Offering segmental pavement installation as an add-on option to your customers — whether you do it yourself or work in tandem with an established and reputable segmental pavement contractor — can add to your bottom line. If you can offer more services, you can raise the average amount of sales per customer.
Even better, if you offer segmental paving and other aspects of hardscape design as part of a sharpened focus into a higher-end landscaping service, you can target the wealthier segment of the marketplace. When the market is down, many focus on improving the home they have instead of moving or building a new one.
“As a first step, I always get the customers to visualize what the end product will be before I begin,” said Laura Schwind, a registered landscape architect for Pine Hall Brick Company, a manufacturer of genuine clay brick pavers.
According to Schwind, the easiest and quickest way is to get the customer to gather all the outdoor furniture, kids toys, the gas grill, etc. and arrange it in the backyard where the patio will be. Get a sense of space and keep in mind that a patio with curved sides is more informal than a square or rectangle. You will also need to choose a pattern, keeping in mind that some patterns take more cuts than others. Outline all of that with string line so that you can figure out how many square feet of pavers you will need (or use software that estimates how many pavers will be needed).
To install, dig approximately eight inches down and six inches out beyond the area you will pave. Slope the soil about one-quarter inch per foot to allow for proper drainage. (Remember to call and have utilities marked before you start excavation.) Next, tamp the soil down with a plate compactor.
Put down four inches (eight inches for driveways) of crusher run gravel and compact it well with the plate compactor. Lay down two lengths of one-inch metal pipe parallel to each other and several feet apart. Cover the pipes with concrete sand, which is course and jagged, then use a board across the top of the pipe to screed the sand level.
Remove the pipes, and use a trowel to fill and smooth the voids. Lay the pavers in place. Then, install edge restraints, which can be metal or plastic and installed with landscape spikes, or a row of finished pavers stood on end and buried in concrete to the finished height. After that, sweep sand into the joints between the pavers and compact them into the sand bed.
According to Schwind, one of the most overlooked opportunities for landscape contractors is a patio or walkway installation that doesn’t involve digging because you put pavers directly on top of an existing concrete using thinner (1-3/8-inch) pavers that are made for this purpose.
Again, you have to figure out what pattern you will use. Start by laying a “soldier course,” perpendicular to the edge of the concrete to form the outside frame of your project. Leave a 1/16-inch gap between each paver. Use four dots of masonry adhesive, about the size of a penny, on each, which allows rainwater to pass underneath.
On the inside of the soldier course, cut pieces of roofing felt to put a single layer inside the frame covering the concrete. Don’t overlap them. Then lay a second layer of felt perpendicular over the top of the first layer.
Starting at one corner, begin laying the brick in place, leaving a 1/16- to 1/8-inch gap between the pavers. Finish by sweeping concrete sand between the joints until they are full.
Before getting started, do your homework. There may be a construction program at a trade school close by where you are, or you can take advantage of programs offered by trade associations such as the School for Advanced Segmental Paving (www.paverschool.com), and the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (www.icpi.org).
Additionally, contractors can get training at Hardscape North America, to be held in October in Louisville, Ky.
But before that, you’ll want to take a good look at your business. Adding a new service always involves a learning curve. Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on cash flow instead of profit. Instead, do a careful projection for a possible new service, and don’t make the leap if your figures predict that you won’t be able to make money at it.
Knowing your business inside and out is a good first step. You want to work smarter and not harder; and you need to understand your costs better and control them without cutting quality. That’s the best kind of planning.
Article provided by Pine Hall Brick (www.PineHallBrick.com). Contact Pine Hall Brick for a free copy of PaverScape, an easy-to-use software program that uses digital photographs to show how the finished patio will look and how many pavers will be needed.