Building healthy soil, choosing the right plants, smart watering, rainwater harvesting, and managing pests and weeds without chemicals are parts of the Sustainable Landscaping Practices favored by the City of Seattle. However, you will require advanced landscaping knowledge or the services of a qualified landscaper to achieve these objectives effectively. An investment in the services of a landscaper may not only help improve your curb appeal but also pay for its cost and increase your property's value by up to 20 percent.
When contracting a landscaper in the city, asking the following questions can help ensure that you end up hiring the best hand for the job:
- Are You Licensed to Practice as a Landscaper in the City of Seattle?
- How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Landscapers in the City of Seattle?
- Do You Comply with the City of Seattle Landscape Ordinance?
- Will You Get the Landscaping Permit Required as per the City of Seattle Code?
- What Kind of Landscaping Services Do You Offer?
- What are the Best Types of Grass for Lawns in the City of Seattle?
- Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Landscapers in the City of Seattle?
Landscapers that wish to ply their trade in the City of Seattle are required to register as either general contractors or specialty contractors with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries before doing so. Landscapers that register as general contractors are authorized to perform other types of construction-related work and can also hire multiple subcontractors, while those that register as specialty contractors can only perform landscaping-related activities and cannot hire subcontractors. Failure to register with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries before contracting in the City of Seattle is considered a gross misdemeanor. This offense is punishable by fines of up to $5,000, jail time of up to one year, or a combination of both.
Landscape contractors that wish to register with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries will be required to complete a separate business registration process with the state's Department of Revenue. These registrants must also provide proof of insurance and bonding, complete an Application for Contractor Registration Form, and pay a registration fee. The registration process can be completed in person at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries' Seattle office located at:
- 2111 N Northgate Way
- Seattle, WA 98133
- Phone: (206) 515-2800
Alternatively, registrants can mail a completed, signed, and notarized Application for Contractor Registration Form, along with the required supporting documents and registration fee to:
- Department of Labor and Industries
- Contractor Registration
- P.O. Box 44450
- Olympia, WA 98504-4450
Queries concerning the contractor registration process can be directed to the department via email, by calling (360) 902-5226 and selecting option two, or by calling toll-free number 1-800-647-0982. You can also confirm that your intended Seattle landscaper has been duly registered, and is thus legally qualified to work on your project, via the department's Verify a Contractor portal.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that landscapers in the Seattle area earn an average of $19 per hour. However, the actual cost of landscaping projects executed by these professionals is dependent on a number of factors, some of which are:
- The nature of the landscaping project
- The size of the area that requires landscaping
- The types of materials, tools, and equipment that will be needed to properly execute the project
- The project's labor intensity
As such, it is advisable to get project estimates from up to three different contractors in the city before commencing your landscaping project. Comparing these estimates can give you an idea of the expected cost of your project. Note that you should look out for inconsistencies in any of the estimates provided, such as prices that are much higher or lower than those of the other submitted bids, and find out the reason for these differences. In many cases, such inconsistencies usually indicate deceptive and possibly fraudulent behavior on the part of the contractor.
A landscaper in Seattle earns an average wage of $41,760, annually. The table below provides a cost comparison of the average hourly wages of landscaping and groundskeeping workers in Seattle against those of this category of individuals across the rest of Washington State and other major American cities:Seattle Landscapers Hourly Average Wage$20.08Washington State Landscapers Hourly Average Wage$19.19Los Angeles Landscapers Hourly Average Wage$19.04New York City Landscapers Hourly Average Wage$18.58Detroit Landscapers Hourly Average Wage$15.88Chicago Landscapers Hourly Average Wage$16.89Houston Landscapers Hourly Average Wage$14.69
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
The City of Seattle has several laws that govern landscaping activities within its jurisdiction. These include the city's Weed and Vegetation Code and its Tree Protection Code. The Seattle Weed and Vegetation Code applies to all weed and vegetation in the city that overgrows from private property to public rights-of-way. Some of its requirements include the mandatory trimming or removal of any vegetation that overhands or obstructs streets, alleys, and sidewalks, with the provision of eight-foot clearances over sidewalks and 14-foot clearances over traveled roads. Note that overgrowth between private properties is not covered by this code. Similarly, the Seattle Tree Protection Code regulates the trimming and removal of trees from private and public property. This includes undeveloped land, developed property, developing property, and environmentally critical areas. This code also limits the type, size, and number of trees that can be removed from these properties and also provides permit requirements for tree and shrub removal activities in the city.
As such, in addition to always hiring a landscape contractor who has been duly registered at the state level, you should equally ensure that this contractor is conversant with all local Seattle landscaping laws and how these laws may influence your project. Failing to do this can result in civil and criminal sanctions being imposed on both you and the contractor. For example, violations of the Seattle Weed and Vegetation Code can result in a first-time penalty of $150 in fines, with additional violations attracting a fine of $500 each. You can get information on local Seattle laws and how these laws may affect your landscaping project by contacting the city's Department of Construction and Inspections at (206) 684-8600.
Urban forestry permits are required for the planting, pruning, and removal or replacement of public right-of-way trees in the City of Seattle. Similarly, while permits are not needed for simple landscaping activities like lawn mowing, a construction permit is typically required for most construction and property development, improvement, or alteration projects in the city. However, permit exemptions are generally made for the following types of building and landscaping-related projects:
- Building retaining walls and rockeries that are not more than four feet in height when measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall
- Installing arbors and other open-framed landscape structures that are not more than 120 square feet in area
- Constructing fences that are not up to eight feet high and do not have concrete or masonry elements that are higher than six feet
- Constructing one-story detached accessory buildings like greenhouses, playhouses, tool or storage sheds, or any other similar buildings, as long as the projected roof area is not up to 120 square feet and the building foundation is only a slab on the ground
- Installing on-grade patios
It should be noted that these permit exemptions do not extend to properties that are in environmentally critical areas or to projects that involve load-bearing supports, reduce egress, light, ventilation, or fire resistance, or make changes to a building envelope.
Permits for landscaping projects can be obtained online via the Seattle Services Portal. Applicants will generally be required to get information on their property and determine applicable zoning, land use, and construction requirements and restrictions that may apply to their projects. This can be done by utilizing the GIS map and other property information resources provided by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. Once this has been done, the permit application process can be commenced via the aforementioned online portal. Note that the registration of a user account is required for this step. Also, applicants may be required to upload site plans and other additional documents where necessary. Requested permits are typically issued after the permit applications have been successfully submitted, reviewed, and all stipulated permit fees have been paid. Note that the processing time for a permit application is largely dependent on the nature and scope of the landscaping project. Finally, the scheduling of inspections may be required after construction permits have been issued to ensure that the work is being done according to the approved plans and applicable city codes. Inquiries on the permit application process and inspection requirements for landscaping projects in Seattle can be directed to the city's Department of Construction and Inspections at:
- 700 5th Avenue
- Suite 2000
- Seattle, WA 98104
- Phone: (206) 684-8600
Landscapers in Seattle offer a variety of services to interested property owners in the city, the most common of which are lawn maintenance, landscape design and construction, and yard cleanup. Nonetheless, you should always confirm that the landscaper you intend to hire not only offers the particular type of service you require but also has the proper level of experience and tools to satisfactorily provide this service. One way of doing this is by requesting verifiable local references and a portfolio of completed landscaping jobs from the contractor. If the contractor is hesitant to provide you with any of these, then this is a strong indication that they are unqualified to handle your landscaping project, and you should seek other more qualified landscapers in the city. Average cost and price ranges for common landscaping services in the City of Seattle are listed below:Landscape installation$18 - $32 per hour (labor only)Lawn mowing and maintenance$38 - $125 per visitLawn fertilization$54 - $150 per applicationResidential landscape design$71 - $80 per hourGarden Planning$50 - $70 per hourGeneral Bed Maintenance/Detailing$55 - $185Spring/Fall cleanup - $150 - 4300Pruning/Hedging$42 - $150Lawn irrigation system installation$2,200 - $2,700Mulching$90 - $290Leaf removal$70 - $230Lawn sodding$800 - $1,500Weed control$55 - $65
According to a report published by the Washington State University, the best types of grasses that can thrive in Seattle lawns are:
- Perennial ryegrass
- Tall fescue
- Fine fescue
- Kentucky bluegrass
Note that heatwaves, flooding, and extreme high tides are common climate challenges in Seattle. Also, the city is projected to witness an increase in average and minimum temperatures, a higher frequency and duration of extreme heat events, drier summers, wetter winters, and more extreme precipitation events. These weather conditions, as well as factors like sun and shade areas, soil type, slopes, drainage, moisture and water availability, and foot traffic, should be considered before planting any grasses on your lawn. To this end, you should always hire a professional landscaper to help you determine the best type of grass that suits your lawn's specific conditions and ensure that you get the best out of your lawn improvement project. You can find professional landscapers in Seattle by reaching out to friends, family, and trusted real estate professionals. You can also make use of online directories provided by organizations like the Better Business Bureau, the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association, and the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
It is estimated that landscaping activities like lawn mowing and tree trimming account for more than 100 fatalities and 143,000 serious injuries every year. Landscaping is a dangerous occupation, and professionals in this field are exposed to a wide range of on-the-job risks and hazards. Working with an insured landscaper insulates you from the financial liabilities that typically arise when work-related accidents and injuries occur, and you should always confirm your preferred contractor's insurance status before hiring them. Hiring an insured contractor also ensures that you do not have to make out-of-pocket payments to cover property damages or other contractor-caused problems that may occur during your project.
Per state-mandated contractor registration requirements, landscapers in the City of Seattle must maintain general liability insurance coverage to the tune of $200,000 in public liability and $50,000 in property damage, or a combined single limit of $250,000. Also, these contractors must possess a Washington Continuous Contractor Surety Bond of $12,000 or $6,000 for general and specialty contractor registrations respectively. You can contact the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries at (360) 902-5226 or toll-free number 1-800-647-0982 to find out if your intended landscaper has complied with these insurance and bonding requirements, or to make inquiries concerning this subject. You can also confirm the validity of a landscaper's insurance and bonding policies by requesting proof of these policies and contacting the issuing organizations to authenticate the provided documents.
Contractor-related complaints are the eighth most common consumer complaints made by residents of Seattle and across Washington State. In early February 2022, the state's Department of Labor and Industries issued a scam alert warning homeowners to beware of a contractor that allegedly defrauded several homeowners of thousands of dollars through various fraud schemes. Tactics used by this contractor include presenting a false registration number to get projects, requesting substantial down payments, and failing to finish or even start projects that had been paid for. When searching for landscape contractors in Seattle, you should look out for certain signs that indicate possible fraudulent behavior on the part of the contractors that you contact. These signs include:
- The contractor drives an unmarked vehicle or a vehicle with an out-of-state license
- The contractor offers you special prices if you sign up for their services immediately
- The contractor requests full or substantial payment upfront and accepts only cash
- The contractor does not provide a written project estimate or contract
- The contractor does not have any business ID, local telephone number, or verifiable local address
- The contractor offers to execute your project with leftover supplies from a previous job for a cheap rate
To ensure that you don't fall victim to a landscaping scam, you should always take the following basic steps before, during, and after you hire a Landscaper in Seattle:
- Properly plan your project
- Get projects estimates from multiple contractors and also interview these contractors to get a breakdown of the estimates
- Verify your preferred contractor's registration status. Also, confirm that they are duly insured and bonded
- Request and verify references from the contractor
- Utilize third-party resources like the Better Business Bureau website to look up the contractor's reputation and get reviews and testimonials on them
- Get a written contract and make sure that you read and understand everything about this contract before signing it. The contract should include the cost of the project, a description of the work to be performed, payment terms, a list of materials and suppliers to be used, and warranties and change orders for the project
- Inspect the project as it progresses and make sure that the work is being done per the stipulations of the contract
- Never pay the full cost of the project before work commences and limit down payments to a small fraction of the project's total cost. Advisably, this fraction should not exceed one-third of the total value of the project.
- Make payments as significant phases of the project are reached or at its completion and insist on getting receipts for these payments
You can report contractor fraud to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries online. Reports and consumer complaints concerning landscapers in Seattle can also be filed with the state's Attorney General's Office, either via an online general consumer complaint form or by mailing a completed pdf complaint form to:
- Office of the Attorney General
- Consumer Protection Division
- 800 5th Avenue
- Suite 2000
- Seattle, WA 98104-3188
Queries concerning this office's complaint process can be directed to (206) 464-6684, or toll-free number 1-800-551-4636 for callers within Washington State, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., Mondays to Fridays. The Washington State Attorney General's Office typically resolves over 25,000 consumer complaints and helps consumers regain more than $4 million every year. However, it should be noted that this office cannot compel contractors to satisfactorily resolve complaints. Nonetheless, it is authorized to inform you of possible options that you can take to seek satisfactory resolution from the subject of your complaint, such as taking private legal action against these individuals or businesses.