being installed.

The design ultimately becomes the foundation for the construction—and that’s important. The last thing that you want is to be surprised by how your outdoor living area turns out. It’s too much of an investment to cut any corners.

In addition, a lot of municipalities require a design for pulling permits, making it a necessity. Landscape design is simply one of those steps that should not be skipped.


1. Landscape Design Pricing by Hourly Rate

Calculating the cost of landscape design by factoring in all of the hours that went into it is a relatively common way to price landscape design. Of course, a more complex design is going to take time. This is relative to how complex the project is. The design for some landscaped plant beds, for instance, is going to be a lot less time-consuming than the design for a project where permits are going to be needed, there will be engineering for elaborate hardscaping, and time will be needed to organize materials.Landscape architect using landscape design software

Typically, an hourly rate is set that takes into account the landscape designer’s level of experience, training, and certifications. Therefore, a company that employs a Registered Landscape Architect (RLA), that has a tremendous amount of experience and training, might charge more hourly than one that does not.

Some landscape companies employ individuals who have design degrees or certificates that required much less schooling. A typical landscape designer has either a two-year associate’s or four-year bachelor's degree. But an RLA must have at least a five-year degree and must work under another landscape architect for at least two years before taking a very difficult certification test (and maintain those credentials with continuing education each year).

As with anything, you get what you pay for. By choosing a company with an RLA, you can expect to get a higher caliber design.


2. Companies that Charge a Flat Design Fee

landscape-design-lancaster-pa-costSometimes, the cost of a landscape design plan is simply given as a flat fee. Chances are if you are told a flat fee for the design cost, the landscape designer has already calculated how much time and effort is going to go into your project. Some projects are complicated and incredibly involved while others have fewer challenges. Naturally, that means the fee for designing one project might differ from another.

Still, a lot of homeowners like the idea of a flat design fee as they like knowing the total cost of landscape design upfront. On average, the cost of design in our region can run anywhere from $500 to $2,000.


3. Landscape Design Pricing Based on Budget

This probably the rarest of the design pricing options, but it is one way that landscaping companies could charge for design. With this option, the cost of the design is a percentage of the overall budget. Therefore, if you have a $100,000 project, and your landscape company charges 10 percent for a design fee, your design will cost $10,000.


4. Free Landscape Design in Lancaster, PA

A lot of landscape companies in the region say they don’t charge for design at all. In fact, advertising “free design,” is often used as a selling point to get potential clients interested in working with a landscape company.

Waller-Plans-1-1024x919-1While this may sound enticing, you should be wary of any company that does not charge any fees for design services. That’s because you have to question how invested they really are in your project. And, what are you actually getting?

Chances are, you’re not getting a high-quality, professional design. You’re probably getting a quick sketch—if anything at all. When a company says that they don’t charge for their design work it’s also possible they’re working from no design at all. And that’s scary because you can’t really be certain what you’re going to end up with if there is no design involved.


Earth, Turf, & Wood’s Landscape Design Pricing Model

When working with a company such as Earth, Turf, & Wood, which employs a Registered Landscape Architect (RLA), you can likely expect to pay for landscape design. Landscape architect design prices are typically calculated with either an hourly rate, a flat fee, or a combination of both. But no matter how they charge, with an RLA involved in the project, you can feel confident that your project is being built from a detailed plan that will ensure it comes together exactly as expected.

landscape design architecture Lancaster, PA

We have a few different ways of charging for landscape design. Most often, we use a flat rate fee that is based upon the number of hours we plan to spend on that design.

For the average project, our RLA spends between 10 and 20 hours to formulate a high-quality and professional design for outdoor living areas that include features such as planting beds, patios, retaining walls, outdoor kitchens, and even pools. That is design time, on the computer, putting together an original design. There may also be additional meetings, phone calls, and other time spent in the design process that goes beyond this range.

All of that effort is included in the design cost, making it very valuable. After all, you wouldn’t expect a building architect to work for free, designing a new office space or working up detailed plans for building a home. The same goes for a landscape architect, who is investing a lot of time into your outdoor living project.

Why is this important?

Well, for one, the more time that is invested in your design, the more accurate and precise it will be. You want to have an accurate design on paper as opposed to something that is just a sketch, or a “dream.” When you draw up a dream, it remains a perpetual dream. But when you design something that is accurate, it becomes a reality.

Accurate design plans ultimately become construction plans which are used to build your project exactly as agreed upon. They’re also submitted for permit applications.

These are important reasons why a quick sketch simply will not do. On average, the cost of a design from Earth, Turf, & Wood is around $800 to $1,000. That’s a small investment for the value received.


Choosing the Best Landscape Design Pricing Option

It’s not so much how a company charges that matters as is what you get for your investment. By choosing a company that utilizes an RLA, you’re investing in a comprehensive design process that is going to ensure your project comes together both aesthetically and functionally.

The choice is yours.

You could choose a company that doesn’t charge a design fee to try and save a few dollars on your project. But you could wind up with something you didn’t really want. Since you never worked through a comprehensive design process, how can you really know what you’re getting?

flagstone-patio-fire-pit-boulder-wall-stepsEven worse, you could wind up with huge mistakes. When companies fail to work through a design they could make errors such as building the patio too small or failing to correct a drainage issue. Mistakes such as these could negatively impact your entire outdoor experience.

Or, you could choose a company that puts time and effort into a high-quality design. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting—with the assurance it’ll be done right. And by making that wise choice, your family and friends will be able to experience your backyard dream-come-true just as you hoped.

If you’d like to discuss how professional landscape design will help turn your ideas for your Harrisburg, Lancaster, York, Hershey, or Reading, PA home into reality, then contact us for a free consultation and get ready to see your dream come to life.

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Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Written by Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Mary Hatch Dresser is a Registered Landscape Architect with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design. Mary has designed landscapes for 32 years and joined ETW exclusively in 2009. Mary is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA); and also serves on the Shade Tree Committee in Strasburg Borough where she resides. Mary prides herself in carefully listening to her clients to professionally meld their ideas and personal criteria with sound, experienced design practice.

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