30 May How to sell residential hardscape projects
The best part is that it’s also entertainment, as our homeowners are treated to a combination technical seminar and standup comedy routine.
And this presents an opportunity for installers because many homeowners would love a brick walkway or patio, but don’t necessarily WANT to plan, dig, measure, cut, compact crusher run, lay sand precisely, review their geometry, place pavers and edge restraints and sweep sand into the joints.
Not everyone is a do-it-yourselfer. This works for us and it works for our national distributors. One such brick pro is John McGrann of Penn Stone.
McGrann owns Penn Stone, a Pine Hall Brick Company dealer in Lancaster, PA. We’ve talked about him before in this space. John worked closely on the design and installation of Pine Hall Brick’s StormPave permeable pavers on the Lancaster Brewing Company and the Mannheim Township Public Library.
In addition to commercial projects like breweries and libraries, Penn Stone has a substantial residential business, with the brand Life Built Outdoors. Penn Stone features high-end outdoor furniture, outdoor kitchens, lighting and other items, in addition to clay pavers from Pine Hall Brick Company.
John has some advice for people about to undertake a hardscaping project – how to plan it and how to hire a contractor. These are also good points for professionals to make sure they have covered all the bases to get the business.
In his company blog, John suggests asking homeowners:
- Know your priorities. How will you use the space? (If you are not sure how much product, use our handy Project Estimator to find approximate materials.)
- Will it be compact or will you entertain large groups of people? If you plan to dine outdoors, will a cart-mounted grill be sufficient or would you rather put in an outdoor kitchen?
- Define your budget. How much are you prepared to invest?
- Set a timeline before you start design and construction, especially if you plan to use the space for a specific event, like a wedding ceremony or a graduation party.
- Find help. Ask family and friends for suggestions. As you contact prospective companies, tell them about your priorities, budget, and timeline and listen to their responses to determine if your goals are reasonable. John also has some suggestions on how to hire a hardscaping contractor:
- The design is crucial. Find a designer who you trust and feel comfortable with, who will consider the characteristics of your landscape and listen to your ideas. Find out how much the design will cost – a professional designer deserves compensation, but ask if this can be deducted from the final cost of the project if you decide to go forward. The designer should provide 3-D renderings or sketches and you should feel comfortable asking questions or requesting changes at this time.
- A professional landscape contractor should have a portfolio showing the work they have accomplished in the past. Use the portfolio as a jumping off point to find projects that are similar in size and appearance to yours, to get ideas about features and materials that you would like to use.
- It’s important that your landscape designer have certifications in the field. Asking about your potential contractor’s industry training and certification can provide a good indication of their level of professionalism.
- For your own protection, it’s important that your landscaping contractor have liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
- Time is important. You should ask for a timeline, including when they will start and complete the project while recognizing that this could change because of permitting, weather, material delivery schedules, and other circumstances.
- Ask for references, for projects similar to yours. It’s also important to ask for references for recently completed projects and for those that are three to five years old. Contact the former clients and ask about how well the contractor communicated with them, whether the project was completed on time and whether they were satisfied with the results.
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