getting into hardscaping

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by B16bri, Sep 20, 2013.

  1. B16bri

    B16bri LawnSite Member
    Messages: 101

    Hey guys if you owned a business and didn't have much experience with hardscaping but eventually wanted to offer those services such as paver patios or paver drive ways, concrete work weather it be stairs or walk ways or even asphalt repairs/ installs basically be able to do all type of masonary and excavation work how would you teach yourself or what would be the best way to learn the do and don'ts so you can feel comfortable enough to offer it to your customers ?
  2. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,793

    If you want to do all that you need to
    Go work for someone else for 10 years
    Posted via Mobile Device
  3. B16bri

    B16bri LawnSite Member
    Messages: 101

    I understand that would be the best way but considering I work 40+ hours at a different job and have a small business on the side that i'm looking to grow. There has to be a way there's got to be a lot of people who started out small and expanded there business buy learning new skills
  4. wat5150

    wat5150 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 19

    Hire someone experienced to work with you. That may be tough to do at this point but its hard to learn something like hardscaping or concrete without the help of someone experienced.
  5. alldayrj

    alldayrj LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,793

    youtube videos on your phone at work
  6. B16bri

    B16bri LawnSite Member
    Messages: 101

    Lol I watch a ton of YouTube videos at work. I have a general idea of how things are done but I'm no were close to being confident enough to tackle a job. Hireing an experienced helper is a good idea I just need to make sure he actually knows what he's doing and not just blowing smoke however being the owner I would take pride in knowing I could get the job done any other ideas how to learn
    Posted via Mobile Device
  7. JB1

    JB1 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,904

    Go get a couple pallets of blocks or pavers and go to work in your back yard.
  8. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    First of all, you discussed a lot of different specialties there. Pavers, Concrete Flat Work, Stone Masonry, Asphalt. Those are all very different an specialized items. I don't know too many companies that do all those different things and are good at them. Most people specialize in just one or two of those items. So I think you're getting a little over-ambitious here. If you think you're going to learn all those trades on your own, over time, I think you're mistaken. Some of those items (like stone masonry, especially) take people decades to really get good at.

    There are basically four ways you can learn a craft in this industry, in my experience.

    First, is you learn by doing things yourself. Start very small at first. My first paver patio that we did, in-house, was a small 10' x 12' patio. And yah, we f*d it up first time. But it was small. So we were able to pull it all up, learn what we did wrong, and do it again. Next one was a very small pathway and small patio. F*d that one up too. But we took apart the area that was messed up and re-did it. Learned a lot on that one too. Even before all this, we had sub-contracted a lot of paver work and had been watching our sub quite a bit, how he did it. But basically, we learned as we went, and started very small. If jobs were bigger than something very small, I would just continue to sub those out to a paver specialist we knew. But for the very small ones, we started taking them on ourselves. Then a little bigger, a little bigger, a little more complicated, etc. and just grew from there. Eventually, over a year or two, we were doing all paver work in-house and no longer using the sub.

    Second way is to learn from your sub-contractors. If you cannot do something, just sub it out. We were constantly getting requests for full landscaping projects that included, for instance: sod lawn, irrigation system, plants and trees, and a paver patio. Well, we couldn't do the paver patio. But we had plenty of experience with the other items. So I'd get a quote from a paver expert for the patio portion, mark it up 20-30%, and then submit my proposal. When we won the job, I'd sub out the pavers to that guy and we'd be out in the yard doing the rest. But we were always keeping an eye on the steps he the process worked. Learning by watching.

    Third way is to learn from your employees. I've often hired employees who had more hands-on experience in something than I did. I might be decent at selling and even knowing how pavers should be installed, but I hadn't done a lot myself. But I was able to find workers who HAD done a lot of them with other companies they had worked for. So I was able to learn from them, a little. The part about this that you have to be cautious of is that often times your workers may have picked up some bad habits at these other companies. So you have to be sure that YOU know how it's supposed to be done, even if it's just information you learned by book, video, ICPI classes, etc.That way you can watch them, learn from them, but also make sure that if you see them doing something that you know isn't a good practice, you can correct them.

    A fourth way is training classes. So for pavers, for instance, there are some good classes you can take from suppliers or other organizations - like ICPI. For the other crafts you mentioned, it's a lot harder to find classes for that kind of stuff.

    If I were you, I'd start with pavers, block, etc. and focus on that area of hardscape. For one, it's one of the best sellers anyway. We don't get many requests for concrete or asphalt. And we're starting to get more requests for stone masonry. But by far the thing that people in our area are requesting the most is paver patios, block seat walls, etc. And fortunately, this is a little easier to learn, IMO, than concrete or stone masonry is.

    For the other items you want to be able to do (stone masonry, concrete, asphalt) just sub those out for now, until you find a day when you feel comfortable trying it yourself. Nothing wrong with using subs. Just make sure they are good at what they do and leave you enough room to profit from it too. I'd say at least 90% of the biggest landscape/hardscape companies in our area sub-contract stuff at least some of the time. Standard practice. You cannot be good at everything. But you're still the general contractor for the entire job. And if you can make 20-30% profit on top of what a sub charges you, that's probably as good or better profit than you'd make doing it yourself anyway.

    Hope that helps.
  9. Red Shed Landscaping

    Red Shed Landscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 183

    Exactly as Jim Lewis said.

    I started by working a full time job and doing projects after work. They were small jobs at first and practiced at my parents house doing a couple walkways. I have made many, many mistakes but have learned from them. Design mistakes are easy to make and learning about function and aesthetics of a landscape takes lots of time to learn. I think there is always something on every job I would have done differently.
  10. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,619

    Blah blah blah.

    So you want to get into an industry with cut throat prices and high overhead?

    You want to spend all your evening meeting with home owners for dead end leads?

    You want to spend your evenings doing designs for free and not land the job?

    You want the headaches of employees that really do not care About pavers and block and they don't care about you?

    Are you prepared for the summer vacation slowdown that the Hardscape industry usually undergoes the last 2 weeks of July and 1st 2 weeks of August?

    Seriously, I don't even want my own kid to be involved in hardscapes. There's better ways to make a living.
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