Get Quotes from Top Landscapers in Washington Dc, DC

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Landscaper in Washington, D.C.

More than seven out of 10 Washington D.C. realtors believe your landscape is one key consideration for a buyer's decision. An investment in your landscape would not only improve your curb appeal but also increase your home market price by up to 20 percent. In the same vein, a good landscaper in the city would be able to save you more on this investment by earning rebates under the RiverSmart Homes Program.

When contracting a landscaper in the District of Columbia, make sure to get satisfactory answers to the following questions:

Are You Licensed to Practice as a Landscaper in Washington, D.C.?

The activities of landscapers that operate in Washington, D.C., are regulated by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). This department issues two types of licenses to landscapers who wish to conduct business in the area, namely:

  • General Contractor/Construction Manager Licenses: Landscapers that possess this license can perform work on all types of buildings and structures and can also coordinate the activities of other professionals that may be involved in the project
  • Home Improvement Contractor Licenses: Landscapers that possess this license are only authorized to work on residential buildings and structures

Applications for either of these licenses can be made online through the DCRA's DC Business Portal or in person at the DCRA office located at:

1100 4th Street SW
2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20024

Note that online applicants will be required to create a user account to complete the application process. The payment of a fee and the submission of documents like proof of liability insurance, tax registration, corporate registration, and other DCRA-requested documentation are also typically required during this process. Landscapers that fail to complete the licensing process and obtain an appropriate license before offering their services to DC residents can face Class 1 infraction charges. This offense is punishable by a fine of no less than $2,000 for first-time offenders, and repeat offenders may face even steeper civil or criminal penalties.

Confirming that your intended landscape contractor possesses an appropriate DCRA-issued license can go a long way in ensuring a successful outcome for your landscaping project, and you can do this by calling (202) 442-4400. License verifications can be done online via the DCRA's Access DC portal; however, you will have to create a user account to utilize this portal.

How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Landscapers in Washington, D.C.?

Landscapers in DC typically consider several variables when charging consumers for their services. These variables include the nature and scope of the landscaping project, the types of material that will be used for the project, the size of the area that needs landscaping, and the labor intensity of the job.

Therefore, when searching for landscapers in the district, you should consider getting and comparing quotes from several contractors in the area. Also, ensure that these contractors indicate the billing structure that will be applied to each service you require. This is because some landscapers charge hourly rates for their services, while others may utilize a flat fee structure or charge per square foot or linear foot of landscaping done. By comparing quotes from several landscapers, you can get an idea of your landscaping project's estimated cost and spot contractors whose quotes are way higher than the average rates.

A landscaper in Washington, D.C., earns an average wage of $35,760 annually. The table below provides a cost comparison of the average hourly wages of landscaping and groundskeeping workers in Washington, D.C., against those of this category of individuals across other major American cities:

Washington, D.C. Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
New York City Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
Los Angeles Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
Chicago Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
Houston Landscapers Hourly Average Wage
Phoenix Landscapers Hourly Average Wage

Do You Comply with the Washington, D.C. Landscape Ordinance?

The DC Grass and Weed Regulations is a local ordinance that regulates the growth of certain types of landscaping and plant materials in the district. Per the requirements of this law, all property owners in the district must maintain their exterior property and premises and ensure that weed and plant growth on their properties never exceeds a height of eight inches. This law also prohibits the following types of vegetative growth, regardless of their height:

  • Shrubbery that is detrimental to public health, safety, or welfare
  • Vegetative growth that creates concealment or harbor. This includes vegetative growth that can be used as hiding places for persons or to conceal refuse or trash
  • Unintended vegetative growth
  • Vegetative growth that creates a noxious or unpleasant odor
  • Vegetative growth that constitutes a fire hazard
  • Vegetative growth that can harbor or provide refuge for snakes, rodents, and other vermin
  • Vegetative growth that creates a breeding place for mosquitoes
  • Dead or diseased vegetative growth

However, certain types of landscaping and vegetative growth are exempted from the requirements of the Grass and Weed Regulations, such as:

  • Healthy plants, shrubbery, or grasses in tended gardens, grounds, and landscape-designed yards. These types of vegetative growth are allowed to exceed eight inches in height.
  • Weeds, grasses, and any other vegetation planted for agricultural use provided these weeds, grasses, and vegetation are no less than 150 feet from a property zoned for nonagricultural use.

Failure to adhere to the requirements of the DC Grass and Weed Regulations can lead to fines of $500 per violation and other sanctions. Note that several other local laws apply to landscaping activities in the district. For example, Section 11-C715 of the D.C. Municipal Regulations provides mandatory landscaping requirements for surface parking lots. These requirements include the devotion of at least 10 percent of the total area of parking lots with 10 or more parking spaces to landscaping materials like trees and shrubs. As such, it is always a good idea to ensure your landscaper is well-versed in the district's local laws, especially the aspects of these laws that apply to landscaping activities. It is also a good idea to contact the DCRA at (202) 442-4400 or via email before commencing your landscaping project to get information on any relevant local laws that may pertain to it.

Will You Get the Landscaping Permit Required as per the Washington, D.C. Code?

Permits are required for landscaping activities that involve trees in Washington, D.C. These permits are issued by the Urban Forestry Division of the district's Department of Transportation (DDOT), and this division classifies permits based on the type of tree that is involved in the landscaping activity:

  • Public Space Tree Permits: These permits are required for the planting, pruning, or removal of public street trees that are within the public right of way
  • Special Tree Removal Permits: These permits are required for the removal of private property trees that are between 44 inches and 99.9 inches in circumference

Applications for public space tree and special tree removal permits can be made online via the department's Transportation Online Permitting System, and first-time applicants will be required to register a user account on this system. Alternatively, applications for public space tree permits can also be made in person at:

District Department of Transportation
Planning and Sustainability Division
Public Space Permit Branch
1100 4th Street SW
2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20024
Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 4:15 p.m., Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays

The submission of landscape plans is typically required for both types of permits. It should be noted that trees with a circumference of 100 inches or more are considered heritage trees in Washington, D.C. Per the district's Tree Canopy Protection Amendment Act of 2016, these types of trees cannot be topped, cut down, removed, girdled, broken or destroyed unless they have been designated as hazardous. If a heritage tree is within the limits of disturbance of your project, you may be required to submit a Tree Preservation Plan for this project. Queries concerning Washington D.C. tree permits can be directed to the DDOT at (202) 671-5133.

Finally, while specific permits are not needed for regular landscaping activities, construction-related landscaping activities like installing new decks and patios or building retaining walls higher than four feet typically require a building permit. The DCRA issues these building permits, and they can be obtained via the following platforms:

Applicants are advised to contact the DC Office of Zoning at (202) 727-6311 to determine whether any development restrictions apply to their project before submitting their permit applications. Applicants may also be required to submit building plans and other additional documentation online via the DCRA's ProjectDox platform. Note that permitted work is subject to inspection by authorized DCRA officials to ensure compliance with all relevant district laws. Information on the Washington D.C. building permit issuance process can be gotten by contacting the DCRA at:

1100 4th Street SW
Washington, DC 20024

Queries can also be directed to this department via email or by calling (202) 442-4400 and (202) 442-8959.

What Kind of Landscaping Services Do You Offer?

Getting the most out of your landscaping projects means ensuring that the landscaper you contract with has the right level of expertise and the proper tools needed to provide your required service. Professional landscapers in Washington, D.C., generally offer a wide variety of landscaping services, ranging from landscape installation and design to lawn maintenance and upkeep services. Requesting references from past clients and a portfolio of the landscaper's completed work for your perusal is an excellent way to find out if they can perform the type of landscaping you need. It is a red flag if a landscaper cannot provide this information, which usually indicates they are unqualified for the job.

Cost estimates for common Washington D.C. landscaping services are listed below:

Landscape installation (per hour)
$53 - $91
Lawn mowing and maintenance (per visit)
$44 - $107
Lawn fertilization (per application)
$73 - $122
Residential landscape design (per hour)
$76 - $102
Commercial landscape design (per square foot)
$5 - $25
Garden Planning (per hour)
$65 - $100
General Bed Maintenance/Detailing
$40 - $85
Spring/Fall clean-up
$150 - $450
$40 - $105
Lawn irrigation system installation
$1,300 - $2,750
Mulching (per cubic yard)
$87 - $107
Leaf removal
$140 - $650
Sodding (per square foot)
$1.77 - $2.13
Weed Control
$60 - $115
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What are the Best Types of Grass for Lawns in Washington, D.C.?

Washington, D.C., has relatively mild weather compared to other parts of the country, with average summer temperatures ranging from 65 - 95 degrees and fall temperatures ranging from 40 - 80 degrees. Likewise, winter and spring seasons have average temperature ranges of 30 - 50 degrees and 40 - 75 degrees, respectively. As such, cool-season grasses are usually the best lawn options in the district. Examples of these types of grasses include:

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

Be aware that warm-season grasses like bermudagrass and zoysiagrass may also thrive on your lawn. However, you should always consult a landscaper before deciding on the type of grass to plant. You can get referrals to professional landscape contractors in the district through online resources like the DCRA's Find a Contractor platform or organizations like the Better Business Bureau and the Landscape Contractors Association MD-DC-VA.

Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Landscapers in Washington, D.C.?

The DCRA imposes mandatory liability insurance requirements on all contractors to whom it issues licenses, and the minimum required coverage per occurrence primarily depends on the type of license the contractor possesses. For example, landscapers with a General Contractor/Construction Manager License must have minimum coverage ranging from $500,000 to $2,500,000 per occurrence, based on the monetary limitations of the contractor's license. Likewise, Home Improvement Contractor License holders must have a minimum liability insurance coverage of $50,000 for bodily injury or death per person in any single accident or $100,000 in aggregate for more than one person in any single accident. These contractors must also have at least $10,000 liability insurance coverage for property damage per accident and post a surety bond of $25,000.

Always ensure that your landscaper is appropriately insured and duly bonded where applicable. Failure to do so can make you liable for any on-the-job accidents, injuries, or damages that may occur during your project. You can confirm landscapers' insurance and bonding statuses by requesting copies of their insurance and bonding certificates and contacting the appropriate issuing organizations to validate these documents. You can also contact the DCRA at (202) 442-4400 to get more information on its insurance and bonding requirements for landscape contractors.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Landscaper in Washington, D.C.

Unsuspecting home and property owners seeking landscaping services in Washington, D.C., risk falling victim to a landscaping or home improvement scam at the hands of unscrupulous contractors if they are not careful. These contractors defraud homeowners by deliberately overcharging for their services, requesting full payment for services before starting or completing the required work, or using inferior materials for jobs despite charging premium prices. According to the Consumer Federation of America's 2019 Consumer Complaint Survey Report, home improvement scams topped its list of worst complaints made by consumers across several locations, including Washington, D.C. You can protect yourself against potential scams when searching for landscapers in the district by doing the following:

  • Never hire unsolicited contractors. Get referrals to landscapers from reputable sources, such as relatives, trusted real estate professionals, or online directories like the Better Business Bureau and the DCRA's Find a Contractor platform.
  • Always verify the contractor's licensing status by calling (202) 442-4400 or via the DCRA's Access DC portal.
  • Get and compare quotes for your project from several contractors
  • Make sure that the contractor provides a written contract for the project. Take the time to read this contract and clearly understand its terms before signing it to avoid any misunderstandings down the road
  • Do not pay the full cost of your project upfront. Any advance payments you make should never be more than 30 percent of your project's total value, and subsequent payments should be made based on the job's progress. Make sure that the project is satisfactorily completed before you make the final payment
  • Be wary of landscapers who insist on cash payments
  • Keep all contracts, warranties, receipts, invoices, and other important documents related to the project

In 2019, the District of Columbia's Attorney General filed a lawsuit against a local home improvement company for defrauding homeowners in the area. Allegations made against the company include misrepresenting the quality of its goods and services and damaging consumers' properties. You can report landscaping scams to the District of Columbia's Attorney General Office online, via email, by calling (202) 442-9828, or by texting "complaint" to (202) 738-5212. Complaints concerning landscapers can also be filed with the DCRA online. Finally, you can take private legal actions against fraudulent landscape contractors in Washington D.C. by filing a lawsuit at an appropriate Superior Court Division of the District of Columbia Courts. Note that you should always consult with a licensed attorney before taking legal actions of any kind.