Where did you get hardscape training?

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by New2TheGreenIndustry, Dec 1, 2012.

  1. CowboysLawnCareDelaware

    CowboysLawnCareDelaware LawnSite Senior Member
    from DE
    Messages: 560

    I am also interested in learning about where the best places are to be certified for hardscaping. I have found that the ICPI looks like one of the more popular companies.

    I've been told that not only are pine needles cheap, they are better at preventing weeds than mulch.

  2. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    Just download an Ap.

    The best experience you can get is by working for a long time for others who are very good at what they do. These days too many people go into business and then try to learn. It is not impossible, but ..... all of the things we see that we can't believe someone got paid to do are the proof that it often does not work out.

    Apprentice is no longer in the dictionary, it seems.
  3. Ben Bowen

    Ben Bowen LawnSite Bronze Member
    from PNW
    Messages: 1,182

    If you want to install man made materials such as pavers then taking a course is great. You will still have to learn a lot by experience.

    If you want to work with natural stone you probably need to work with someone else. It takes years to be really good with stone. That's why we employ a mason :)
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  4. meets1

    meets1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,857

    Practice. Get a few smal jobs. Read material info. Talk with suppliers. Maybe talk with other landscapers. I didn't have any learning info. Started along time ago. First job we re-rocked a house. I didn't no anything. Called local pit, need a truck load of 2 inch rock. They unloaded 18 ton at end of driveway. Wheel barrel, sand shovel, 100 degrees. I have learned a thing or to since those early years.
  5. jbell36

    jbell36 LawnSite Bronze Member
    from KANSAS
    Messages: 1,416

    there are courses...talk to your local hardscape supplier, ours does a lot of courses in the winter, usually a one day all day deal...ur on the right track also with the icpi, there is another one as well but forget what it is right now, these courses are overrated for sure but it's not like you won't learn anything...it's also nice to have the icpi certification strictly because it sounds good/professional, doesn't necessarily mean sh!t though...like others said, experience is a must, but these courses will get you started...i'm by no means a professional in hardscaping but am further along than i was years ago, and what i needed was this beginners course, i literally had no knowledge of how anything was done...they will show you the basics and let you know what tools you need, how deep to dig, packing material, etc...
  6. CowboysLawnCareDelaware

    CowboysLawnCareDelaware LawnSite Senior Member
    from DE
    Messages: 560

    Thank you for the response, I was too busy this weekend with everyone wanting their leaved picked up at the last second. I will stop over to my local supplier in the middle of this week.

    The ICPI two day course cost $350 for non-members, $250 for members so i will most likely do that, I believe the January 13th/14th classes will work best for me and they are the closest. If my local supplier has a certification, that would be just as good to me.

  7. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    A lot of what I learned was by trial and error. And I knew that learning that way it would take more time to do the jobs, because we were learning and we'd have to redo things or it might go slowly since we weren't as familiar. So at first, I only took on very small projects, so that if it went sideways, I couldn't loose too much money spending more time to make it right. So first step is only take on very small jobs and use those are your training.

    Below is a photo of the very first paver patio we did in-house. It isn't much. Just a simple rectangle but it was okay for our first attempt and we learned a lot. After that turned out fairly well, we felt more confident doing a little larger patio. The next one we took on was a little larger. Then another one a little larger. Then we started doing a little larger patios with curves in them. Then after a while started learning how to do steps with pavers. You just go slowly and learn a little as you go. Don't take on projects that are too far outside your comfort zone.

    One thing that helped is that for jobs that I felt were way too large for us or outside our comfort zone, I would sub-contract those out to another contractor who was good at those. Then we'd be doing the landscaping around the patio or wall he was building but we'd be watching him and his crew the whole time - picking up tips and tricks of the trade the entire time. After a while, my guys came to me and said, "Jim. I think we could do this. You don't need to use that subcontractor anymore. We can figure this stuff out." So I still kept on using the sub for larger projects but for smaller projects I'd give those to my crews and the better they did, the bigger projects I'd give them.

    You can learn a lot from your supplier too. Maybe you've figure out how to lay a paver patio but you can't figure out how to build the steps going up to it and make it look right. Go to your paver supplier and they'll be glad to help you figure out that. They can show you schematics, photos, examples, sometimes even come out and help you get it started. Choose a local hardscape supplier, find out who the outside sales rep. is, have lunch with him, get to know him, and then use his knowledge as you get jobs. He can be a huge resource for you.

    Then the final place you can learn a lot is online forums. We have a hardscape forum here on lawnsite. You can learn a lot by posting your photos as you do jobs but you have to be aware that there are plenty of jerks in there. Sort of like the guy in this thread who keeps criticizing you because of the mulch you use in your area. Nothing wrong with using that stuff if that's what's common in your area. But there are plenty of Jackasses who think that because a certain practice isn't done in their area, that it shouldn't be done anywhere. You're going to get a LOT of rude guys spouting off their strong opinions in the hardscape forum here. There are other hardscape forums around the internet that are much more polite too. But online forums are great places to learn, if you can take all of the crap they throw at you.

    Finally, just look around at your competitor's websites, websites of guys here on lawnsite, do google searches, etc. Get familiar with how other hardscape contractors have done jobs and you can pick up a lot of ideas that way as well.

    It's actually a lot less difficult than you think. I remember just 6 years ago we were doing our first paver patio and we didn't do a lot of other hardscape work at that time either. Today, it's probably the single biggest thing we do. We are doing at least one big hardscape job every week of the year. During the busy season, we're doing 3 or 4 sometimes. Once we started to figure it out, it wasn't that hard. And our workers love hardscape work compared to landscape and irrigation installs too. So it's been a good thing that we pressed on and learned it. You can do that too. Just start small and work your way up. Good luck!

    Paver Patio After B.jpg
  8. cutman2000

    cutman2000 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 218

    Good job New2TheGreenIndustry!
  9. dieselfuel

    dieselfuel LawnSite Member
    Messages: 114

    This brings up the point about any employee who is great at his job, who gets frustrated as he knows he is making the boss the money. So then he quits to start his own business. He is the best at his work, say he is a trim carpenter. Well he is now on his own to make the money for himself - but he can't get clients and doesn't know how to use a computer to run a business, etc. So eventually his business fails and he goes back to work for his old boss.

    Then there are the guys who just happen to be good at business. They might not know jack about how to install crown molding, but they can line up the job and the next 10 jobs and balance the cash flow and remain profitable, etc. And they will hire the employee above to do reputable work for his company.

    Everyone has to find the balance between working with someone else for a few years, then starting a business while they are still continuing to learn.

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