PDA

View Full Version : Focus on hardscaping?


Total Landscape Solutions
09-13-2006, 09:10 PM
I am thinking of changing directions a bit next season. I am thinking of putting my primary focus on hardscapes and only doing landscape work for the clients that sign for hardscaping work. I am sure I will have to fill the gaps in with some landscape work, but I want to try to maintain the focus on hardscapes.

Anyone else focus primarily on hardscaping, or even exclusively on hardscaping?
If so, how do you advertise and market as a hardscape contractor?

Addam

richallseasons
09-13-2006, 09:37 PM
hard scape work makes up about 75% of my business and it truly is what I like to do although landscaping,mowing and maintenance are an important part of my business also, I really don't advertise as I get most of my work through referrals.

mrusk
09-13-2006, 10:33 PM
Atleast 90% of my business is hardscaping. Its not to hard to just do hardscaping, you just need to direct your advertising towards it. I am starting to get into plantings on the hardscapes i install so i am not leaving money on the table.

Anyways, i think the customers willing to spend the big bucks on hardscaping want a specialist instead of a lawn monkey.


Matt

landscapingpoolguy
09-17-2006, 10:36 PM
If you base yur business soley on hardsaping I believe you will be missing out on a huge chunck of the market. Usually we will renovated an entire property. We do well on the hardscape stuff, but plantings, irrigtion, lighting, etc is very profitable and very easy quick funds. The hardscape market is so competitive that unless your a huge firm that constantly has the business or a small newbie barely covering yur insurance primiums the profitablity becomes small unless you can install it fast. The more you get into it the more expensive it becomes also. Bigger trucks, excavating equipment, cut off saws, compactors, trailers, and experienced crew members. Hardscapes are really only profitable if you can be efficient in your installation. We can install a standard 20 x 30, 6x9 paver patio, 6x6 soilder, with no raised beds or planters or steps in a day to a day and half depending on the excavtion. Thats being profitable. But we also come to the customers house with over 100 grand in equipment and 4- 6 men. These days its rare that we get these quickies but every now and again they come around.

mbella
09-20-2006, 08:39 PM
I am thinking of changing directions a bit next season. I am thinking of putting my primary focus on hardscapes and only doing landscape work for the clients that sign for hardscaping work. I am sure I will have to fill the gaps in with some landscape work, but I want to try to maintain the focus on hardscapes.

Anyone else focus primarily on hardscaping, or even exclusively on hardscaping?
If so, how do you advertise and market as a hardscape contractor?

Addam

How big is your operation? Is it just you? Do you have employees? How large of an operation do you plan to operate in the future?

mbella
09-20-2006, 08:51 PM
If you base yur business soley on hardsaping I believe you will be missing out on a huge chunck of the market. Usually we will renovated an entire property. We do well on the hardscape stuff, but plantings, irrigtion, lighting, etc is very profitable and very easy quick funds. The hardscape market is so competitive that unless your a huge firm that constantly has the business or a small newbie barely covering yur insurance primiums the profitablity becomes small unless you can install it fast. The more you get into it the more expensive it becomes also. Bigger trucks, excavating equipment, cut off saws, compactors, trailers, and experienced crew members. Hardscapes are really only profitable if you can be efficient in your installation. We can install a standard 20 x 30, 6x9 paver patio, 6x6 soilder, with no raised beds or planters or steps in a day to a day and half depending on the excavtion. Thats being profitable. But we also come to the customers house with over 100 grand in equipment and 4- 6 men. These days its rare that we get these quickies but every now and again they come around.

I can't imagine ever showing up to a 600sq.ft. job, on day one, with 4-6 guys.

You don't have to be incredibly efficient if you tap into a certain market. However, I've seen enough of your work on here to know that you haven't tapped into that market.

landscapingpoolguy
09-21-2006, 07:14 AM
Excuse me? Please dont critisize something you dont understand.I utilize a skid steer and two single axles plus enuff man power to have most basic patios finished in 2 days. Adda wall or seat walls or circle kits with three different sized pavers, now yur talking more time, but the base prep is still the same. I invite you to come along on an install with us. Were about 40 minutes from penn and i have one schedualed for saturday.

mbella
09-21-2006, 01:18 PM
Excuse me? Please dont critisize something you dont understand.I utilize a skid steer and two single axles plus enuff man power to have most basic patios finished in 2 days. Adda wall or seat walls or circle kits with three different sized pavers, now yur talking more time, but the base prep is still the same. I invite you to come along on an install with us. Were about 40 minutes from penn and i have one schedualed for saturday.

If it works for you, great. I posted that "I" can't imagine operating that way.

Thanks for the offer, but I'm not working Saturday. Maybe, you can walk us through your process and explain what each of the four to six workers would be doing on a typical 600 square foot install. I'm curious.

cgland
09-22-2006, 09:18 PM
If it works for you, great. I posted that "I" can't imagine operating that way.

Thanks for the offer, but I'm not working Saturday. Maybe, you can walk us through your process and explain what each of the four to six workers would be doing on a typical 600 square foot install. I'm curious.

HHHMMMMM, and still no response!:confused:
Chris

DVS Hardscaper
09-23-2006, 08:56 AM
Seems this thread is veering off topic.

First of all, one tidbit about myself is that I track EVERY waking minute and penny affiliated with each and every job we do. It's my actual finding, through experience - that crews with multiple members are NOT efficient. We have had 5 man crews, 4 man, 3 man. And this summer I had a guy on a 3 man crew that spent alotta time on his phone, and simply was becommin harder and harder to motivate. So after me gettin on his case - he quit. It was the best thing that happened. Cause I discovered that 2 men are way more productive and netting approx 10-15% more profit, per job, than projected.

We have the "BIG TRUCK". Sure it comes in handy, but it's over kill. And if we had to, we could be just as efficient with a 3/4 ton pick up and a 12,000# dump trailer. Cause reality is, 60% of the time we do not use the big truck for anything other than driving to and from the job sites, as our materials are delivered by suppliers.



Total Solutions - if you want to get into hardscping on a full fledged basis, with passion and drive you CAN do it. Hardscaping accounts for 82% of our sales. We also do installation, lighting, grading, and light excavating services. Our market has a strong demand for hardscape services. And with demand comes MORE contractors. There is even a home improvement company (basements, additions, garages, etc) that has a freakin "Hardscape Division".

I went from 3 yrs ago calling people on the phone an saying "Mr / Ms Homeowner it'll cost you $16,766 to build your patio", and they would say "great whats the next step, when can you do it?" to "ok, thanks, we're waiting for 3 more prices to come in, we'll let you know in a couple weeks".

So, what I'm leading up to is, do NOT rely on income solely from hardscaping. I am wishing more than ever that I had 1 or 2 maintenance crews. Hardscaping is in strong demand. But I am seeing homeowners getting these elaborate jobs done for $25,000 when they should be around or over $37,000. Its hurting our cash flow. Maintenance crews would supplement the cash flow. AND the maintenance accounts WOULD generate hardscape sales. We we used to mow, I sold patios left and right to our maintenance clients...and they did NOT shop around.

Think of a new car dealership. A new car dealership could never survive without the income from the service department.

New Car Sales = Hardscape Construction

Service Dept supplements a dealerships Cash Flow which = a landscape Maintenance Division.


So, make sure you have a plan in place for not *IF" you market becomes saturated with hardscape contractors - but for *WHEN* your market becomes saturated with hardscape contractors.

mbella
09-23-2006, 10:11 AM
DVS, thanks so much for getting this thread back on topic.

Wouldn't we be able to give better advice if we knew whether the original poster wanted to operate one, two, or three hardscape crews?

cgland
09-23-2006, 03:13 PM
Well said Andrew!

chris

mrusk
09-23-2006, 03:22 PM
DVS- Thats interesting that you feel that 2 man crews are most efficent. I'm only in my 2nd year and just have a helper. Next year i was planning on adding 2 more guys and running a 4 man crew. I figured since most of my jobs are decent size, 4 men could work no proablem without being on top of each other.

Are you saying that no matter what size the job is ( 250 sq ft walk thru $30k+ patios) that 2 men crews work best? I always though that having larger crews on larger jobs would be more cost efficent since its cheaper to equipt 1 crew with tools vs two.



Matt

DVS Hardscaper
09-23-2006, 04:41 PM
For large jobs 3 man crews may be better.

A 300 Sf walk - 2 men. 450 Sf patio - 2 men.

For larger jobs - get fill in's. I have all hispanics, so finding people to carry pavers for a day or 2 or to rake soil is no problem.

Part of the problem is that with more then 2 men - there is always someone standing around, while 2 actually do work.

At this point I'm experimenting with 2 men.

There is a company in our area that has 2 crews. Both of them 2 man crews. And thats it! See, I can see first hand that the net profit per job has gone up for us, and it seems to work well for this other contractor in our area, so I'm advocating it while I experiment.

freddyc
09-23-2006, 05:04 PM
Just wondering what you guys are thinking about how the economy affects the hardscaping volume of work. Case in point: for the last several years, the housing market has been booming--so has the refinance and "I want to invest in my existing property" mentality.

Going into 2007, the housing market is softening, and there's a lot ot talk about an overall decline. Mortgage rates are increasing...and so on.

When the economy booms, and people are investing in their existing homes, it seems that landscape improvements (hardscaping) would be booming too.


I would venture to say that in the upcoming period (next season or beyond) that improvement work should slow down.

To consider if you should go heavy into a focus on hardscaping, doesn't this also have to be a consideration?--especially for a new guy?

Do any of you old timers have a feeling for how it was before the recent boom times??

DVS Hardscaper
09-23-2006, 07:56 PM
Excellent Question Freddy.

The recent economy has taken it's toll on my hardscape business.

Gas prices sky rocket. Groceries are outrageous. Electric bills have gone up. I had one client tell me that last winter their gas bill for heating their home was $400 / month. And it isn't all that big of a home. And interest rates have risen. All these necessities to life have increased drastically. yet, the income of the average consumer HAS NOT increased.

So if they're stretching dollars to put gasoline in their tanks to get to work, who do you think they'll cut out of their spending plans?? The patio / landscape guy. People do NOT need a fancy patio. they don't need Specimen trees. But they do need their grass cut!

For me, years ago when we were in a recession, my business wasn't really affected. And I attribute this to the fact that I had virtually no competition. So now factor in the slowing economy and the abundance of other hardscape contractors and it paints a not so pretty picture. We just spent the last 4-6 weeks doing excavating work. Work that had to be done. Billed timed and materials. I think I could get used to that!!

I'm fascinated with how the market varies across the country. I have a buddy in CA that just a few months ago sent me pictures of the hardscape work going on there. Huge jobs happening there - $250K (+). Left and right! He tells me homeowners there can't find contractors to do the work!

YardPro
09-23-2006, 08:30 PM
dvs...
i notice that there is an attraction to get back into mowing...

you think there is competition in hardscapes...... mowing is much worse.

kootoomootoo
09-23-2006, 08:36 PM
The economy here in OHIO is a disaster.
-47th in growth over the last 5 years. (less than 1% a year)
- 1 in 5 manufacturing jobs lost ......Low prices = lost jobs ALWAYS.
(THANKS WALMART)
- 3rd highest Taxes in the Nation. (work that one out)

I know landscapers left and right who this year all of a sudden are looking for a different career. These are guys with all the toys too. Local tree guy was selling 500 a month now selling 50. Local nursery closed. ...after they just spent the entire winter doing a total tear down / renovating the entire thing.

Biggest builder in the State (Ryan Homes) announced last week they are leaving. Pulte homes going too.

Only guys who are going ok are established guys with 100+ mowing accounts.

I am doing irrigation full time next year. *trucewhiteflag*

mbella
09-23-2006, 10:20 PM
Just wondering what you guys are thinking about how the economy affects the hardscaping volume of work. Case in point: for the last several years, the housing market has been booming--so has the refinance and "I want to invest in my existing property" mentality.

Going into 2007, the housing market is softening, and there's a lot ot talk about an overall decline. Mortgage rates are increasing...and so on.

When the economy booms, and people are investing in their existing homes, it seems that landscape improvements (hardscaping) would be booming too.


I would venture to say that in the upcoming period (next season or beyond) that improvement work should slow down.

To consider if you should go heavy into a focus on hardscaping, doesn't this also have to be a consideration?--especially for a new guy?

Do any of you old timers have a feeling for how it was before the recent boom times??

Freddy, I'll say it again, I believe it really depends on who many crews the original poster plans to keep busy.

In my area, keeping one crew busy is easy. If you market yourself effectively and do quality work, it's easy.

However, keeping a second crew busy is much more difficult, especially if you are new(less than three years) to the hardscape biz. Keeping a third crew busy, exponentially more difficult.

If the original poster just wanted to keep himself and a laborer busy, I would offer one bit of advice.

If he wanted to keep three crews busy, I would offer another.

Total Landscape Solutions
09-23-2006, 10:28 PM
I am actually gald to see this thread go a little off topic. The economy is an important topic that effects us all.

I am going to try to focus on the hardscaping next year, but also offer other services to fill any voids that might be left.

A little backround on me (for those who care):
I will admit this is my first year out on my own so there are many other challenges to face, I am sure some of you are aware of. I have been in the industry 13 years doing landscape/hardscape work so I have plenty of field experience. I have done both large commerical work and smaller residential work, and always ran my jobs like I owned the company. It's the administrative duties of running the business that will be new and challenging.

forestfireguy
09-23-2006, 10:43 PM
We have 2 crews, in addition to a cutting crew.which we vary in size and scope of work as required. 1 is almost exclusively hardscape work, some excavating, drainage and planting. The second is about 30 % smaller hardscape jobs, some of which are started(excavating/base prep) by our "A" crew, and then "other maintenance services" not covered by the cutting crew, ie, pruning,mulch,plant/shrub feeding, weeding. We hold a few "chain" contracts with banks, The Postal Service, one HOA and 2 real estate companies. Personally I have 0 taste for this kind of work but it keeps the cash flow steady and supplements cutting as regular income. There has got to be a certain peace of mind in knowing you're getting X amount of dollars per month whether you click a paver or not. We have started a trial of installing Haloween decor, couple bundles of corn stalks, a couple bales of hay, a few mums and call it festive, so far sales are good in the first 2 weeks. This work is keeping the second crew busy 50 % of the week, the rest is pruning and feeding as we are keeping hardscapes to a manageable size and quick completions for the rest of the year. We do a large volume of snow work and spend a considerable amount of time preparing.

kootoomootoo
09-23-2006, 10:45 PM
FYI .......this guy did three local jobs .........the first one (ie this pic referred him to the next 2) Friggin work that one out. My wife was at the house because its a friend of hers.

forestfireguy
09-23-2006, 10:48 PM
Anyone say building inspector??????

kootoomootoo
09-23-2006, 11:01 PM
The same guys slogan ..."where perfection is possible" *trucewhiteflag*

DVS Hardscaper
09-24-2006, 10:30 AM
Yes, I know maintenance is competitve. We did maintenance work for over 10 years. But there are some tricks (that I'll keep to myself) to makin money with maintenance, and most lawn jockeys do NOT have the mentality to understand certain aspects of mowing business. And thats how it is with mowing. you have a guy that started mowin yards out of high school (such as I did), did well with it, then got to a size where the challanges started surfacing. Makes beautiful yards, but has no business education.

All companies have overhead expenses. Maintenance work may not make one wealthy, but it will certainly pay the overhead expenses, while the install / construct division generates profit. Look at a majority of the companies profiled in trade magazines. I'm makin a wild guess that 95% of them that offer install / construction services also have maintenance divisions.




Anyhow, when doing full fledged hardscapes not only is the economy a factor, but also knowing construction is critical. As well as KNOWING local building codes. Many of these lawn jockeys are gettin into hardscape work. And in the hardscape industry you need to know what drainage systems work and what do not. I have seen contractors connectl 4-inch perforated drain tubing to downspouts, on houses on WOODED LOTS! That corrigated tubing WILL clog with sticks and leaves and there is no way to unclog it once its buring below ground! You need to know how to get water to drain without flooding the neighbor's basement(s). You need to have knowledge of how homes are constructed.

Its a whole different world that plopping shrubs, trees, and flowers in the soil.

And it scares me.

Here we have Joe Smoe out cutting yards one week. Then deciding "hey them patios look cool, I wanna build them and I can get rich", when in reality he's goin from bein a expert on treating weeds to being an expert on aggregate bases and soil compaction!!!!

Branching Out
09-24-2006, 09:33 PM
As far as a crew goes. I believe in 2-3 men. Usually three. I add a forth man when there needs to be an additional truck on a job. When we're a little far from a supply yard, I use him for running back and forth with material to and from the job.

As far as focusing only on hardscapes, is a little like putting all your eggs in one basket. I believe in diversification. We do several different things, except lawn care(wich we may peruse next year. We do blacktop, blacktop repairs, commercial and residential sealcoating, landscaping, concrete, lite excavating, and commercial line striping.

If one division slows down for seasonal reasons or a sluggish economy, we persue another in the mean time. We are always switching back and forth. When one slows down the another seems to pick up.

Drafto
09-24-2006, 11:02 PM
I just wanted to put my .02 in on this thread. This is my 3rd year in business but 1st doing only hardscapes.

I learn a lesson on every job, I have bouced from 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 back to 2 then back 4 this summer trying to find what works best.

My conclusion is that a 2 man crew is most efficient for small jobs but an additional 2 can be added effiency when cleaning up at the end of a large job, sodding, grading ect..... performing non-hardscape tasks. On a larger job involving steps or 2 projects on the same site obviously 4 is best working as 2 and 2 is best.

But keeping 2 additional guys busy doing anything (cutting grass, fence, odd jobs) is essential to be able to add them to a job towards the end.

Dan

landscapingpoolguy
09-25-2006, 09:28 PM
What does the word HARDSCAPE entail? How far do you intend to take it? Pavers? SRW walls? Flagstone? Mortared natural stone? cultured stone? Poured concrete? stamped concrete? Boulder walls? Foundations for homes? Stucco? Tile? Granite? Outdoor kitchens? Firepits? Pools? Waterfalls?

Hers an example of what im talking about. Two weeks ago We started a large project in a new development. Part of the job was a 850 sq ft paver patio, with two tiers, one 3 ft tall retaining wall built from cement block veener in karney thins, and two seat walls finshed the same way capped in a matching paver. When we finshe dthe walls the customer said the stone work was awesome, But the patio against the unfinshed foundation on the home looked horrible. How could we resolve this.

I ended up selling him a matching stone and stucco veener to match the patio. Now if I or my crew wasnt qualified to handle this task we would have been sittin on this job waitin for the first available stucco guy to come in and finsh it before we could finish the patio.

So point of the story is ya have to know Masonry in general. Installing a paver patio is one thing but what generates real profit is creativity, know how, and experience.

YardPro
09-26-2006, 07:38 AM
dvs.

I completely agree with your idea on maintenance/install combo. that's the way we do it. the maintenance provides cash flow, and helps cover overhead, and the construction is normally what makes the money.

mbella
09-26-2006, 08:31 PM
I totally agree with long term diversification between maintenance/softscape/hardscape if he wants to run multiple (say three or more) crews.

However, if he only wants to run one, or two crews, short term diversification may be necessary to stay busy, but a long term hardscape only focus is very much a reality in my experience.