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Tag Archives: Outdoor Hardscaping

5 Steps to Repaving After a Structural Repair

This article is a guest post, courtesy of Apex Waterproofing Inc. in Arlington, Virginia.

resizedimage250333 Gaffney Aberdeen 225x300 5 Steps to Repaving After a Structural Repair

Example of a Slab Installation

Home foundation repair is one of the biggest things so few of us are really mindful of. Who thinks about the foundation of their home failing? It’s a little bit like a sinkhole just opening up and swallowing you while you’re walking down the street. We all believe our foundation will be fine … until it’s not.

When an incident happens, the thought can be to just fix your home at whatever cost. Totally ignoring a lingering problem is a bad idea; so is just running around with a spigot full of money to fix problems you may not need to.

There are three important questions you should ask yourself first:

  • Is home foundation repair something that is covered in one of my insurance policies?
  • How deep am I going to need to go in order to ensure that this repair is effective?
  • Is this repair something small enough that I could do it myself?

Of course these and so many more questions are likely swirling around your brain. Don’t fret, though: Here are 5 steps to remember when you’re thinking of repaving and making an earnest structural repair in your home.

Continue reading

How Much Should My Paver Patio Cost? – Guest Post

CKC Pool Deck How Much Should My Paver Patio Cost?   Guest PostThe home remodeling or improvement project that adds the most value to your home, behind only kitchen and bathroom renovations, is creating an inviting and functional hardscaped outdoor living space. If you have done work on your home recently, or if you are budgeting for an upcoming project, chances are you’ve searched the web for average project costs. Quite a few websites offer price ranges, most of which are loosely based on formulas, costs in your region, and average industry labor costs. Some even offer the dreaded “price per square foot” estimate that can leave you with more questions than answers.

When reviewing these websites, I found them to be severely lacking in both the information each provided, and the information each requested. They asked only for my zip code and the square footage (SF) of the patio. That’s it. Based solely on these two questions, I was given estimates ranging from $6 per SF to $15 per SF – not a helpful or informative range. No website asked me for my soil type and none seemed to care about the access to my property and to the project area (maybe they could just carry 50 tons of stone through my 3′ fence gate).

They didn’t specify, so I was left wondering if all paver types and styles cost the same. I also hope the fact that my yard drops 2 feet from one side of the house to the other side will not be a problem. In short, I was left with quite a few questions. Are there any special considerations because I am in a new home? What if I don’t want a square patio? Where will all of the runoff water go? What about adding steps, walls, stone pillars, or a fire feature? Do I need to worry about permits?

The bottom line is that dozens of questions need to be considered when budgeting and planning for your paver patio project. Only a qualified hardscape contractor is equipped to look at all the factors that affect price, functionality, and the feasibility of your dream outdoor oasis. An experienced, accredited contractor builds 50 or more projects like yours annually. He or she will determine what makes your project unique. And what makes your project unique will influence the price – never accept a generic estimate that is drawn up on a “price per square foot” basis. You want a unique project, so demand a unique design and a detailed price. Continue reading

Cutting Concrete Pavers: Rough Cut Techniques

Cutting concrete pavers is not difficult, but it does require special equipment and a certain level of skill to ensure that your hardscaping project turns out right. There are several methods for cutting. Read the article: Cutting Concrete Pavers: Overview for more general information. This article focuses on two methods which leave a rough edge to the cut paver:

  1. Hammer and Chisel
  2. Block or Paver Splitter

1.   Hammer & Chisel

Hammer & chisel is the simplest and most inexpensive method for a few cuts. Simply score the paver along a cut line using sharp but light blows. By repeatedly tapping along the same cut line, the paver will eventually snap leaving a rough cut.

Advantages: Inexpensive, rough finish, ease of use.

Disadvantages: Slow, non-precise rough cuts, possible breakage.

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Rough Cut Techniques Cutting Concrete Pavers: Rough Cut Techniques

2.  Block Splitter

A block splitter is basically a large mechanical chisel or guillotine cutter. By using the leverage of a long handle, you can easily “snap” a paver, wall block or wall cap leaving a rough finished edge.  Block splitters generally can snap material up to 6” thick. This is a great tool to use for creating corner wall blocks or caps where the cut side will be visible. Most hardscaping project contractors will use splitters when building walls to help create finished corner pieces.

Advantages: Ease of use, inexpensive to rent, attractive finishing tool, can cut on project.

Disadvantages: Non-precision cutting, must cut at least 2” to get “straight” cut.

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Rough Cut Techniques Cutting Concrete Pavers: Rough Cut Techniques

Cutting Concrete Pavers: Smooth Cut Techniques

Cutting concrete pavers is not difficult, but it does require special equipment and a certain level of skill. There are several methods for cutting. Read the article: Cutting Concrete Pavers: Overview for more general information.

This article focuses on four methods which leave a smooth edge to the cut paver:

  1. Circular Saw with Masonry or Diamond Blade

  2. Table Concrete Saw

  3. Gas Powered Cut Off Saw

  4. Grinder with Masonry or Diamond Wheel.

1.   Circular Saw

A circular saw will make cutting more than a few pavers much easier than rough cut techniques. Note you will need to equip your saw with a masonry or diamond blade. Start by making a pass with the saw at ½” depth. Make additional passes increasing the depth of the blade each time.

Advantages: Inexpensive, faster than hammer/chisel, tool readily available, more precise.

Disadvantages: Slow for large amount of cuts, only works on 2” or thinner material.

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Smooth Cut Techniques Cutting Concrete Pavers: Smooth Cut Techniques

2.   Table Saw

If the job requires a lot of cutting, consider renting a table top concrete saw. Concrete saws are readily available at most rental facilities for approximately $70-80 per day. Tabletop concrete saws make precise, fast cuts for most pavers and wall caps. Most saws are also equipped with water pumps which will spray the paver with water while making the cut to help control dust and prolong the life of the diamond blade. Cutting can be done without using water, but will be quite dusty if water is not used.

Advantages: Fast, easy to use, precise cutting, minimizes dust.

Disadvantages: Need to rent, usually only good for 3” thick cuts or less, can be messy, need electrical hook up.

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Smooth Cut Techniques3.  Gas Powered Cut Off Saw:

A gas powered cut off saw will easily cut through any size paver, wall block or wall cap. While this powerful saw is fairly easy to use, it is somewhat heavy and takes a strong back if doing more than a few cuts. Because of the weight, holding the saw along the desired cut line can be difficult making bad cuts which require recutting common. Cut off saws can be difficult to start, so you should always have the rental company test it to ensure it works before leaving the store.

Advantages: Portable, powerful, maximum cutting depth, great for “in place” cutting.

Disadvantages: Loud and dusty, heavy, higher percentage of bad cuts, can be hard to start.

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Smooth Cut Techniques

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Smooth Cut Techniques

Cutting Concrete Pavers: Overview

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: OverviewCutting concrete pavers is not difficult, but it does require special equipment and a certain level of skill. One or two cuts can be done easily with a hammer and chisel or a circular saw equipped with a masonry or diamond blade. If a large amount of cutting is required it may be easier to rent a more powerful piece of equipment such as a table top concrete saw or a gas powered cut off saw. This specialized cutting equipment can be rented by the day or week at most rental centers.

Types of Cutting Tools:

  1. Hammer/Mallet and Chisel/Brickset

  2. Block or Paver Splitter

  3. Circular Saw with Masonry or Diamond Blade

  4. Table Concrete Saw

  5. Gas Powered Cut Off Saw

  6. Grinder with Masonry or Diamond Wheel

For more information on the differences between these tools, see the articles on Cutting: Rough Cut or Cuttting: Smooth Cut.

When using power equipment, you should always take safety into consideration and the use of safety equipment is a must. Safety equipment includes:

  • Safety Glasses

  • Hearing Protection

  • Dust Mask

  • Gloves

Finishing Technique:

Note that most cutting will leave a very clean cut line. Most pavers have a tumbled or chamfered edge and the clean cut line will be very noticeable. Using a hammer or scrap piece of paver, you can “chink” or tumble the edge to give a more finished look. Roughing up this clean edge will make a huge difference in the overall appearance of the project.

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Overview Cutting Concrete Pavers: Overview

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Overview Cutting Concrete Pavers: Overview

Disposal, Dust and Advice:

  • Cutting pavers can be a very dusty, messy experience. You may want to set up a cutting area away from the project and your house to keep dust cleanup as easy as possible. Also take notice of which way the wind is blowing and how the dust will affect your neighbors.

  • Disposal of the scrap concrete left after cutting can be a challenge. In Phoenixville, Cedar Hollow Recycling will take your concrete waste and recycle it for other uses for a nominal charge. If you are not in the Phoenixville area, check your local phone book for waste disposal.

  • If a lot of cutting is necessary for your project, make sure to order extra material (5-15% is typical).  Please note that not all materials are returnable.  Understand what you distributors policy is on returns before ordering material.  If the material is non-returnable, you may want to under order and pick up more material when needed. Be careful…some special order colors or slow moving product may not be readily available and you may have to wait if you need more material.

  • For curved cuts, consider using a border material. Most projects (especially curved walkways or patios) will look much more finished when full pieces are used as a border.

 Cutting Concrete Pavers: Overview

Selecting Materials for Hardscaping Projects: The Color RED

NaturalStonePavers1 201301151 150x150 Selecting Materials for Hardscaping Projects: The Color REDAs a supplier of both manufactured and natural stone pavers, segmental walls, and related products, we help homeowners select hardcaping project material every day.  It doesn’t matter whether the customer is a Do-It-Yourself-er or using a professional contractor, the decision process involves the same set of issues.  And color is always a major decision.

When planning a new patio, sidewalk, or other outdoor living environment enhancement, homeowners usually look first at the colors in their home.  Options get quickly narrowed down to complement or match strategies and many beautiful options are always available.

However, the decision tends to become much more difficult when the existing environment features the color red.  For any shopper who has ever tried to find a red blouse or shirt to match the red in another piece of clothing, the issue is obvious.  Reds don’t match.

All grays blend.  You can always find a brown that will complement another brown. But not reds.  Reds are blue or orange or pink or purple.  The variety in shades of red is endless.

If you have red siding, red shutters, red shingles, red brick veneer, look for grays, browns or a gray brown blend.  Unless you get amazingly lucky, a new red will clash.NaturalStonePavers 201301151 150x150 Selecting Materials for Hardscaping Projects: The Color RED

If you have manufactured red pavers or walls and you want more red, use the same color from the same manufacturer.  But check to make sure the formula for the color of that hardscaping project material has not changed since you installed your existing project.

Manufacturers of concrete pavers make reds that are designed to look good with clay brick.  And once in a while, the combination works.  But, not often.  If you think you see a product that will work for you, take a color sample home before making your final decision.

HardscapingTM  is a registered trademark of EP Henry Company.

Paver Patios & Planning for Spring Clean Up

In eastern Pennsylvania, we are all tired of winter and snow even though February is only two weeks old. So, while dreaming of sitting on your beautiful paver patio and enjoying spring weather, what planning can you do to optimize this seasonal experience?

One wonderful advantage of a manufactured, interlocking paver patio is extremely low maintenance. Whether your patio is made by EP Henry, Techo-Bloc, CST or any other high quality manufacturer, pavers made from dense concrete are durable. Only two potential maintenance issues need to be considered each spring: cleaning and joint repair.

outdoor fireplace ledgestone veneer Paver Patios & Planning for Spring Clean Up

Paver Patio

Cleaning. If colorful vegetation falls on your patio potentially leaving stains, or you cook out and occasionally spill offensive materials (like grease), or your children decided the patio was a great place to do a school project that resulted in “oops”, you may need to clean the surface. Most environmental debris can be cleaned off with only water, or a power washer. If the stains are a bit more intense, mild cleaners such as Techniseal™ Hardscape Cleaner will work. If truly severe, the stains may require specialized cleaners for paint, grease, etc.

If your patio was new in 2010, you might be waiting for “new paver” efflorescence to dissipate. Efflorescence is a white film which sometimes appears on concrete pavers. It is a salt-based residue left during the curing (drying) of the concrete pavers. Salt does not bind into concrete so when there is salt in a raw material used to make concrete, e.g., sand, it will be released while the concrete is setting leaving the film. Normally, this will wear off in time. But when the environment is very damp, e.g., record snowfall, the natural disappearance of efflorescence may take longer than you are willing to wait. In this case, you may want to clean off any remaining efflorescence. This is done with a professional-grade cleaner. Several manufacturers make specialized cleaning agents which are available at your local landscape supply dealer.

Joint Repair. If the joints between your patio pavers are filled with compacted sand, a hard winter will erode some of that fill. When you can see the joints again (in other words, when the snow melts), fill low spots with sand. Joints are usually filled with concrete sand; however, it your pavers have very tight joints, playsand is finer and will be easier to brush in. If your patio was finished with polymeric sand, i.e., sand mixed with chemicals that cause the compound to become permanently hard, you should not need repairs. However, if you shoveled frequently, especially a paver sidewalk or driveway, intense shoveling could remove some of the stabilized sand. You can also refill this sand mixture; however, you may need to remove more first to make sure the new material is thick enough for the chemical process to work. You can obtain technical information from the polymeric sand manufacturer’s websites, ask the contractor who installed your patio pavers, or see your local dealer.

Hardscaping Projects: Understanding Patio Materials

The first segmental paving projects were roadways built by the Minoans in 5000 BC from (of course) natural stone. Today, similar dry-set segmental techniques create beautiful outdoor surfaces including driveways, patios, sidewalks, pool decks, and any other project one can imagine. Unusual Pavers 300x225 Hardscaping Projects:  Understanding Patio MaterialsNatural stone options include materials both locally quarried and imported from around the world. Manufactured options have dramatically evolved over the last decade to both recreate the look and feel of natural stone as well as introduce entirely different colors, textures and shapes.

Today, you face a vast selection of materials from which to build your new outdoor living project. Manufactured products come in shapes as traditional as a 4×8 brick, as complex as simulated irregular flagstone. Colors range from solids to blends to tri-colors in shades designed to complement the natural outdoor environment. Textures include smooth, dimpled, rippled, weathered, wavy, non-slip, and simulated stone. The options are sometimes overwhelming.

Travertine Patio 300x225 Hardscaping Projects:  Understanding Patio MaterialsDue to the weight of concrete-based materials and the resulting cost of transportation, manufacturers serve a regional geography based on the location of their manufacturing plants. Consequently, the manufacturers we are familiar with in Eastern Pennsylvania / New Jersey / New York / Delaware will most likely be unknown in, for example, the Midwest. Locally, major brands include EP Henry, Techo-Bloc, and CST.

It is hard to imagine that you could not find a manufactured product that you would love. But, remember, there is still, centuries later, natural stone. Each geographical area has its unique natural stone options. In the Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania bluestone, also known as flagstone, is most common and popular. A flagstone quarry produces different types of material as the quarry becomes deeper and denser. The layers of a flagstone quarry produce wall stone, garden path, irregular flagstone, natural clef pattern flagstone, gauged thermal flagstone, tread stock, and steps. Colors vary from quarry to quarry; color veins that run through Pennsylvania bluestone include classic blue gray but even more popular is “full color” which includes greens, browns, taupe, rust and lilac.

Although beautiful, flagstone is more difficult to implement than manufactured products and can become quite hot in direct sunlight. A beautiful Flagstone 300x225 Hardscaping Projects:  Understanding Patio Materialsalternative to local flagstone is travertine. A marble-like product, travertine is formed from water with high mineral content running through sand and limestone. It is not native to the United States but is imported from countries such as Turkey and Peru. Inexpensive in its native country, travertine is relatively expensive in the U.S. Its compelling features include a natural marbled color patterns, and consistently cool surface.

Other natural stone alternatives include granite, cobblestone, sandstone, and a huge variety of imported materials.

The key factors in selecting your patio material include: color, texture, shape, cost, availability, ease of installation, and, of course, your taste!

*Woodward Landscape Supply is an Authorized Dealer for: EP Henry Company, Techo-Bloc Corporation, Versa-Lok, Kennedy Concrete, CST Pavers.  Visit our website for more information on Hardscaping materials we offer for your Hardscape Design Landscaping.

Hardscaping Projects: DIY or Hire A Contractor?

You’ve decided to invest in a new patio, paver driveway, garden wall or other hardscaping project. You have an idea in mind for a beautiful outdoor home improvement project. Now you must decide how to make your vision a reality. Should you do it yourself? Or should you hire a professional?

Certainly, both cost and scope are key factors in your final decision. But to make the best decision, begin by considering the list of responsibilities that a competent professional hardscaping contractor will handle and ask yourself to what degree do you want to or are you willing to perform these roles. Treat the contractor responsibility list as your check list for your “DIY or Not” decision.

Once you have completed this evaluation, if you believe you want to DIY, you need to look at the project scope, i.e., complexity, and cost. Visit your local hardscaping dealer to discuss your project and construct a bill-of-materials. This will identify the bulk of your costs. (Your other major costs will be equipment rental and tools.) During this process, the dealer will develop a good idea of what you are planning to do and can help you determine if you are taking on too much.

If you complete the checklist and decide to use a contractor, you should identify three contractors to give you cost estimates. Based on these estimates, you can make the final decision whether to proceed as planned, scale down the scope to reduce costs, or postpone the project until it is affordable. Before selecting the contractors to bid on your project, please read our article on how to select a contractor. Selecting a good contractor is critical to achieving the end result you crave.

Responsibilities of a Professional Hardscaping Contractor

(or the “Do I Want to Do This Myself” Check List)

• Design – a professional contactor will convert your ideas into an executable design taking into consideration the specific physical characteristics of the area (such as grade, drainage, underground limitations) and of your home (style, color, texture, space).

• Permits – if your project requires township permits, your contractor will usually obtain these and bill you for the cost. For homeowner associations that require pre-approval, the contractor will provide drawings and material specifications but you must submit the request for approval.

• Power and Water Lines – the contractor will contact utilities to have underground lines labeled to ensure that nothing is damaged during excavation.

• Materials List – after you select the products you want to use for your project, the contractor will determine how much of each is required to implement the project. The contractor will order these products and take responsibility for the accuracy of the order within a standard margin of error determined by the size and type of materials involved.

• Material Availability – the contractor will time ordering materials so that they will be available as needed, whether he picks them up or has them delivered. This will keep the work moving at a planned pace, eliminate wasted time, and ensure that the project finishes as promptly as scope and weather permit.

• Equipment & Tools – the contractor will provide all equipment and tools needed to implement the project. For example, excavating equipment to dig out the area; a plate tamper for compacting subsoil and base; a diamond bladed saw for making finishing cuts; a laser level to assuring correct placement of material to achieve desired grade. In addition to major equipment, the contractor uses specialized hand tools for measuring, leveling, adjusting, lifting, moving, cutting, and splitting materials.

• Material Removal – if materials must be removed during the preparation of the area, the contractor will remove and dispose of these materials, e.g., concrete, soil, brush, rocks.

• Ground Restoration – when the project is complete, the contractor will clean up the area and leave it neat and orderly. You may also choose to include post-construction landscaping to finish your project.

• Warranty – professional contractors will provide a minimum three –year warranty on their work. Any flaws in your project that emerge that are caused by contractor error will be repaired at no cost. Contractors who provide such a warranty rarely need to return for repairs as they take care to implement properly.

• Insurance – professional hardscaping contractors will carry insurance which protects you in the event of unplanned damage such as hitting underground lines incorrectly marked by the utility companies or equipment damage to property that should not have been in the way.

• Heavy Lifting – finally, the contractors and their teams move, lift and place all of the hardscaping materials used to build your project…and everything is heavy!

Selecting a Hardscaping Contractor

You have decided to invest in an outdoor hardscaping project. After careful consideration, you have decided to hire a professional to implement it. Now you must pick the specific contractor. The hardscaping industry offers a huge selection of contractors, but not all of them are qualified to do your specific project. Unfortunately, it is easy to make a poor choice; so, the selection process is critical.

You will need to make two decisions:

(1) Who should bid? and

(2) Which of the bidders will you hire?

Obviously, one of the contractors who bids on your job is going to be the one you hire. So, you need a great “short list.” You should be looking for three contractors to bid on your job. Three bids allow you to determine high, low and average cost. More than three is unfair to the contractors as they will bid at no cost to you but at significant cost to themselves. And more than three bids is also unnecessarily complicated for you as three bids will provide more than enough information for you to make a good decision.

Factors to consider in selecting the short list of bidders:

1. Understand the value of a professional hardscaping contractor. You may know a good general contractor who built your house or remodeled your basement; but, unless he has explicitly implemented hardscaping projects, he is not a hardscaping contractor. If you have a lot of confidence in a specific GC and are willing to pay a premium for his management skills, then you can consider hiring the GC to find and manage a good subcontractor. In this scenario, you do not need a bid process as you are selecting a GC based on past experience and personal confidence.

You may have a great landscaper who mows your lawn, fertilizes, plants, trims or prunes; but, unless he has explicitly implemented hardscaping projects, he is not a hardscaping contractor. If you are willing to reduce your costs by allowing a landscaper to learn on the job, and if you have confidence in the landscaper’s commitment to finding out the right way to do the work, then consider your landscaper.

However, most often, you will be looking for a professional hardscaping contractor who has the experience to deliver the full set of responsibilities a successful project requires.

2. Get a referral / reference. Each contractor on your short list should have good references. If relying on a friend or neighbor for a referral, make sure the project that inspired the referral was completed prior to the last winter, i.e., the projects needs to have survived one freeze-thaw cycle intact. A project can look great the month after completion and not so good a year later. Freeze-thaw will expose errors made below the surface in the sub-base and base of the project.

You may also use a manufacturer’s authorized contractor program to obtain recommendations. This is particularly useful if you think you know what brand of products you plan to use. This list is usually accessible on the manufacturer’s website or by completing a form on the website from which the manufacturer will mail you a list.

Dealers vary in how they provide referrals. If relying on a dealer reference, make sure the dealer screens his referral list. At Woodward Landscape Supply, we check out the work of the contractors we recommend, making sure they follow generally accepted hardscaping standards. We also monitor customer feedback and remove contractors from our list if valid complaints come to our attention.

3. Look for local coverage. Make sure that the commute to your property is financially attractive for the contractors you pick. If too far, the cost of getting their crew to and from your location can make the project unnecessarily expensive.

4. Confirm specific expertise. During your initial meeting with each name on your short list, make sure they have the expertise you need for all elements of your project. For example, pool decks have some unique below-ground issues; masonry projects such as fireplaces require unique skills and tools; flagstone has very different installation characteristics than manufactured pavers. If you know you are going to need a special skill, make sure you ask if the contractor has that experience. If the special element is a small portion of the project, it is reasonable for a contractor to subcontract that element. If the specialty skill is a major portion of the project, it should also be a major portion of the contractor’s portfolio.

5. Check out timing. Is the contractor going to be available to do the work on a schedule that meets your needs

Using these guidelines, you will pick your short list, meet with each contractor to discuss the project and await your bids. Once you have the bids in hand, the following factors should be considered in making your final decision:

1. Cost. If one bid is especially low, beware! Make sure you understand what that contractor is not including. If one bid is especially high, find out why. Did that contractor consider something relevant that the others missed. Exceptionally low bids usually have left out something really important.

2. Warranty. Proposal should offer a minimum three-year warranty.

3. Insurance. Proof of liability insurance should be a requirement. Incidents are rare in this industry, but accidents do happen.

4. Material Selection. The proposal / contract can be written in one of two ways:

a. If you have already selected the materials, the agreement should explicitly identify your choices.

b. If you have not yet finalized your choices, the agreement will assume a basic product and final pricing must be adjusted to reflect your ultimate product choice. The contract should both require you to make your final choice within a specific timeframe and provide you an understanding of what type of material is assumed in the baseline proposal.

5. Construction Issues. The agreement should explicitly cover the contractor’s responsibility for removing and disposing of any excess excavated material as well as his responsibility for final clean up and ground repair. If you expect finishing landscaping, the agreement should cover that as well.

6. Comfort. Finally, is the contractor a person whom you feel comfortable having work at your home unsupervised? This is a very individual and subjective issue, but you will develop rapport and trust with some individuals and not with others. You need to consider your comfort level in making your final decision.