The Cost of a Garden Makeover

How much money should you budget for?

Table of Contents

A garden should be an investment

We are used to the cost of big-ticket expenses in our lives, such as a house, a car, a new kitchen or a three-piece suite. 

These are investments bring long-term satisfaction. Notably, the house, with its kitchen and furniture, needs to look good and be functional for many years.

We should also think of the cost of a garden makeover as a similar type of investment.

And because it is an investment, time and consideration must be made in its creation and upkeep.

View across a pool to a circular jetty with sun loungers

Benefits of a well designed garden

An urban garden design. A courtyard garden with pergola and seating. These add to the cost of a garden makeover.

The investment returns of a well-designed garden

A well-designed garden can be a worthwhile investment many ways:

Financial return

A well-designed garden adds value to a home.

Studies suggest a nicely presented garden can add up to 20% to your house value, whereas a well-designed and landscaped garden could add a whopping 77% to the house price. 

As an added bonus, a garden with a vegetable patch can save you money on groceries.

Personal enjoyment

A garden should be a source of relaxation and enjoyment. A place to spend quality time with family and friends.

Health benefits

The physical activity of gardening is a great form of exercise. Plus just enjoying that lovely green space improves your overall health and well-being.

Environmental benefits

A garden has a positive impact on the environment. Providing habitats for wildlife, reducing air pollution, and conserving resources, such as water.

Budgeting considerations

Think beyond the basics

We’ve all seen those gorgeous gardens on the front of magazines, featured on Gardener’s World or splashed all over the media during Chelsea Flower Show week.

Who wouldn’t want something just as good in their own backyard?

The temptation is to think big, to get those must-have items. A modern pergola, an outdoor kitchen, a pool, or an outdoor gym.

You’ll even check the prices of these online and think “Hey, we can afford that.”

But a garden can have hidden costs that may scupper one or more of your dream items.

Garden design demo 3D render
Trees And Shrubs

The bigger picture

Among these potential hidden costs are the following issues or features:

  • Size of the garden
  • Garden Conditions
  • Site Access
  • Style
  • Materials
  • Labour
  • Lighting and Drainage
  • Consultants
  • Planning/Legal

We’ll cover each of these in turn

Size of the Garden

The larger the garden, the more expensive it will be to design. However smaller gardens have a proportionally higher cost per square metre than bigger plots. 

In small plots more expensive items such as paving, seating, water features, etc. take up more of the available space they do in larger sites.

Garden conditions

No two gardens are the same and they will have different aspects that add to the cost of a garden makeover.

For example, a steep garden will likely need steps and retaining walls, old paving or rubble will need to be cleared before work commences and poor soil conditions may require additional treatment. 

Contour Plan

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Looking down the side of a property with a deep flower bed
Site Access

This one factor can really add to the price of a garden build. 

A garden with easy access means diggers and other equipment can quickly get onto the site. 

Having a garden with poor access either means lifting equipment in by crane, or having to resort to manual labour.  Both of which come at a higher price.

Style

The style of a site can add a lot to the cost of a garden makeover.

A more traditional cottage or mixed border style is the cheapest, as a greater proportion of the design is taken up by planting.

More modern styles with an emphasis on hard landscaping will be considerably more expensive.

Materials

Materials are the biggest cost in any garden design, especially paving.

There is a considerable difference in price between different materials with porcelain paving being the most expensive item. 

Other types of paving are available, but beware of using cheap products as these may not be that durable and will become a false economy.

 

Labour

Another huge cost factor is labour.

The average price for a single labourer in the UK is £20 per hour and it will depend on what is being constructed as to how long it will take.

Porcelain paving, for example, takes longer to install than sandstone and requires a highly skilled labourer.

Stepping stones across a pool to a table and chairs beneath a balcony
LightingDemo
Lighting and Drainage

Two other factors that add to the price are lighting and drainage.

Garden lighting brings your garden to life in the darker evenings. But you will need a qualified lighting consultant and an electrician to install them.

Good drainage is a requirement for all gardens and is a necessary feature for retaining walls and large patios.

Consultants

Depending on the type of build, the size of the garden and the complexity of the construction, you may need to employ specialist consultants to ensure the work can be completed.

Larger, or steeply sloping sites will need a land surveyor to measure the plot. High retaining walls or similar large constructions will need the advice of a structural engineer.

These add additional factors to the cost of a garden makeover.

Planning/Legal

The administration of a garden build adds additional costs. If the landscaper uses a JCLI contract then each contract document used needs to be purchased at £38 (excluding VAT).

Legal aspects of the design, if they are needed also add to the price. These may include:

Contracts

Pricing your Landscaping

Increasing costs

The prices of landscaping materials have increased recently adding to the cost of a garden makeover.  This has been down to a number of factors.

The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have made everyone appreciate their outdoor space more.  This has led to increased demand.

The consequences of Brexit have added their own issues on supply and delivery.

Global supply chain issues, for example, the Suez blockage, the Ukraine war and recently China’s Covid crisis, have added to the costs.

ClipboardSmall
Hard Landscaping
Job Cost Unit
Garden Wall (bricks)
£175
Per m²
Garden Wall (concrete)
£50
Per m²
Paving (Sandstone)
£120
Per m²
Paving (Porcelain)
£150
Per m²
Decking
£125
Per m²
Fencing
£115
Per 5 foot panel
Water Feature
£350
Per m²

Cost values

The tables shown here give a general indication of costs of materials and labour.

These should not be considered a definitive guide as prices, labour rates and other charges will vary between different suppliers and contractors.

The figures quoted are the average prices as of January 2023.

Waste Clearance
Skip Size Approx No. of Bin Bags Cost
6 yard
60
£200
10 yard
100
£300
14 yard
140
£400
Soft Landscaping
Job Cost Unit
Turf and Topsoil
£20
Per m²
Planting
£55
Per m²
Small Trees
£100
Each
Legal / Admin Fees
Job Cost
Garden Survey
£350
Planning permission
£400
Lighting
Type of Lighting Average Cost
Low-voltage outdoor lighting
£120-£200
Floodlights
£80-£180
Landscape lights
£80-£1100
Drainage (Soakaways)
Soakaway Size Cost
190 Litre Soakaway
£700
800 Litre Soakaway
£2100

Contingency

With all large projects, there are always unforeseen issues.

  • It’s therefore best to consider setting aside a contingency value should additional expenses come into play.
  • The value will depend on the size and complexity of the build, but it is recommended to have at least 5-10% of the final completion price set aside for such an occasion.
Pergola Construction drawing - Construction detail

Conclusion

Why you should have a budget for your new garden

You should consider alterations to tour site as a long-term investment. It makes sense to plan and budget for the cost of a garden makeover.

  • Look at what you want to include in your garden and get an idea of the costs of materials and labour.
  • Be aware that there are potential hidden costs, for example, in the types of materials used, the style of the garden, the access to the site, additional legal fees or the employment of consultants.
  • And finally, don’t forget to have a contingency amount set aside for those potential unforeseen circumstances.

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