adding hardscape to lawn service

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by scagwildcat, Nov 30, 2005.

  1. scagwildcat

    scagwildcat LawnSite Senior Member
    from nw. ct.
    Messages: 507

    ive been landscaping for 6 years now, im at the point where im thinking that mowing lawns doesnt cut the mustard so to speak, i would like to start installing small retaining walls or raised beds using blocks, i have done it in the past, both for myself and family/friends, but ive never gotten paid for it as a service offered to a client, i was wondering if it was a possible venture for one person to do both? also what would i need as far as tools ? i have most tools needed, but a skid steer, and a plate compactor, i just wanted to do small walls, kind of use it as fill in work when the lawns die out in the summer........ thanks for your advise............
  2. Kohls Landscaping Co

    Kohls Landscaping Co LawnSite Member
    Messages: 188

    Start out with lining up some smaller jobs and work your way up. Don't let not owning the right equipment stop you. You should be able to rent any piece of equipment you need from a rental yard. Just make sure that the customer is paying for the equipment.
    Also, I'd recommend taking on jobs in the summer/fall if you're swamped in the spring with mowing. That way if a job takes longer your not going over on rental fees compared to what you bid the job out at.

    Typical tools for retaining walls would include:
    Some sort of plate compactor
    Cut off saw
    excavating equipment
  3. cedarcroft

    cedarcroft LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 442

    I have been on my own for only one year. I cut grass 3 days, and do side work the other three and usually don't work sunday (except lately). I have doen several stacked stone walls and decorative type stuff. I am currently involved in a ridiculous 10' retaining wall that I have a expert wall builder with me on. If I can offer any suggestion, I would say to stick with the small aesthetic walls and hardscapes and see how that goes first and then expand into larger stuff. I sub out patios etc and my only request (besides a %) is that I can help and learn with the mason. I have learned a tremendous amount this way with little risk of effing somebodies patio up. so the bottom line is do planter walls and non critical stuff and find a mason willing to let you labor with him on more difficult stuff until you learn. that is my humble suggestion as a relative newcomer in a similar position.
    good luck.
  4. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,637

    Hardscaping is a whole different monster than mowing grass.

    Involves a knack for detail. Knack for craftsmanship. geo-technical engineering knowledge. civil engineering knowledge. Construction knowledge, skills, and know how. its extremely physical work.

    If you have all those traits, then give it a try.

    If you dont have all them traits, you may wanna not get involved.

    I am always reading how mowin folk wanna venture into hardscapes. nothin wrong with that. As long as you understand its construction work more than it is landscape work. Sure they all wanna start small. but then in a matter of months they're trying patios with steps and the steps dont even meet building codes! Lotsa little tiny logistics that accompny the work :)

    Are YOU up for it!
  5. scagwildcat

    scagwildcat LawnSite Senior Member
    from nw. ct.
    Messages: 507

    thanks guys, you all have pointed out things that ive been thinking about, i thought i was just worried but ,atleast im thinking of the right things...i do have a mason friend that is willing to show me the ropes, he said that he would do it with me as partners, for a while as he is gettinig ready to retire from being a mason, he has been doing it for 20 years and is also a paid fireman, he said that he has had enough of working up high, and wants do work on the ground doing small jobs , we each would be using our own tools, i would be working for him as a sub, and we would just split the profit, so in a way we are partners, but were not, if you know what i mean..i just dont want to get in over my head..... i only do what i know how to do, nothing else!!!!!
  6. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,637

    I'm always reading how guys wanna "add this service" or "add that service".


    Why not just add onto what you're already doing??

    If you mow, and have 100 lawns, why not add another hundred and focus on one thing?

    Pavers = patios! Duh!

    Why is no lawn guys one doing poured concrete patios? they are so much easier. All around easier.

    Yet, seems no one has thought bout that!

    They rather install pavers. Twice the work. Twice the competition. And then they find out 12 months later, its not for them.

    just things to consider.
  7. cedarcroft

    cedarcroft LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 442

    personally, I cut grass for the sole purpose of getting more install and construction jobs. If all goes well, I would like to cut no grass at all within the next 7-10 years. For now, it keeps me and my guys busy 3 days a week and allows me to be in front of customers and their neighbors. this has translated into plenty of work for me and I assume it will continue as long as I provide good service and quality work. as for the masonry and hardscapes, I am happy subbing it to the professionals until my business warrants a full time mason crew. until then I will learn as much as I can. Anyone else looking to get into it should do the same. LEARN. as for poured patios, that doesn't fly around here. everyone is looking to keep up with the Joneses and the Jones family has beautiful paver patios or bluestone, not concrete. The local methadone clinic has a poured slab in the back for guys to smoke cigarettes and play c-lo on. nobody wants to keep up with that. :p
  8. AztlanLC

    AztlanLC LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,051

    Start by going to school or at least take the course. you will learn a good deal about base and compaction which are the 2 main aspects of building patios and small retaining walls.

    Also start with small jobs with not many cuts, or go to and watch the interactive course the landscaper LOL, make sure you learn from trustee sources, it took me couple years to finally have some undestanding of doing things the right way, and continue learning everyday
  9. Jimbo046

    Jimbo046 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 46

    I agree with DVS I have a degree in landscape/nursery from PSU. I still do alot of landscape desgin/installs we don't cut grass. We are going over 50% hardscaping now I have always been in the contruction industries, have a very good understanding of soils, and understand engineering very well. my uncle is a VP of a Civil engineering firm and brother is a 4th year civil student I think most poeple in my family would ask me how to build something before either of them :) Don't under estimate what it takes to build a small garden wall, i've seen many many more of them fall down than 5-6' high walls becasue poeple take them for granted, you have to factor in so many things when building any wall. The biggest thing I see unquailfied contractors doing is selling poeple things they don't need. I use the word garden wall too but I don't like it. If you need a retaining wall we will design and build you a retaining wall if you need extra seating we can build a seating wall both functional applications of segmental retaining wall units. But to see a wall in the middle of a yard with flowers around it reminds me of guy down the street with one section of fence in the middle of his yard???? WHy?? You didn't give your customer more living space, address a drainage issue, or add value to the property. We are landscape contractors not exterior decorators. Good materials poor workmanship is also an issue. I respect the guy with the 21" mower in the back of his mini van if he plays by the rules of business, as much as anygrass mowing company on here that does as well. I just don't see the line of progression from cutting someones grass to putting in a garden wall anymore than cutting grass then paving driveways or painting their house? And since i'm on a role here why do poeple think they need a mason? I have never met a mason that knew a 1/3 of what I know about retaining walls. Just like I don't know a 1/3 of what a good mason knows. I have a mason that works for me parttime and he is 12 years older than me and fairly easy to train to do Hardscaping because of similarities in techniques but dry laid and mortared systems are very different. we just tore down a wall (masonary) that was going to cost a customer $6,000.00 he paid the guy $4,000.00 the wall was up for 3 weeks and after a 1 inch rain over about 8 hours had the wall pushed passed verticle (means it would have fallin over this winter). We Designed and built a retaining wall with geogrid that cost the customer $24,900.00 A very big difference, and the guy that built the walls pours concrete for a living??? how did he think he could do walls?? The customer was so impressed with our knowledge, and how much time I spent explaining to him what was required that we have plans for more work in the spring. The customer sells cell phones for a living but now knows twice as much about retaining wall as does the concrete guy. Good Luck Jim

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