How to Save Money in a Landscape Project

You are a homeowner or a contractor and you want to make your dream project a reality. You have enough expertise to know what materials you need and what tools big and small, you will need to utilize to make it happen. However, the cost is too high and you feel perhaps that you are stuck. Here are some strategies to make prices more palatable and your operation more lean in Victoria BC.

Dump Yards

Any time you do landscaping, you will need to dump materials and bring in new ones. If you don’t have access to a dump truck, you can have materials delivered. Generally speaking the more you order, the cheaper the delivery per yard is, by quite a bit too. Anything over 10 yards and it’s more efficient than any other method. Anything under 5 yards and it’s better to bring a dump trailer or a pickup truck.

Here in Victoria, we have multiple yards that sell landscaping materials.

There’s Macnutt Enterprises, Victoria Landscape Gravel Mart, Capital City Paving, Mitchell Excavating, and Peninsula Landscape Supplies.

Generally speaking the yards closest to downtown are the most expensive and the yards further out in Central Saanich and Langford areas are a lot cheaper. But you have to take into account fuel and time costs. The important thing is to phone around. Start with yards closest to you and work your way out. All of them will be able to tell you how much it costs both to deliver and their per cubic yard prices. The differences can be substantial. In one place you can spend under $30 to dump per cubic yard of rubbish, while in another you are looking at closer to $40. This adds up when you are disposing of large amounts of material. Similarly, there’s a $5-10 different per cubic yard in prices of materials such as various types of gravel.

Equipment and Tool Rentals

If you are looking for light machinery, you will again want to phone around. Prices vary especially when taking into account delivery fees. Some places charge by the hour for delivery and some charge by trip. If you think it will take them 30 minutes to get the machine to your worksite, triple it and that’s what they will likely charge. In the Greater Victoria area, there are 4 different rental places. They are Westerra Equipment, Sunbelt Rentals, VI Rentals, and Rental Zip. I would avoid big box stores as they do not specialize in these services and often have inferior machines as well.

Do not underestimate how much machinery weighs as even a small plate compactor will be too heavy for one person to lift. Plate compactors often start at 150 lbs.

To maximize efficiency and minimize cost, it’s important not only to phone around and see which place is the cheapest but also to plan out your project so that for the times you have the machinery, it’s not sitting around while you do other prep work.

Additionally, you will also want to have the machine work in one big block rather than separate days here and there as the daily rental prices per day are far higher than the per day cost if you choose to rent it for a week or month. By planning out your work, you will no doubt save the delivery cost of going back and forth if you are using it a day here and a day there.

Keep in mind certain places will rent to you from 8 am to 5 pm while other places can be more lenient such as having a 12 pm to 5 pm of the next day, thus giving you far more time to work. In my experience, it’s rare that they check or enforce the machine hours used rate so if they say you can only use it for 8 machine hours on a weekend, it’s unlikely that will be enforced unless you really abuse the situation.

Some places will rent one brand while others will rent others. When you are renting, the brand doesn’t matter because you don’t really care about the quality of the machine and its ability to last. If it breaks down, you will not be penalized, unless it’s due to your gross negligence. Therefore, go with what’s most economical.

Finally, work out what you actually need. You don’t need a massive digger for a tiny hole. Get the smallest machine you possibly need for the shortest amount of time with the fewest trip. This will save you hundreds if not thousands as machine rental is often one of your biggest expenses.

Plan Your Trips

If you have a truck or dump trailer then try to plan your project in a way to save the number of trips to the yard. Going to the yard once to dump and then pick up new material is far more efficient than making multiple trips. Think ahead and plan ahead.

Do the Math

Calculate how much you will be digging out and how much material you will need to put in. You will need to measure it out in ft, do some multiplication to find the volume (length x width x depth/height). Then add 10-20% to that number so you won’t run out of materials or dump space. This will prevent you from over purchasing. There are no refunds for soils, gravels, and dumping! Plan it out and try to use only what you need.

Make Compromises

Have a bad spot in your lawn? Use seeds instead of sod. Want to build a retaining wall but it’s too expensive? Make it one layer lower. Can’t afford a fully paved walkway? Use stone steps embedded in gravel instead. You can still achieve very nice looks without going all out. Drainage problems? Build a swale instead of a French drain.

A Word of Caution

Sometimes people can go too far in the name of saving money. Things to avoid include cheapening out on materials. If you are planning on building with subpar materials, my suggestion is to not build it at all. Building with inferior materials will make you have problems only a few years down the line, especially with the rain heavy winters we have in Victoria. Things will sink, shift, crack, or break. It’s never worth it. For masonry products, it’s best to avoid big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. Many things are ok to get there like pvc pipes, nails and spikes, power tools, but not masonry products such as blocks and pavers. Another thing you might want to reconsider is lumber from those places as your local lumber yard will have a better selection and more expertise. Plus who doesn’t like supporting local, especially when it doesn’t break your wallet?

Another thing to never cheap out on is the construction design itself. A driveway needs to have certain amount of gravel under it or it will sink. That’s just physics. Don’t save on gravel or digging or dump fees by excavating a few inches less than you should. You wouldn’t want a house with an inferior foundation would you? Another example would be not using landscape fabric for weed control. That might save you $100 here and there but you are going to be dealing with roots shifting things around, weed control, and all sorts of headache shortly after.