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5 Min. Read

How to Estimate Landscaping Jobs in 7 Steps: A Simple Guide

Estimating landscaping jobs correctly is key to running a profitable business. Statistics show that most contractors only make a profit on three out of every five jobs. They lose money on one and break even on the other, according to Total Landscape Care.

Learning to accurately bid on landscaping work will ensure you’re making a profit on every job you do.

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In this article, we’ll cover:

1. Talk to the Client

First things first, talk to the client about what they want. Do this before you start your estimate and ask lots of questions.

Make sure you visit the property yourself and measure it. Develop a plan to complete the job and decide what kind of materials, subcontractors and extra labor you may need. Hardscaping will be pricier as you’ll need to build walls, pathways etc.

Consider the following landscaping factors:

  • Client’s desired landscaping style or design (Japanese etc.)
  • Features required, like a stone pathway
  • Types of plants and materials required
  • Location (is it remote?)
  • Quality of soil
  • Need to remove or add soil
  • Sod vs. seeding
  • Need to grade or reslope the land
  • Current condition of the yard
  • Need to get rid of plants or features like a pathway or patio

Landscaping Network has a comprehensive landscaping prices list for specific services, like installing a patio or fence.

2. Estimate Overhead Costs

You must take overhead costs into account to properly price your landscaping jobs. Vans, gas, advertising, office rent, equipment repair and maintenance, cell phones, tools, uniforms, accountants and insurance all cost money and you need to recoup them.

Most small businesses underestimate how much they actually spend on overhead. You need an accurate number. If you don’t, chances are you won’t be making profit even after you add a markup, according to Total Landscape Care.

Usually, at least 20 percent of a landscaping contractor’s total sales go toward overhead costs, according to Green Industry Pros.

It’s better not to ballpark it. Add up your weekly overhead costs and divide that cost between the number of hours you work per week on average. Add that amount to the job cost, based on the estimated number of hours you think the project’s going to take.

3. Estimate Materials Costs

You established a project plan in step one, so now it’s easy to figure out materials costs. You should already know exactly what materials you’re including in the job. Calculate how much you’ll need based on your measurements of the site. Now you have your total materials cost. Add it to total project costs.

This free landscaping cost calculator will help you estimate your cost of materials based on the material type and size of the area.

4. Estimate Subcontractor Costs

This part’s simple. Send your trusted subcontractor(s) your project specifications and ask them to quote you a price. Add that price to your total job cost.

5. Estimate Labor Costs

Add your hourly rate to the equation, if you’re the one doing the job. That way you’ll always get paid. Otherwise, estimate labor costs for your other employees.

Not sure what to pay your workers? The average hourly wage for landscaping workers is $13.73 nationally, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics records from 2016. The hourly rate ranges from a low of $9.21 to a high of $19.74.

Location definitely factors into the hourly rate of landscaping workers. D.C. pays the most at $18.92 an hour, with Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington and Alaska all paying over $16 an hour. California employs the most landscaping workers and pays them an average of $15.11 an hour.

You also want to add payroll tax costs (FICA) on top of your labor costs. About 18 percent extra is a good idea.

6. Add Your Markup

Overhead costs (see step two) are not part of your markup. Your markup needs to be applied on top of the total cost to you to perform the job. This way you’ll always be making a profit.

Charge at least a 15 to 20 percent markup on residential landscaping jobs and 10 to 15 percent on commercial landscaping jobs, says Lawn & Landscape. Commercial landscaping is more competitive and you need to price lower to survive.

Maintenance landscaping can charge a 10 to 12 percent markup for both residential and commercial work.

7. Calculate the Total Price

Add up all your landscaping costs listed in the above steps plus your markup to find the price you’ll quote the customer for their landscaping job.

Remember to add sales tax to the estimate, if your state requires it. Some states, like Nevada, don’t require service-based businesses like landscaping to charge their customers sales tax.

TaxJar has a simple sales tax calculator that estimates your tax rate by street address.

People also ask:

How Much Does a Landscaper Charge per Hour?

A landscaper charges $45 to $75 per hour, according to Fixr. The price range is the same for new landscaping and landscaping maintenance.

How Much Does Landscaping Cost per Square Foot?

Landscaping costs $5 to $35 per square foot, according to Fixr.

Here’s an additional landscaping price guide: the national average is $13,200 for a 1,200 square foot yard. This can go as low as $1,320 for simple sod installation and as high as $29,200 for designer landscaping and hardscaping (man-made features like walls or paths).

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