The cost of landscaping your new home

The cost of landscaping always seems to shock homeowners. Somehow, people relate the cost of landscaping to the cost of gardening and are surprised to find out that decks and wood cost more than plants…not to mention the labour involved to install them. In speaking to several industry professionals, the average backyard renovation starts at around $20,000, with some projects crossing the million-dollar mark. With such a huge range, how do you know how much your outdoor landscaping should cost and how much should you really be investing in your home? One of the biggest mistakes that a client makes is to envision what they want in the yard BEFORE they really set the budget. When I meet with a client, I start by asking what the approximate value of the home is. If you set your budgets based on percentages of your total home’s worth, then you know that your plans will stay in line with property values in your neighbourhood.

Front yards have been getting more attention by realtors and housing experts because of first-impression numbers. Several online sources place the value of curb appeal and a home’s first impression between five and eight per cent of the home’s worth. Items like shade trees and front walkways contribute to higher returns, as do front porches and sitting areas. While plants and gardens are important to the overall appeal, too many flowers in the front yard intimidate buyers looking for low-maintenance homes. As my general rule, I try to keep the front yard landscaping at seven per cent of a homeowner’s budget. That number does not include the driveway, even though it may be at the front of your home.

Backyards tend to be more about function than a front yard space. Good design can offset the shortfalls from the inside of the home with outdoor elements that meet the same need. For example, if a home has a small kitchen, adding an outdoor version with a barbecue or a smoker is a smart investment because it partially addresses buyers’ concern when they see the inside space. Having a good deck or patio in your backyard that provides lots of living space can increase your home’s value by up to 12 per cent, according to Century21, Canada. You also need to consider the return-on-investment for your outdoor space. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2019 Cost-vs-Value Report, a simple wood deck has an expected return of 75 per cent for the life of the deck, which averages eight to 10 years in Canada. This number climbs when you invest in products like MicroPro Sienna; the brown-treated wood available at a majority of big box and lumber stores. This wood uses a new treatment process of micronized preservative, which is able to penetrate the wood, providing more protection from the elements. If properly cared for, using sealers and cleaning products, a MicroPro Sienna deck can last significantly longer, allowing the homeowner to see a return of 75 per cent of the initial cost for a much longer period.

Unfortunately, the size of the deck matters when calculating the return on your investment. So how big should the deck or patio be? It comes down to what you want to use it for. I always tell homeowners to start with the patio furniture. At the store, large patio furniture is shown as compact as possible so that they can get more sets on the showroom floor. Don’t be deceived by this. Too often homeowners plan their outdoor space and can’t find the furniture to fit it. The easiest way to answer this question is to go to the furniture store and pick out what you really want for your space and then measure it. Bring some friends and make sure to measure your potential set with people sitting in it. Also consider how much room you need to walk around the furniture if it’s being occupied.

Here are my general rules…

A four-person square table needs a deck that is 12×12 feet. This might seem large but it is important to allow for flow around the table as well as enough space for guests to sit comfortably. Including the barbecue as you plan your space is also very important.

A barbecue needs to be away from a burnable surface by 36 inches when it is in use, so make sure to plan for an area to roll it out before you turn it on.

Four club chairs around a table or propane fireplace needs at least 15×15 feet because people tend to cross their legs or sit in a reclined position and take up more room on the deck.

With the size of today’s furniture, aim to install a 750-1,000 sq. ft. deck to include a six-person table, a decent sized barbecue, and an area for conversational seating. It might seem like a large investment, but all the experts (including this one) agree that creating usable space in the backyard is the key to seeing the big returns when it is time to sell.

As you plan your spring projects this year, budget your dollars accordingly. I always tell homeowners to set aside about 20 per cent of their budget for the outdoors. This may seem like a lot, but with all of the housing market numbers showing solid returns in landscaping, you can take comfort in knowing that your money is being spent wisely.

Related reading

Beautifying your backyard: Gazebo, pergola and trellis

Interior Stylist Jaclyn Harper’s Backyard Retreat


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