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Repairing patio - how much should I pay?

Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by NeedPatioHelp, Aug 8, 2007.

  1. NeedPatioHelp

    NeedPatioHelp LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    ...So four years ago the wife and I buy a wonderful little 11 year old single in Bucks County, PA with a great flagstone patio in the back (2 levels, about 380 square feet total). Not sure when it was put in, but by the second year of our living there (when the house was 13 years old) the mortar in between the flagstones starts cracking and breaking off. I later found out that the flagstones were either placed without any adhesive, or they may have been glued down with an inferior, too-watery mortar mix. Those flagstones with no mortar around them can easily be lifted. Underneath is a crumbling layer of mortar (or something), on top of probably about 2" or 4" of solid (hopefully intact) concrete. So now I'm getting estimates for removing the rest of the mortar; diagramming, numbering, and taking up the flagstones; scraping out the crumbling mortar underneath to reveal the concrete base; adding 2" of fresh concrete; applying adhesive to and placing all of the flagstones back on top; and remortaring. One guy who works for a local company and spent about 20 minutes looking at the patio quotes me about $4,000. Another, who works on his own, spent a good 45 minutes, went in detail about what the job entails, came back to me with a quote of $7,100. Somethin' ain't right. I certainly don't want to get taken, but I have more confidence in the more expensive guy. Does his estimate sound way too high? The price includes only labor - I'm told that I'll have to pay extra to replace any flagstones that are taken up but break when the adhesive is applied - the flagstones are only about 3/4" thick and many have spent a year soaking in mortar mush below without any mortar in between flagstones. Access to the site is easy - level ground, grass, non-fenced-in yard, and wide - about 20 feet between houses.

    How much would you charge?
  2. NickN

    NickN LawnSite Bronze Member
    from Alabama
    Messages: 1,009

    You get what you pay for and you pay for what you get.I'd go with the higher estimate.My estimates may be high when I give them,but I'm always thinking of what could go wrong,so I allow for problems.He may be doing the same thing.If things work out better than expected,I lower the final price.
    Nothing worse than running into something unseen or unplanned for and having to ask a homeowner for more money.
  3. Humble Earth Mover

    Humble Earth Mover LawnSite Member
    Messages: 167

    You may find the difference in price to be alarming, but this is not a situation where something of a determined value is being sold by two parties and one is trying to get over. A lot of homeowners have a hard time with this concept because most services they pay for are of a somewhat pre-determined worth based on certain overall market conditions, such as a getting your oil changed, your lawn mowed or your teeth cleaned. These are cut and dry processes with generally the same equipment usage and labor involved and while prices may vary slightly, they are generally close. A job as you are describing is a completely different story. You have a pre-existing mess of a patio with with major issues and whose age is unknown and it's hard to tell what you'd be getting into until you tear it apart. You have failing mortar joints and a rotting mortar bed underneath the flagstone. Without seeing the project or knowing how old this patio is, it's hard to tell what's going on. It could just be old and you may be better off spending another 5K and getting it rebuilt so you wont have to do deal with it again in five years.

    As far as your two contractors, you have one guy who you say works for another company.....is he moonlighting, or doing the job as an employee? The other works for himself....will he be doing the work himself? Did both contractors offer solutions for the repair, or did you tell them how you wanted it done as you described in your post? Where did you get your experience in masonry? Who told you to take up the flagstone and add 2" of fresh concrete and use adhesive to glue them down? (That's just plain silly!) Are either contractors willing to guarantee their work? Do you have a picture of the patio?

    Like I said, as a contractor, you never know what you are getting into. I personally wouldn't offer any warranty of more than a year on something that I didn't personally pour the footer. If I were you, I would stop thinking you know what it takes to repair this patio, or how much it should cost and let a pro handle it. Go with the guy you feel will take his time and do it right. Stone masonry involves attention to detail and craftsmanship and usually when you pay a higher premium, you get a better product. If you ask me, $7,100 sounds more than fair.......a lot less than I would've charged you. $4K is laughable, IMO.
  4. NeedPatioHelp

    NeedPatioHelp LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    At least I feel a little more comfortable about the price difference... I'm the first to admit that I know nothing about the materials, methods or craftsmanship that go into masonry work. Don't for a second think that I'm some DIYer that stood there in front of the estimators with my arms folded dictating "what needs to be done" to repair my patio! Quite the opposite - I stood quietly and took notes while the estimators told me what was involved (my earlier e-mail was an attempt to summarize those notes!)

    HEM, the comment in your message of ..."You have a pre-existing mess of a patio with with major issues and whose age is unknown and it's hard to tell what you'd be getting into until you tear it apart. You have failing mortar joints and a rotting mortar bed underneath the flagstone. Without seeing the project or knowing how old this patio is, it's hard to tell what's going on."... is practically word-for-word what the more expensive guy (the one I like, who I confirmed early on that HE will be doing the work personally) told me. That's what impressed me over those that just quoted a price. It was only after this guy took up a few stones, ripped some of the adjoining grass to guesstimate how deep the current concrete bed is, etc. that he had some idea what the job entailed. How'd the other guys know what needed to be done just by poking at a couple of the stones?

    Also, HEM, different estimators had different things to say about on what the stones are (or should) be placed. I live in an area that gets very hot in the summer (patio is under direct sunlight most of the day), and quite cold in winter... on a concrete bed, should the stones be laid on a layer of sand, or should they be mortared in place, or what? I was hearing different things, but I'm not sure if it was in the context of "what it looks like was done by the original builder" versus "what should be done". I'm under the impression that sand wouldn't work because rainwater and snow melt will have no place to drain as it seeps underneath the stones. Am I totally off base (I'm clueless obviously)?

    I shouldn't have said that stones would be set with "adhesive" in my last message - I believe the idea is that the stones would be mortared onto the concrete below to prevent movement and buckling of the mortar joints due to temp changes. Does that make more sense, or does possible cracking of the stones over time become an issue in that case?

    My damn digital camera is busted, so unfortunately I can't upload pix at the moment...

    Any commentary is most appreciated!
  5. Humble Earth Mover

    Humble Earth Mover LawnSite Member
    Messages: 167

    That makes more sense. Sorry to jump down your throat....it was the word adhesive that was making me think of glue. He's going to have to pull up the flagstone, clean it real well and reset and level on a bed of mortar. I'm not sure the level of rework that needs done to the existing concrete. Is this a raised patio? There is a good bit of labor involved in taking up the stones, cleaning, stacking and then relaying the existing pattern. That's why repair can sometimes cost more than the original cost. Again, 4K sounds way low considering.

    I guess as contractors we get real sick and tired of having it always come down to price. Although cost is important, I think references, warranty, examples of work, professionalism, etc. should be considered first. I'm sure every contractor on here gets a few dozen calls a year to go and repair work where the homeowner went with the lowest price.
  6. zedosix

    zedosix LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,665

    I just finished repairing a walkway that was built mid 80's. What we did was remove the flagstone pieces, remove the decayed 1" bed of mortar, cleaned the concrete pad, reset the pieces on 1" flexbond cemet mixed with a bonding agent. After this we waited a day and did the joints with a parging mix also mixed with a bonding agent. Looks great and should stand the test of time for another decade or so. In total my bill is 1400 dollars for approx. 70sq.ft. One man 2.5 days. Oh and it was more of a favor than anything, it was done for an older gentleman friend of the family. I normally would of charged 20% more.

    I think the $7100 is fair price for the job.
  7. Humble Earth Mover

    Humble Earth Mover LawnSite Member
    Messages: 167

    Good advice! What mix do you use for parging and what bonding agent do you prefer? I always use bonding agent for vertical veneer work, but not on flatwork. I'll have to give it a try.
  8. Mike33

    Mike33 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,649

    I dont do patios but srw's. Reading the revious posts there was some good comments. Its very hard to estimate a repair much easier to estimate an exact new project. 1 thing the technology on these things is so much better now than it has ever been. The first install could of been the homeowner and his buddies doing it with out no knowledge. I think you can find a contact in your area that would reccomend a contractor who is experinced in this and get estimates. I know no one likes to spend money like this but sometimes what is is.
  9. Team-Green L&L

    Team-Green L&L LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,775

    The labor that is required for repair is much more extensive and, all to often, a customer has the costs of a fresh install floating in their head as a base price for a repair. I don't blame them though...after spending $5000 on a poorly laid patio and then being quoted $7000-$7500 for a full repair how could you not be "sticker-shocked". Hardscaping could stand a higher profit-value IMO, but that will require better quality control and that's a whole other thread.

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