By Joe Raboine

According to a recent study by Houzz, outdoor home upgrades are as popular as ever, with one in two renovating homeowners engaging in outdoor upgrades in 2018*. In addition, more than four in five renovating homeowners hire professional help during projects. With the demand for home projects remaining steady, the market for renovation services and expanded skillsets continues to rise.

In addition, experts in the field are seeing an increased demand for fully functional outdoor living spaces that offer more than just a place to sit. The lines between living and working spaces are blurred as more homeowners seek to create comfortable spaces to live, work and relax. Outdoor spaces can serve as a true extension of the home, creating a multi-functional space for all lifestyles and family units.

But as a landscape contractor, how do you offer this big picture idea to your clients? Solution selling is the foundation of offering comprehensive outdoor living spaces. At the basic level, contractors should aim to understand the client’s vision and the larger goal they seek to achieve – whether that is an environment for relaxation, entertaining or activities for children. By taking a step back, landscape contractors can consider add-on features to improve a project, and can take advantage of innovative products such as modular kits to efficiently – both in labor and client budgets – achieve their dream space.

The next step for the industry will be on the materials and production side of the business. Hardscapes manufacturers and other materials companies are beginning to partner to offer easily accessible building and landscape products that work together, making the lives of both the contractors and the homeowners easier. Homeowners are more likely to agree to a larger project with mixed materials and add-ons if they can continue to work with the same contractor, which opens up a business opportunity for the professional.

When evaluating products for client projects, consider if your preferred providers can facilitate relationships with other manufacturers and experts in the industry. For example, hardscapes companies are leveraging relationships with lighting and water feature providers, creating kits that are easily installed as part of a complete outdoor living space. Lighting, water features and heating additions are often secondary thoughts when designing an outdoor living space; but as a contractor, encouraging clients to consider these elements before beginning work can save both time and expenses in the future for all parties involved.

One challenge that contractors might encounter when selling a comprehensive and mixed-materials job is ensuring that all of the elements work together from a design standpoint.

Product development is underway within the industry to design products that naturally go together, as well as product offerings that pair with a home’s style or design aesthetic. This approach organizes products by textures and colors, turning design into a simple process that allows outdoor beauty to remain the focus.

Resources are also available to guide contractors through the design and pitching process. For example, contractors can work Belgard’s design team and its resources to create custom 3D or virtual reality renderings for clients, assisting with conceptualization and client sign off before even breaking ground.

Industry research shows no signs of the renovation and home improvement market slowing down, creating a strong business opportunity for landscape contractors to expand their skillset and offer more services to their clients. Connect with the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute and your local hardscapes representative, as they can offer more information on trusted partners and training opportunities in your market.

Joe Raboine is director of residential hardscapes at Belgard. He works to ensure that Belgard’s contractors and dealers are receiving best-in-class service, products and experiences. Raboine started his career as a contractor more than 25 years ago.

Since 1995, Belgard’s locally made and nationally backed products have transformed thousands of residential and commercial properties in North America. For more information, visit www.Belgard.com or www.belgard.com/professional-resources.

* Source: http://st.hzcdn.com/static/econ/19USHouzzAndHome.pdf