NYC Landscaping Costs

Common elements—from decks to fencing and lighting—that impact backyard landscaping costs in NYC

A backyard in NYC with a patio and a seating area

Enjoy a change of scenery in your own home. Outdoor spaces present an increase in living space and an upgrade to lifestyle. However, not all backyards are ready for “prime time” and a remodel is in order. Backyard landscaping costs include scope, flooring, demolition, fencing, electrical, and structures.

Fortunately, every outdoor space can be improved substantially with some great ideas and expert help. Sweeten’s guide will help you understand the most common elements to consider in NYC. 

Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and up to $50,000 in renovation financial protection—for free.

Building an outdoor space: where to start

Outdoor space runs the gamut from a simple patio to a full outdoor kitchen. What you can achieve at your home is going to be limited by three main factors: space available, your budget, and building codes. Of those three factors, codes might be the most perplexing—and least flexible.

For the most part, building codes exist for safety and you can either comply or change the design. They’re not that onerous for most outdoor projects, but you might face challenges from setbacks, for example. That means you can’t build right up to the property line in certain cases. Your contractor will be invaluable in guiding you through design decisions that meet your desires and codes.

Space available and budget are easier to grasp. When your contractor gives you a good idea of the buildable space and rough estimates for your “must-haves” and optional features, you can get going on your plan. Do a deep dive and check out projects that appeal to you. Creating a photo montage of completed projects that get you all frothy is a fun way to design!

Backyard with stained cedar fencing along with white chairs and lawn grass after renovation

(Above) General contractor Santiago renovated this backyard space for Sweeten homeowner KV Harper

Backyard landscaping cost: Outdoor flooring 

The outdoor-room concept is multi-faceted. Some people don’t want much besides a table for meals, others want to sunbathe, some want a spa, and the cooks want a full kitchen. Whatever your wants, you’ll have to start at the bottom: what you walk on. 

If you have an existing patio or roof to use, great, then you can move on to other elements. If your space does need some help with the flooring, though, you’ll find a host of possibilities. One of the most popular options, according to Sweeten contractor Santiago in New York, is bluestone patios. This material is durable and beautiful, if fairly expensive. 

Bluestone pavers cost

Bluestone is a natural stone paver that offers beauty, durability, and flexibility. Cut bluestone pavers will cost from around $8/square foot for 1” thick stone and is available in many sizes. Smaller stones of about 12” square will give you a slightly different aesthetic than huge slabs, and are definitely easier to work with. Access can be a challenge in the city, and you might have to spring for a crane if you want large, heavy stones. There’s just no other way to move them in tight spaces. This process will cost you at least $2,000, not including the stone and site preparation. Smaller sizes are more manageable, though, and can be hauled by hand if necessary.

Concrete pavers cost

To spend less, “Concrete pavers are available in dozens of size and color options for $4–5/square foot,” Santiago said. In addition, they don’t need a crane for installation. Installation for both concrete and stone pavers will be the same, with costs varying depending on the current base rather than the material you choose. 

Calculating your backyard landscaping costs

Your backyard landscaping costs are also determined by demolition work. That type of work will vary by what you have in place now, so contractors don’t want to guess on costs. Do you have an existing patio that must be removed? Or grass? How good is the access? Are you working on the ground floor or higher up?

There are so many variables that rough estimates without seeing the site aren’t possible, our contractors said. They need to see what’s there first and learn what you want before they can give an estimate. Post your project on Sweeten to discuss the possibilities. “I have to look at the job; two jobs are never alike. Labor is not easy to price. There are a lot of elements factoring in,” Santiago noted.

NYC-based Sweeten general contractor Steve concurred, saying that there are backyard remodeling jobs where all materials have to come in and out through the front door. “A lot of the time you have to take the garbage out through the first floor, out the basement, or out the window. Everything has to be protected.”

Small backyard deck with inbuilt seating and brick wall background after renovation

(Above) Sweeten homeowner Jessica’s deck renovation by general contractor Steve

In addition to patios, decks are popular and sometimes do not require demolition and hauling out old materials. Decks can offer great flexibility in fitting into existing spaces, and they can also be particularly budget-friendly by overlaying an existing shabby concrete slab, saving the cost and hassle of demolition and removal.

Creating fencing and perimeter walls

Fences and walls, too, are basic elements of most projects, and serve several functions. Privacy is usually a main concern, but view control and wind control are also important. Most people opt for wood fences, said Steve. As for design elements, “People in general want big wide planks; materials that are more architectural looking, with bright backgrounds,” he said.

“It depends on each client. Some people want a lot of space for seating. For all intents and purposes it’s an outside living room,” he noted. Fences offer a lot of design freedom, as well, including horizontal and vertical elements, natural wood tones or painted surfaces, and using wood, stone, and/or metal. “Most people do wood fencing,” Sweeten contractor Santiago said, “some choose pressure-treated, while others opt for cedar. It depends on the budget.”

Outdoor lighting

Some details, such as lighting, are easy to overlook at first. It’s a major element in both ambiance and useability, however, and should be tackled at the design stage rather than tacked on later.

“Everyone is into lighting,” Santiago said. “For this, you’ll need to factor in outlets. Floodlights can accent the plants. They can be simple but very cool.” Lighting and electrical are simple and easy compared to some other elements, but they require planning for running buried lines and removing overhead lines. When your contractor has a design for you, then it’s time to consider the lighting based on function. Lighting in the dining area is different from lighting for walkways and for plants. It’s all part of the design process.

Adding pergolas and arbors

As another distinct element, pergolas and arbors provide shade, structure, and beauty to your outdoor room, as well as an often-needed vertical feature. Arbors are simple and small structures that often frame a pathway, while pergolas are larger and more substantial, sometimes attached to the house. You might train vines or climbing roses on the arbor, for example. Pergolas can use a slatted, cloth, or solid roofing material, making them flexible so you have both sun and shelter in your yard.

Landscaping front yard options

In New York City, front yard spaces aren’t as common, but you can still add natural beauty. In addition to using fine materials for your front entry, steps, and railing, do you have room for planters? If you like plants, this is a great option for tight spaces and lets you add some color and texture. If live plants are too much work or tough to keep alive, planters can also house durable and seasonal items like spruce tops. 

You can see a multitude of high-quality planters and pots online, and talk with your contractor about building some that fit your space exactly. Many people choose cedar for this project, as it’s beautiful and relatively rot-resistant. Other woods work fine, too, and can look great finished in paint or stain. Add your ideas to your photo montage and talk to your contractor.

Landscaping costs for homes in New York City can be tough to estimate without a visit from several contractors, so make your list of must-haves and get started on your outdoor living.

Popular Questions Asked

There are many variables to renovating a backyard. A general contractor will need to view the site and walk through your wish list before an estimate can be given. If you’re building from scratch, popular flooring includes bluestone pavers ($8/square foot) or concrete ($4-$5/square foot). Other costs depend on the nature of the demolition required and if any perimeter fencing or structures, like pergolas, will be installed. Costs will increase if outdoor lighting requires running buried electrical lines. The contractor uses these factors and more to determine labor costs.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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