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View Full Version : i'm coming over to the darkside....hardscaping


DeereHauler
09-04-2010, 12:17 AM
ok, so maybe i'm getting old and miserable at the ripe age of 26, but i've had it with the mowing world. I started out like most, mowing grass, which progressed into landscaping, and then into hardscaping. If i get the chance to walk away from everything but hardscaping, its a done deal!

I was reading posts in the "lawn care" section of the site, and i have concluded that some people are just born stupid and there is no help for them. Fortunately most of them are too stupid to lay patios, and build walls. With a family background in the building trades, i like to think i have built a great reputation for high quality work, that will last. My dad builds some of the nicest, well built homes around here. His work speaks for itself, with no advertising in his entire career. Building a home isn't something just any person could do, and i respect his hard work and skill. I see hardscaping the same way. Anyone can drive a mower and make grass fly, but installing a high quality project, that will be there for years to come is something to really take pride in.

I enjoy reading posts here in the hardscape section because most are related to skills of the trade, and questions on how to solve an issue with a project. I also noticed that there hasn't been a post here since 10:30 last night which means there aren't alot of guys focused on just hardscaping, not 450,000 members like the lawn forum.Then i go to lawn care forum, and there are in depth topics about "which brand of gas cans are the best", or "how should i sticker my back window?", or "this new guy in town isn't legit, should i go tell his customers".........

I know this isn't all the lawn guys, i know plenty who are too professional for those issues, personally i respod to some of those posts just to be a smart -a$$, most i just ignore, but if those are the hot topics that keep the lawn care world running, then i need to just get out of there. I still have a full mowing crew, lots of mowing customers, and no personal desire to mow grass. I kind of feel like i have wasted a lot of years mowing, and thinking that i had some special skill because i made lawns look so nice. I realize that its just grass, and its grows back. For the last fews years i have focused on sidewalks, patios, and walls. I have done some training with walls, and pavers, i also employ my brother in law with a degree in landscape installation, and lots of hardscape training, and i intend to keep taking courses and classes as i can.

I'm done caring about the mowing world.
I'm kinda pi$$ed it took me this long to really see it this way.



Rant over...
.

STL Ponds and Waterfalls
09-04-2010, 12:35 AM
Play with the hardscapes and work your way into a nice construction crew, but always keep a mowing crew. There will always be a need for mowers.

93Chevy
09-04-2010, 12:40 AM
Dude, can I come run your mowing crews next year? I'll take care of everything, all you have to do is provide the truck, equipment, paperwork, fuel, etc.

I'm no good at stone work, I'm okay at softscapes, but I really shine mowing lawns. I guess it's nothing to be really proud of, I mean, like you said, grass grows back, but it's what I do.

DeereHauler
09-04-2010, 12:52 AM
Play with the hardscapes and work your way into a nice construction crew, but always keep a mowing crew. There will always be a need for mowers.

i use the mowing as my open door to my really good customers and their friends. We mow some multi million dollar facilities, and i don't want to close those doors that took me a while to open.

DeereHauler
09-04-2010, 12:54 AM
Dude, can I come run your mowing crews next year? I'll take care of everything, all you have to do is provide the truck, equipment, paperwork, fuel, etc.

I'm no good at stone work, I'm okay at softscapes, but I really shine mowing lawns. I guess it's nothing to be really proud of, I mean, like you said, grass grows back, but it's what I do.

that would be one heck of a morning commute.

93Chevy
09-04-2010, 01:00 AM
that would be one heck of a morning commute.

lol, where are you? i'm right north of pittsburgh.

DeereHauler
09-04-2010, 01:03 AM
an hour east of state college

BrandonV
09-04-2010, 08:26 AM
def keep the maintenance crew, we did the opposite of you we had always steered clear of mowing and about 6 years ago transition into that... big benefit is you get to (in some cases) take care of what you built and keep some jackleg from messing up what you made good :-), don't just mow either maintain.

White Gardens
09-04-2010, 10:03 AM
def keep the maintenance crew, we did the opposite of you we had always steered clear of mowing and about 6 years ago transition into that... big benefit is you get to (in some cases) take care of what you built and keep some jackleg from messing up what you made good :-), don't just mow either maintain.

I agree Brandon.

I only have three mow accounts but I keep them anyway. It's a steady income I'm not willing to shun to the curb quit yet even though I keep getting low-balled on the mowing bids every year.

What I've done though is push the landscape maintenance and that I like. My customers mow their own yards and I take care of the rest. Lesser equipment involved in the end, so less overhead.

I've done some hardscaping in the last three years, but I wouldn't call myself a true hardscaper quite yet as I haven't done an extremely large wall yet, or a large patio. I still feel I have a little ways to go before I consider myself a true hardscaper.

jonesy5149
09-04-2010, 10:25 AM
The first thing on just saying hell im going to hardscape is knowing the cost of things and what the prices that are out there in ur town.. i hate when a mowing crew come and bids on a project that i have designed and put to gether a great package and they are taking it so cheap that there is no way they made money in fact lost money and did a shitty job... ok that said there are mowing crews that do do the right numbers and do have some ICPI crew menbers or have the right know how.. but thouse are the people that are close on the bids.

STL Ponds and Waterfalls
09-04-2010, 10:51 AM
i use the mowing as my open door to my really good customers and their friends. We mow some multi million dollar facilities, and i don't want to close those doors that took me a while to open.

That's exactly what we do and it is free advertising while your trucks are sitting in the area. I just read an article that one company will give a lifetime warranty on thier builds if they get the complete maintenance contract. That way they can keep tabs on thier builds and have an additional revenue.

DeereHauler
09-04-2010, 12:06 PM
The first thing on just saying hell im going to hardscape is knowing the cost of things and what the prices that are out there in ur town.. i hate when a mowing crew come and bids on a project that i have designed and put to gether a great package and they are taking it so cheap that there is no way they made money in fact lost money and did a shitty job... ok that said there are mowing crews that do do the right numbers and do have some ICPI crew menbers or have the right know how.. but thouse are the people that are close on the bids.



i've been working in all areas of landscaping, hardscaping, and lawncare for a lot of years. I'm not just dropping mowing and starting hardscaping tomorrow with no expeirence. I bid against some large companies in my area, this year alone we installed a $20,000 job, and just sold a $50,000 patio, and a $10,000 sidewalk.

The point of my rant was that i'm shifting the focus i had on lawncare, and just concentrating on the hardscaping.

DeereHauler
09-04-2010, 12:09 PM
That's exactly what we do and it is free advertising while your trucks are sitting in the area. I just read an article that one company will give a lifetime warranty on thier builds if they get the complete maintenance contract. That way they can keep tabs on thier builds and have an additional revenue.


i bought a 24' enclosed last weekend, and my landscape foreman had a fit because its not his trailer. I'm using it for mowing, because those guys have a huge coverage area every week. The landscapers already have a 16' enclosed all lettered, and it has brought us lots of great advertisement.

My new dually gets its decals today.

jonesy5149
09-04-2010, 12:12 PM
i not saying that you had nothing in the hardscaping just make sure the price are were they need to be..... and wen you have a great name and great costumers the 20,000 job in one year turn in every other week .... also if you are putting up 50,000 patio job 5,000 sf or more i would say ur mowing is nothing with the little accounts that you said you had...

DeereHauler
09-04-2010, 02:52 PM
i not saying that you had nothing in the hardscaping just make sure the price are were they need to be..... and wen you have a great name and great costumers the 20,000 job in one year turn in every other week .... also if you are putting up 50,000 patio job 5,000 sf or more i would say ur mowing is nothing with the little accounts that you said you had...

exactly why i need to make hardscaping full time. Make the same money in a month that mowing makes in a season.

4 seasons lawn&land
09-04-2010, 07:03 PM
mowing/maint. can really help find the big jobs for what thats worth

me, I get bored doing 1 thing.

I love thats I can mow 2 days
landscape 2 days
stonework 2 days

I dont have that much stonework yet but hope to get there.

DVS Hardscaper
09-04-2010, 09:49 PM
an hour east of state college

I have a close family member that's in Huntingdon

DVS Hardscaper
09-04-2010, 10:07 PM
Ok, now onto the Hardscaping things:

First of all you mentioned "not everyone can build a home". I beg to differ on that. What makes a good home builder is no different than what makes a good widget builder. It comes down to: a) management of subs, employees, and vendors b) passion c) people skills d) following through with your promises. I don't know your dad. But I am certain your dad is succesful because he has all of those traits.......Not because he knows how to hammer a nail.


The biggest mistake I ever made was getting out of the full fledged maintenance business and going into hardscapes. Think of a car dealership. They all have service departments. The service departments are what generate the cash flow. The cash flow is what pays the indirect overhead (insurance, phone, electric, etc etc etc). If a car dealership didnt the cashflow from the service dept - they would NEVER make it.

Same goes for this industry. Cept, most guys do not realize this. Primarily due to ego, as well as lack of formal education (college, university).

One thing amazes me. Ok, we have a lawn guy turn construction guru.

Next thing you know they're laying concrete and block. Ok, well if you like the work so much then why did you not get into pouring concrete and or brick laying?? In my opinion / experience, both of those are easier than laying pavers and stacking block on the side of a cliff. What makes one go from carring a 14-pound trimmer around yards to pushing a 453# wheel-burr up a hill and lifting 74# block in the blarring sunlight on a 98-degree day?? That is mind-blowing.

I'm very good at selling hardscapes and I do it well. But - I'd much rather sell maintenance work anyday. The reason I can sell hardscapes so well is because of the passion I have for the industry. But the reality is - it's alotta work. You constantly have to sell sell sell. You NEVER get a break. You always must be on your toes busting tail to have work sold for when your current job is over. Sounds easy? Well, if you wear many hats - after a while you burn out. And when you burn out - you'll wish you only did maintenance :)

Passion is what will make or break you. An hr away from my house, a few years ago, we're going out to eat dinner after dark had set in. We're driving on the highway and there's a new shopping ctr under construction. Again it's dark outside. I was in the passanger seat. As we pass this site - my eyes pick up on a retaining wall that was just build. Again, it was dark out, far from the road. I'd bet I'm the only one (other than those that built it) that noticed it in the dark. See, I attribute that to the fact that I eat, sleep, and live hardscapes. If you watch TV and never notice a sceen where on teh corner of the screen is a sliver of pavers noticable - then you're not passionate about the industry and you'd be makin a mistake getting into it.




,

shovelracer
09-04-2010, 10:26 PM
I just read an article that one company will give a lifetime warranty on thier builds if they get the complete maintenance contract. That way they can keep tabs on thier builds and have an additional revenue.

I like that a lot. I would say even better would be the standard warranty to every job, and indefinite extensions as long as you get the full and I mean full maintenance contract. Keeps things nice and money coming in. I have contracts that started out with a 5K install and since have spent 50K on maintenance. When there are many hands on the property a lot of the time there is disrespect for items that the respective did not handle.

DVS Hardscaper
09-04-2010, 10:28 PM
Now for the state of the industry:

In 2003 I was paying inexperienced laborers $14.00 / hr.

Foremen with Class B licenses were starting at $17 - $18 / hr.


TODAY:

A guy calls me from another company in regards to employement. Tells me he is being paid $10 / hr!!!!!

Someone is advertising for hardscape crew people. I have my experienced employee call and inquire because I was wondering who was running the ad and what they were paying. My employee is over 10 yrs experinece. The guy running the ad offered him $14 / hr!

In 1999 I was averaging around $8.50 / sf to install pavers.

3 years ago I was averaging no less than $17 / SF to install pavers.

Today - a homeowner can get a nice patio built by a licensed patio contractor with ICPI Certification for around $10 / SF.

It's reality folks.

And see, not to be a big headed SOB - but there are not many of us long time veteran contractors on this board. Many folks participating here have only been in business a few short years, not realizing that they're working for not much more money than the industry was averaging in 1999.



,

nepatsfan
09-04-2010, 11:09 PM
Now for the state of the industry:

In 2003 I was paying inexperienced laborers $14.00 / hr.

Foremen with Class B licenses were starting at $17 - $18 / hr.


TODAY:

A guy calls me from another company in regards to employement. Tells me he is being paid $10 / hr!!!!!

Someone is advertising for hardscape crew people. I have my experienced employee call and inquire because I was wondering who was running the ad and what they were paying. My employee is over 10 yrs experinece. The guy running the ad offered him $14 / hr!

In 1999 I was averaging around $8.50 / sf to install pavers.

3 years ago I was averaging no less than $17 / SF to install pavers.

Today - a homeowner can get a nice patio built by a licensed patio contractor with ICPI Certification for around $10 / SF.

It's reality folks.

And see, not to be a big headed SOB - but there are not many of us long time veteran contractors on this board. Many folks participating here have only been in business a few short years, not realizing that they're working for not much more money than the industry was averaging in 1999.



,
That is the truth.....not sure about 10 bucks a square foot but damn close to it. I almost dumped maintenance about 4 years ago. Cut a lot of crap accounts out and decided to keep it just for the steady income. At the time they were more of a hassle than anything. Boy was I wrong, I am so glad we still have maintenance or I would probably be out of business.

DeereHauler
09-04-2010, 11:41 PM
Ok, now onto the Hardscaping things:

First of all you mentioned "not everyone can build a home". I beg to differ on that. What makes a good home builder is no different than what makes a good widget builder. It comes down to: a) management of subs, employees, and vendors b) passion c) people skills d) following through with your promises. I don't know your dad. But I am certain your dad is succesful because he has all of those traits.......Not because he knows how to hammer a nail.


The biggest mistake I ever made was getting out of the full fledged maintenance business and going into hardscapes. Think of a car dealership. They all have service departments. The service departments are what generate the cash flow. The cash flow is what pays the indirect overhead (insurance, phone, electric, etc etc etc). If a car dealership didnt the cashflow from the service dept - they would NEVER make it.

Same goes for this industry. Cept, most guys do not realize this. Primarily due to ego, as well as lack of formal education (college, university).

One thing amazes me. Ok, we have a lawn guy turn construction guru.

Next thing you know they're laying concrete and block. Ok, well if you like the work so much then why did you not get into pouring concrete and or brick laying?? In my opinion / experience, both of those are easier than laying pavers and stacking block on the side of a cliff. What makes one go from carring a 14-pound trimmer around yards to pushing a 453# wheel-burr up a hill and lifting 74# block in the blarring sunlight on a 98-degree day?? That is mind-blowing.

I'm very good at selling hardscapes and I do it well. But - I'd much rather sell maintenance work anyday. The reason I can sell hardscapes so well is because of the passion I have for the industry. But the reality is - it's alotta work. You constantly have to sell sell sell. You NEVER get a break. You always must be on your toes busting tail to have work sold for when your current job is over. Sounds easy? Well, if you wear many hats - after a while you burn out. And when you burn out - you'll wish you only did maintenance :)

Passion is what will make or break you. An hr away from my house, a few years ago, we're going out to eat dinner after dark had set in. We're driving on the highway and there's a new shopping ctr under construction. Again it's dark outside. I was in the passanger seat. As we pass this site - my eyes pick up on a retaining wall that was just build. Again, it was dark out, far from the road. I'd bet I'm the only one (other than those that built it) that noticed it in the dark. See, I attribute that to the fact that I eat, sleep, and live hardscapes. If you watch TV and never notice a sceen where on teh corner of the screen is a sliver of pavers noticable - then you're not passionate about the industry and you'd be makin a mistake getting into it.




,

i have no intentions of dumping my maintenance work. I have an established lawn and landscape business that currently is a large source of my income, besides our current hardscape work. After doing hardscape work i realized how much i enjoyed it, and being burnt out from riding a zero turn for so many years wasn't helping. Theres nothing i love more than to see a job, have a picture in my mind, then on paper, and create it for a customer. I also enjoy the time spent on that job, whether its a day, week, or a month. Mowing can be so impersonal, in and out. I have great customer relationships with all my customers, and spending more than an hour on a job really helps to keep customers coming back.

And to clear things up, who said i would be lugging wheel barrows in this heat? Sometimes you just need to deligate, haha.... Yes its a dirty, labor intensive job, but being able to be creative with more than just lawn stripes is a good feeling. I may not have been born with the passion for building walls, and patios, but i sure did find out that i love to do this. I'm the kind of guy that takes the hardest part of the job and dives into it. It could be that its a challenge, or because i want to know when the job is done it was done correctly, who knows. When i see pictures of jobs guys have done i mentally criticize things i see, i don't really care to point out flaws, or mistakes, i'm not some 30 year veteran to be acting like a know it all. I know i'm picky, i hate ugly careless work. I always harp on the guys about nice smooth curves, and making nice cuts.

As for seeing that wall at night, i know what you mean. I always look for these things, and i appreciate a well built job. Theres a new shopping plaza near by that has over a million dollars in walls, i could stand there for hours and just admire that they're built well, correct, and will last. I see the income potential, and believe me, i can make a great living sitting at home while my guys mow, and mulch, but thats not for me.

My wife thinks i'm nuts when the only thing on my mind is a new diamond saw, or bigger tamper. I guess at this point she just understands thats who i am.

DeereHauler
09-04-2010, 11:46 PM
Now for the state of the industry:

In 2003 I was paying inexperienced laborers $14.00 / hr.

Foremen with Class B licenses were starting at $17 - $18 / hr.


TODAY:

A guy calls me from another company in regards to employement. Tells me he is being paid $10 / hr!!!!!

Someone is advertising for hardscape crew people. I have my experienced employee call and inquire because I was wondering who was running the ad and what they were paying. My employee is over 10 yrs experinece. The guy running the ad offered him $14 / hr!

In 1999 I was averaging around $8.50 / sf to install pavers.

3 years ago I was averaging no less than $17 / SF to install pavers.

Today - a homeowner can get a nice patio built by a licensed patio contractor with ICPI Certification for around $10 / SF.

It's reality folks.

And see, not to be a big headed SOB - but there are not many of us long time veteran contractors on this board. Many folks participating here have only been in business a few short years, not realizing that they're working for not much more money than the industry was averaging in 1999.



,

i guess all that i can say is oh well. I pay my guys very fair wages. And i'm sure charging more than $10/sq.ft. to install a patio. If someone wants a cheap price, then they wont be getting me. I won't be cutting my own throat to make a buck, same goes for my lawncare and landscaping work.

shovelracer
09-05-2010, 09:25 AM
It is true that it is harder to get what we used to, some of that is absorbed in detail reduction like patterns, etc. Too bad though materials are generally up. I just wanted to add that 3 years ago there was a roadside sign that I used to see advertising $9/SF, This year that same sign says $7.50.

White Gardens
09-05-2010, 09:34 AM
It is true that it is harder to get what we used to, some of that is absorbed in detail reduction like patterns, etc. Too bad though materials are generally up. I just wanted to add that 3 years ago there was a roadside sign that I used to see advertising $9/SF, This year that same sign says $7.50.

Dang, that is way cheap.

They are probably getting box store pavers that aren't going to last very long.

nepatsfan
09-05-2010, 09:35 AM
It is true that it is harder to get what we used to, some of that is absorbed in detail reduction like patterns, etc. Too bad though materials are generally up. I just wanted to add that 3 years ago there was a roadside sign that I used to see advertising $9/SF, This year that same sign says $7.50.

That is practically cost.

jonesy5149
09-05-2010, 01:05 PM
It is true that it is harder to get what we used to, some of that is absorbed in detail reduction like patterns, etc. Too bad though materials are generally up. I just wanted to add that 3 years ago there was a roadside sign that I used to see advertising $9/SF, This year that same sign says $7.50.

that guy that puts a sign up like that is probly a handyman too... haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa this is getting out of hand. needs to be a industry standard like ICPI for all