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Licensed Landscaper in Chicago, IL

How to Hire a Good Landscaper in Chicago

With the median sales price for a single-home unit in the City of Chicago about $300,000, you can claim an additional 5 to 12 percent on the value by maintaining a good landscape. Maintaining a good landscape begins with hiring a qualified landscaper that can design and actualize a successful project according to the City of Chicago's Landscape Ordinance.

Asking the following questions before hiring a landscaper in the city helps you end up with the most suitable professional for the job:

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Landscaper in the City of Chicago

  1. Are You Licensed to Practice as a Landscaper in the City of Chicago?

    In compliance with Chapter 4-36 of the Municipal Code of Chicago, individuals that wish to provide landscaping services in the city must be licensed as general contractors before doing so. This general contractor licensing is handled by the Chicago Department of Buildings, and licenses are classified into five categories, namely:

      Class A licenses - Holders of this license are not subject to any monetary limitations on the value of projects that they can execute
    • Class B licenses - Holders of this class of general contractor licenses cannot engage in projects that are worth more than $10,000,000
    • Class C license - Class C license holders are limited to projects with a value of no more than $5,000,000 per project
    • Class D license - This class of general contractor license has a monetary value limit of $2,000,000 per single contract project
    • Class E license - Individuals that possess a Class E license cannot engage in projects that are valued at more than $500,000

    Landscapers that fail to obtain a General Contractor license before providing their services to residents of Chicago, or provide services that are outside the scope of their license can face penalties of up to $5,000 in fines, per offense.

    Interested parties that wish to obtain a General Contractor License can get information on the city's licensing requirements and processes by contacting the Chicago Department of Buildings at:

    • 121 N. LaSalle Street
    • Room 900
    • Chicago, IL 60602
    • Phone: (312) 744-3449

    Information concerning first-time general contractor licensing applications can also be gotten by calling (800) 359-1313 or via email. You can also confirm that your landscape contractor possesses a valid license by accessing the Department of Building's List of Licensed General Contractors online or by calling the department at (312) 744-3449.

  2. How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Landscapers in the City of Chicago?

    Finding out how much landscapers charge to execute your intended landscaping job is a good way to come up with a working budget for the project. While landscapers in Chicago are estimated to earn an average hourly wage of $16, some of these contractors may utilize a square footage billing structure when charging clients for jobs. Regardless of the billing structure used, the total cost of your landscaping project will usually depend on the following factors:

    • The nature of the project as well as its scope
    • The size of the area that requires landscaping
    • The cost of flowers, seeds, and other materials that will be required
    • The amount of labor required to execute the project

    It is advisable to get and compare quotes from up to three different Landscapers before making your choice on the one best suited to your financial capabilities. Doing this can also help you spot out potentially fraudulent contractors that overcharge for their services.

    A landscaper in Chicago earns an average wage of $35,120, annually. The table below provides a cost comparison of the average hourly wages of landscaping and groundskeeping workers in Chicago against those of this category of individuals across the rest of Illinois and other major American cities:

    Chicago Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $16.89
    Illinois Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $16.59
    New York City Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $18.58
    Los Angeles Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $19.04
    Houston Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $14.69
    Phoenix Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $14.91
    Philadelphia Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
    $16.87

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

  3. Do You Comply with the City of Chicago Landscape Ordinance?

    The Chicago Landscape Ordinance is a local law that regulates the incorporation of landscaping features into new or substantially renovated residential and commercial buildings in the city. Per the requirements of this ordinance, the installation and maintenance of landscaping such as parkway trees and vehicular use area internal planting are required for certain projects in Chicago. For example, parkway plantings are required for the following types of projects:

    • The construction of principal buildings
    • The addition or enlargement of existing buildings where the new construction is more than 1,500 square feet
    • The repair or rehabilitation of existing principal buildings, including interior remodeling, where the cost of this work is more than 50% of the structure's replacement cost
    • The construction of parking areas that contain five or more spaces
    • The repair or expansion of existing parking areas where the number of spaces available is being increased by more than 25%

    Note that the Chicago Landscape Ordinance makes exemptions for city-required landscaping in situations that involve the construction, repair, or rehabilitation of one, two, or three-family dwellings. Other exemptions include repair work necessitated by fire, flood, or explosion damage as well as other types of calamities, and construction, repair, or rehabilitation work on accessory structures.

    You should always make sure that any landscaper you hire in Chicago is conversant with the city's landscape ordinance and also ensure that the requirements of this ordinance are implemented in your project where applicable. You can get more information on the Chicago Landscape Ordinance by contacting the city's Department of Planning and Development at:

    • 121 N. LaSalle Street
    • Room 905
    • Chicago, IL 60602
    • Phone: (312) 744-4777
  4. Will You Get the Landscaping Permit Required as per the City of Chicago Code?

    Per the Chicago Landscape Ordinance, a permit must be obtained from the city's Bureau of Forestry for the planting, removal, trimming, or commencement of any action that may affect the health of trees in the public right-of-way. These types of permits are typically obtained by completing and submitting a Forestry Permit Application Form to the bureau at:

    • Department of Streets and Sanitation
    • Bureau of Forestry
    • 2352 South Ashland Avenue
    • Chicago, IL 60608
    • Phone: (312) 746-5254

    Note that applicants may be required to provide additional documentation to demonstrate that they are capable of carrying out the required landscaping work. Detailed information on the Chicago Bureau of Forestry's permitting process can be contacting a City Forester from the bureau via the contact information provided above.

    Also, while there are no other separate permits required for landscaping in Chicago, parties that apply for building permits in the city may be required to submit landscaping plans for the project in question. Building permits are typically required for all new construction work in Chicago as well as any improvement or repair work that significantly alters the structure or blueprint of private buildings and property in the city. Landscape plan reviews are conducted by the Zoning Ordinance Administration Division of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. Building permit applicants that are required to undergo this process will be expected to submit the necessary landscape plans and other relevant information to this division at:

    • Department of Planning and Development
    • 121 N. La Salle Street
    • Room 905
    • Chicago, IL 60602
    • Phone: (312) 744-5777

    Once the plans have been reviewed and approved, applicants can continue with the rest of the building permit process. This process typically involves completing and submitting appropriate Permit Application Forms and paying stipulated permit fees to the Chicago Department of Buildings. Queries concerning the Chicago building permit issuance processes and procedures can be directed to the city's Department of Buildings at:

    • 121 N. LaSalle Street
    • Room 900
    • Chicago, IL 60602
    • Phone: (312) 744-3449
  5. What Kind of Landscaping Services Do You Offer?

    An important step to take in ensuring the success of your landscaping project in Chicago is making sure that your landscaper has the right skill set required for the job. Landscape companies in the city provide different types of services, some of which typically require specialized knowledge and tools for proper execution. Failing to confirm the area of specialization of your intended landscaper can lead to negative results like shoddy service delivery and additional costs from hiring another contractor to get the job done properly. Common types of landscaping services requested locally in Chicago include landscape designing, installation, and maintenance services, softscaping services such as the addition of plants and living features to areas, and hardscaping services like the construction of water fountains and walkways on lawns.

    Always confirm that your preferred landscaper has the right level of experience and the necessary tools to properly execute your intended landscaping project. It is also advisable to request references and contact them to find out the contractor's level of on-the-job professionalism. Finally, make sure to confirm how much your intended service would cost you. Listed below are cost estimates for some common landscaping services that are obtainable in the city:

    Landscape installation
    $25 - $55 per hour (labor only)
    Lawn mowing and maintenance
    $35 - $100 per visit
    Lawn fertilization
    $50 - $145
    Residential landscape design
    $69 - $78 per hour
    Garden Planning
    $47.50 - $75 per hour
    General Bed Maintenance/Detailing
    $35 - $90
    Spring/Fall clean
    up - $180 - $350
    Pruning/Hedging
    $40 - $100
    Lawn irrigation system installation
    $1,800 - $2,600
    Mulching
    $70 - $88 per cubic yard
    Leaf removal
    $200 - $260
    Sodding
    $950 - $1,500
    Weed Control
    $58 - $65
  6. What are the Best Types of Grass for Lawns in the City of Chicago?

    When considering grasses for your lawn, it is important to take note of factors like your type of soil, your lawn's physical conditions, and the climate of your environment. The City of Chicago is located midway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Continental Divide, and its climate is characterized by warm summers and cold winters. The city also experiences frequent short fluctuations in humidity, temperature, cloudiness, and wind direction. Grasses that are best suited to this type of climate are low-maintenance, hardy grasses that can adapt to shade and withstand the city's wide seasonal temperature swings. Some common types of grasses that fit these criteria are:

    • Kentucky bluegrass
    • Fine fescue
    • Tall fescue
    • Perennial ryegrass
    • Rough bluegrass

    Note that it is in your best interest to hire a qualified landscaper to not only help you determine the best type of grass for your lawn but to also properly seed the lawn. You can find qualified landscapers in Chicago by using third-party review websites like the Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and Google Review. You can also utilize online directories provided by trade organizations like the National Association of Landscape Professionals to do this.

  7. Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Landscapers in the City of Chicago?

    The City of Chicago typically requires landscapers that wish to obtain a General Contractor License from its Department of Buildings to provide proof of insurance before the requested license is issued. This insurance coverage must be gotten from an insurer that is authorized to operate in the State of Illinois, and the mandated coverage requirements are primarily dependent on the class of license that is being applied for. Nonetheless, this coverage generally ranges from $1,000,000 to $5,000,000 per occurrence for bodily injury and property damage.

    You should always confirm the insurance status of any landscaper that you intend to hire in Chicago before concluding your hiring arrangements with them. This is important, as adequate insurance coverage protects you from out-of-pocket expenses and other liabilities that may arise in the event of unforeseen work-related injuries or damage to your property during your project. You can confirm a contractor's insurance status by requesting copies of their insurance certificate and contacting the insurer that issued this document to validate it. You can also contact the Chicago Department of Buildings at (312) 744-3449 to get more information on its insurance requirements for landscapers that operate in the city.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Landscaper in the City of Chicago

In February 2021, the Illinois Attorney General announced that criminal charges had been filed in the Cook County Circuit Court against a contractor that had allegedly defrauded consumers out of thousands of dollars. The contractor had done this by failing to complete agreed-upon home improvement and repair projects despite receiving payment for the work. Home improvement scams are a common occurrence in Chicago and across the State of Illinois, and in 2019, complaints concerning these types of matters topped the list of top ten complaints made to the Illinois Attorney General's Office.

Fraudulent contractors in Chicago use various methods to carry out landscaping scams, such as claiming to have leftover materials from a previous landscaping job and offering to use them for you at a discount. However, regardless of the method that these scammers may use, various signs can help you spot a shady contractor. These include:

  • The contractor contacts you uninvited, either in person or via phone calls, texts, emails
  • The contractor tries to pressure you into signing a contract with them immediately or talks too quickly in an attempt to confuse you
  • The contractor claims to have completed a job in the œneighborhood and has leftover materials that can be used for you at a cheap rate
  • The contractor provides a quote that is noticeably different from other quotes you receive
  • The contractor requests full payment upfront
  • The contractor uses a vehicle with out-of-state license plates
  • The contractor offers to drive you to the bank to withdraw funds for the project

You can avoid getting scammed by a fraudulent contractor when looking to carry out a landscaping project in Chicago by paying attention to the following tips:

  • Have a clear idea of your intentions for the project and set up a budget for this project
  • Shop around for contractors and get quotes from at least three different Landscapers
  • Request at least three verifiable references of previously completed projects from your selected landscaper and contact these past clients to get their views on the contractor
  • Utilize online resources like the Better Business Bureau to look up third-party reviews and testimonials on the contractor. You can also access the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection's List of Businesses/Individuals Found Liable for Consumer Fraud in Past Three Years to find out if the contractor is featured in it
  • Confirm that the contractor has a valid General Contractor License that is appropriate for the scope of your landscaping project. Make sure that the contractor is duly insured as well
  • Request a written contract for the project and ensure that you read and understand this contract before signing it. Never sign any contracts that have blank or unfilled spaces in them
  • Never pay the total cost of your project upfront. Only a small deposit of the project's total cost should be made in advance and further payments should be spread out over the duration of the job. These payments should be tied to the level of progress of the project
  • Beware of landscapers that insist on cash-only payments or suggest that you borrow money from a lender that they refer to you to fund your project

Landscaping scams and other matters involving consumer fraud and deceptive business practices that occur in Chicago can be reported to the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection online or by calling 311. Note that the creation of a user account is typically required for the proper utilization of the online complaint platform.

Alternatively, complaints can be directed to the Consumer Protection Division of Illinois Attorney General's Office either through its online complaint submission portal or by submitting a printable consumer complaint form via mail or in-person to:

  • Office of the Illinois Attorney General
  • Consumer Protection Division
  • 500 South Second Street
  • Springfield, IL 62701