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View Full Version : How did you learn how to do rock work?


4 seasons lawn&land
08-07-2008, 04:35 PM
Wondering how you guys learned how to do all this stuff. Did you work for someone doing it? Did you just read up on projects first and go do it? Is that even possible? I want to learn how to do the extensive rock work like I see pics of here.

shethinksmytractors_sexy
08-07-2008, 05:32 PM
you can read up on it all you want but you just gotta do it. practice makes perfect.

Shane472
08-07-2008, 05:36 PM
you can read up on it all you want but you just gotta do it. practice makes perfect.

And customers are expected to pay for the mistakes you'll make along the way?

Working for an experienced hardscaper and learning first hand is the best way to do it. Going out on your own and learning as you attempt the jobs yourself is a bad idea in my opinion.

Liquidfast
08-07-2008, 05:46 PM
Do like the guy "Science" something who is a member here from Kitchener ON.....

Bid a job, do what you "think" is correct like: Several different sizes in steps etc...

Post your work here, have it picked apart and then realize that like anything else.....you get out of it what you put into it.

Then work for a company to gain experience and go on your own.

Swampy
08-07-2008, 05:54 PM
Around here there are a few class you can take or "shops" at trade shows.

scenicexcellence
08-07-2008, 08:30 PM
Do like the guy "Science" something who is a member here from Kitchener ON.....

Bid a job, do what you "think" is correct like: Several different sizes in steps etc...

Post your work here, have it picked apart and then realize that like anything else.....you get out of it what you put into it.

Then work for a company to gain experience and go on your own.

I would like to add to this comment. The best way to learn is by doing it. yes you should do it under someone else, but if you can be taught before you do it then ok great. This comment is not that great to go off of. The reason being was the job i did was half decent and has no major problems there are some visual defects. but as for the hold up of the job it is fine. Some people make mistakes just try not to make them on others property. do the best you can and follow the guidlines for what you are doing you'll do fine.

just so you know i am not working for anybody else i am still working for myself and will never go back to working for someone else. If need be i will take a course when i need it.

jaybird24
08-07-2008, 09:12 PM
I agree, you should work under someone else to get a good grasp of things first. There are many structural and drainage basics not to mention all the different materials that you should have a good grasp of these first. If you have your own place you could practice with different stones, stacking, laying walks, be creative, there are no set rules when creating things, that's whats so fun about natural stone, or even manufactured stuff. Creating, while making it structurally sound is the key though.

Liquidfast
08-07-2008, 10:55 PM
I would like to add to this comment. The best way to learn is by doing it. yes you should do it under someone else, but if you can be taught before you do it then ok great. This comment is not that great to go off of. The reason being was the job i did was half decent and has no major problems there are some visual defects. but as for the hold up of the job it is fine. Some people make mistakes just try not to make them on others property. do the best you can and follow the guidlines for what you are doing you'll do fine.

just so you know i am not working for anybody else i am still working for myself and will never go back to working for someone else. If need be i will take a course when i need it.



I hear you science. See heres the thing. You made some serious mistakes (the stairs especially) but I dont feel the judgements rendered against you were fair (justified yes, but fair, no).

Having said that, you asked for opinions and those you got. Good or bad, you will learn from it. I started hardscaping late last year and now run 60% hardscape and the rest.........lawn care.


Next year, I want 80% hardscaping. I hate lawn care now. I make more in a three day period than a month on the grass.

Not to lose track here....I worked for 2 months FREE 2 days one week and 3 days the next to learn from someone with 20 plus years in the biz. Quite frankly, his work would humble some of the best on this site.

I did a job (small one) for a customer 2 years ago. I went back last thursday to "fix" what would have become a problem a few years from now.

Point of this ramble is I cannot stress enough the importance of perfection.

I do benefit from the backing of the guy I learned from. He gives me the smaller installs and retaining wall jobs that he cannot find the time for. I am blessed with his knowledge, equipment and MOST importantly, his ability to accurately quote a job.

5 years from now, I believe we will have an incredible company spanning the GTA for landscpaing.

"fingers crossed" of course.

scenicexcellence
08-07-2008, 11:31 PM
good luck to you.

Back to the topic at hand You will do fine if you look up some courses in the area where you are. Also like liquid fast did working under someone like that for free or for a very small fee will help you alot. I worked under my dad for next to nothing 6 bux an hour. he taught me alot but he is a landscaper and not only hardscaping. I learned how to build retaining walls and do landscaping. not lawn maintenance though. I think with working under someone for a bit will give a good head start and as most people will agree the people on here will eat you alive once you post a job, all you have to do is take the good and leave the bad comments out. If someone has good suggestions take them in and remember them and not to forget them.

One thing i can tell you to do for preping for your installs is that is the most important time consuming part of the job. You must take the time on the prep or the install will not hold up. good luck to you on your ventures and people lets not get off topic and help this guy out.

I got a extensive explaination of installing interlock professionally done up. i have it here if you want a copy pm me.

4 seasons lawn&land
08-07-2008, 11:57 PM
thanks, actually IDK what interlock is. At this point Im wondering if I should try to find a job working for someone to learn or if I should just try to find someone to let me work for free and teach me something.

viet_jon
08-07-2008, 11:58 PM
good luck to you.

Back to the topic at hand You will do fine if you look up some courses in the area where you are. Also like liquid fast did working under someone like that for free or for a very small fee will help you alot. I worked under my dad for next to nothing 6 bux an hour. he taught me alot but he is a landscaper and not only hardscaping. I learned how to build retaining walls and do landscaping. not lawn maintenance though. I think with working under someone for a bit will give a good head start and as most people will agree the people on here will eat you alive once you post a job, all you have to do is take the good and leave the bad comments out. If someone has good suggestions take them in and remember them and not to forget them.

One thing i can tell you to do for preping for your installs is that is the most important time consuming part of the job. You must take the time on the prep or the install will not hold up. good luck to you on your ventures and people lets not get off topic and help this guy out.

I got a extensive explaination of installing interlock professionally done up. i have it here if you want a copy pm me.



I'm new here,....how do you PM?


can you send those instructions to me?


I'm helping my dad do our first hardscape job in our backyard. Celtik walls, with bergerac pavers.

We're doing in primarily the way the Permacon PDF shows, so any tips would be helpful.

scenicexcellence
08-08-2008, 12:01 AM
i would say find a job but do not by any means let them know you want to go on your own. There is a guy he is a friend of a friend he calls me all the time to work so he can find out how to do things and how to price things trying to get a fell of my pricing methods. He striaght out told me he wants to start hs own company in the same city as me and from the day on he hasn't work with me again he always asks i just tell him now work. The reason why is cause why would someone show their way of doing things to someone else so they can be the competition.

I would say your best bet is to go to the suppiers in your area and find the seminars that can help you as well as any literature that can help you, the suppliers will help a great deal, because when you get good, where do you go, to them.

scenicexcellence
08-08-2008, 12:19 AM
let me know ow to reach you. i will reply with the literature

edit - you can't post an email address at the site. you can list a phone number for contact. thanks, Mike

designer1
08-12-2008, 08:35 PM
I have also been looking into any seminars that would teach me any techniques that would help me in my business. I have found seminars that are one day in lenghth, but feel I could use a little more hands on.

I looked into the paver institute in milwaukee. They offer a 3 day class on pavers and a2day class on retaining walls.

Does anyone know anything about them?

Does it seem like a waste of time and money when you can get the instruction from mfg. seminars?

I would really like to get some serious instruction before I start offering this to my customers.

scenicexcellence
08-12-2008, 08:54 PM
As long as you follow exactly what they say to do you will be fine.

scenicexcellence
08-12-2008, 08:54 PM
You do not need 10 years experience to do this it helps but you don't need it. you just need to know how to do it. once you are showed how to do it correctly and are confident in yourself then go for it. Just remember you do it to make money and you will be going back if you mess it up therefore loosing that money you made.

JimLewis
08-15-2008, 06:23 PM
All I know is how I've learned how to do everything. I am sure there are other ways. School is one of them. Some schools, like Oregon State University here in my state, offer degrees in landscape technology. And even our local community college (Portland Community College) offers a really good 2 year program with LOTS of hands-on experience. But that's not the way I learned all this stuff, so I digress...

I started my company in 1996 knowing nothing more than how to mow and haul away grass. I didn't even understand how to edge a lawn properly. So if you click on our website link below and take a look at some of the photos of the work we do these days - this is all stuff I've picked up over the last 12 years. Fairly impressive stuff, I think, given that I had to learn it all the hard way.

First rule of thumb if you are going to teach yourself how to do larger landscape or hardscape projects is start by watching someone else do it. Let's say you land a landscaping job that entails installing new sod, new barkmulch, some plants and trees, and a nice paver patio. And let's suppose you don't know how to do pavers. So you go out and find yourself a good paver guy in your town and sub-contract that part of the job out to him. He can even help you bid the project. There's absolutely nothing wrong with telling a customer, "We do most of what you're looking for except the paver patio I would sub out to a good company we work with here in town. So give me a few days to get together with my 'paver guy' and then I'll have an estimate ready for you." So then you go find a paver guy and ask him how much it's going to cost and then work that into your overall bid. So then you land the job and while YOU are working in the sod, soil prep., planting, etc. you keep an eye on EVERYTHING HE IS DOING. Meanwhile, get yourself a book that explains paver patio construction step-by-step. And read that at night while you are watching it being done during the day. You do that a few times, pretty soon you'll be thinking, "Dang. This isn't that hard. Hey, Fernando, you think we could do that ourselves next time?" and then Fernando says, "Yah, boss. I used to do those for the last company I worked for. Piece of cake." So then you start doing pavers yourself next time instead of subbing it out.

That's pretty much how I've learned to do about everything we do these days. We used to sub it out to an expert and then finally after watching the expert do it a few times we started doing it ourselves.

The second rule of thumb is START SMALL. Don't make your first paver patio one that is 3000 sq. ft. Make it a small 10' x 20' patio. See how you do. If that turns out well move on to slightly larger ones. Same thing with rock walls, segmental retaining walls, flagstone work, etc. Start small and work your way up. Anything that is outside of your comfort realm, you sub that out and watch!

Third rule of thumb, learn from your employees, if you have any. I remember there was a time I really needed to land a project and part of the project was installing a small dry-stack rock wall. Well, I had never done it before and it was too small of a job for the subcontractor I used. So I asked around. Turns out one of my employees used to build those a lot at his old landscaping job. So I took him by one and said, "You sure you can build me a wall that is as nice as this one???" And he said, "You bet. I used to do them all the time." So we got that job and he did a wonderful job on the wall. He also taught me and my other workers how to build them. Nowadays all the construction workers in my company have done them dozens of times. They're all totally proficient at it. But I was able to take that leap because of an employee who had the knowledge! Learn from your employees.

Fourth rule of thumb, learn from books. There are some fantastic books out there on irrigation systems, segmental retaining walls, general landscape construction, etc. Study the stuff and it will help you understand the concept at least. Then when you go to build whatever it is you are building, you'll at least have some knowledge about how it's supposed to be done right.

Final rule of thumb, realize that you can't possibly specialize in everything and that you are always going to need subcontractors once in a while. If you need some BIG excavating and grading and boulder placement done, you'll probably need to hire an excavation contractor. Then you pick up the project where he leaves off. If you are doing a large project that involves stamped concrete or regular concrete, you'll probably have to sub that part of the job on to a flat work specialist who does that every day. If he's nice, he may cut you into the deal by having you do the prep. work for him (laying gravel, compaction, laying the re-bar, building the forms) and then you can make 50% of the money from that part of the project too. You may decide you don't want to mess with irrigation systems. So it's perfectly okay to have a sub do that work for you too. Get used to the idea that sometimes it's okay to use subs and it's probably something that won't ever end. There will always be things you can't do. But look at yourself as more of a general contractor. A general doesn't build the entire house, he subs out the foundation, then subs out the framing, then subs out the electrical, then subs out the sheet rock, then subs out the painting, roofing, siding, etc. Nothing wrong with that. Nobody expects him to do it all. Same with your customers. They don't care too much if you sub. part of the job out. But they are looking at you to handle it all. They're looking at you as the guy who will be the "general contractor" of their landscape dreams. So your goal is to be that for them.

forestfireguy
08-17-2008, 06:47 PM
There is the saying that you're always training your future competition. And it's true at least half the time. Some people dont have the stones or the drive to go it on their own but make great employees, others.

I'd go with Jims advice, dont shy away from taking big jobsm you can learn from your subs, sometimes if you find the right sub you can make more money handing it off and handling finance,logistics and planning.

Personally I learned from my neighbor, he was a master mason, guy could do anything with stone, block, mortar, and make it look easy.....worked too hard and not smart enough though and burned out young. He learned from an old timer, guy who had retired as a union mason, he hired the old timer PT, paid him well and made it very clear he was there to learn all the old man could teach him, they worked together for a few years and as time went on the old man was more consultant than teacher and eventually told my neighbor he couldn't work for him any more because he wasnt needed. Bottom line, it's best to do it with your own hands and someone elses knowledge until you have your own, but just like anything by all means work hard, and long, just be sure you do it smart......