New Product Spotlight

The 2016 Hardscape North America trade show featured many new products on display at exhibitor booths. These are just a few that caught attendees’ attention. ICPI does not endorse these products and welcomes member companies to submit information on new products to

provenceslabsPROVENCE SLABS

Belgard’s new Provence Slabs are designed with Satura technology, emulating the look and feel of natural stone but with standard dimensions to lower labor costs and shorten project timelines compared to natural stone installations. Available in a three-piece modular set, large square and large rectangle options, Satura’s surface coating also enhances color saturation and provides improved protection against stains and efflorescence. The availability of natural stone is often limited by region; Provence Slabs offer popular bluestone and ledgerock hues to a broader market and open new possibilities for project designs and color selection.


buzonbcpedestalsystemOn display at the Techo-Bloc booth, Buzon BC Series pedestals for slab applications feature a screw-jack design for quick and easy installation. The pedestals can be extended to a height of 44 in. (1,100 mm) using couplers. Slope corrector components of the system allow for a 5% pitch adjustment or compensation for uneven subbases up to the same amount. Made from 78% recycled and 100% recyclable polypropylene, each pedestal can support loads of more than 1 ton (1,000 kg).


No wires, no trenching, no timer, no electrician needed. Kerr Lighting by SEK’s self-contained, solar-powered LED lights come in a range of sizes and shapes, including standard rectangular paver dimensions, and can be placed into an installation as easily as setting a paver. Unlike lithium ion batteries, the double-layer capacitor used in these lights will not need replacement. Under full sunlight, charging time is 3-5 hours to provide 12 hours of working time. The stainless steel light fixture with UV-resistant polycarbonate lens is engineered to withstand light vehicular traffic, is waterproof and has a slip-resistant surface. In addition to standard warm white, special order alternatives of red, green, blue, yellow and cool white colors are also available.


New Product Review – NextGel

Almost no dust, no haze and faster installation are promised by Techniseal for NextGel joint sand stabilizer. After introducing polymeric sand to the market over 15 years ago, Techniseal brings a significant improvement after embarking on upgrading its stabilizer products some five years ago. Jointing sand stabilizer was invented to accelerate interlock while preventing sand loss from runoff and wind, as well as discouraging ants and weeds.

Dust from some jointing sand stabilizers requires a lengthy cleanup, and if not done properly, results in an ugly, hard-to-remove haze on pavers. “The guys who are in a hurry to get to the next job don’t sweep exactly as they should, don’t use the leaf blower, and didn’t wait until the paver surface dried enough. Then you’ve got a missed hit,” says Al Dorais, Techniseal’s president. To minimize dust, Techniseal created a heavier, more homogeneous particle size. This reduces the smallest particles that caused dust and haze. “The smallest particles embed into a paver surface, so the trick was to create much bigger particles while still stabilizing all of them,” says Mr. Dorais.

The larger particles in NextGel also allow water to flow more easily and evenly to activate the polymer stabilizer down to the bottom of the joints. This makes the wetting process 50 percent faster, according to Techniseal. The combination of reduced dust, no haze and a speedier wetting process promises a faster installation time overall. Assuming a 1000 sf installation, Techniseal estimates that NextGel will save about 70 minutes on installation time compared to competitors’ products. Multiply this by the annual area of projects, and the efficiencies could be significant, not to mention reducing callback time and income losses to clean up surface haze.


The Right Tool for the Job

One of the most important investments any contractor can make is in the right equipment. Efficient tools increase productivity, and this goes straight to the bottom line and to business success. The right tools with proper training help make crews safer by reducing injuries to backs, knees, fingers and elbows. Maintaining a healthy, efficient crew is essential to profitability.

“I have invested a lot of money and time into training my guys,” says Bill Gardocki, owner of Interstate Landscape Co. in New Hampshire. “I want them to be around on the crew for a long time.”

Mr. Gardocki, who has more than 40 years of experience in the hardscape industry, presented at Hardscape North America (HNA) in October with his son, Tom Gardocki, about the importance of investing in tools that promote health and maximize productivity. “The thing about tools is efficiency, speed and saving my guys’ backs, fingers and knees,” says Bill Gardocki.

During their HNA presentation, the Gardockis showcased and demoed some of the tools they have found to be the most beneficial for use on the job. They made a point to specifically not endorse any particular brand. The focus of their discussion informs the audience about the types of tools they rely upon as professionals.


The Pave Edge paver marker lasts one month and doesn’t need sharpening.

Two new tools they’ve recently begun using are now among their favorites: One costs less than a dollar, the other around $12,000. The Paver Marker from Pave Tech saved their crews hours upon hours per week in labor, Bill Gardocki says, replacing the pencils, knives or whatever used previously to mark pavers for cutting. Just one marker will last a month and does not require sharpening.

The other new favorite tool of the Gardockis is called the Trimble System, an aftermarket package of sensors and a monitor that use GPS to provide precision accuracy for depth finding and can be installed on virtually any excavator. With a price around $12,000, this 2-D sensor system eliminates getting out of the cab of the excavator to measure while digging or grading, or having another crew member with a grade rod involved in these tasks.

The Trimble GCSFlex Grade Control System features body and boom sensors that can be retrofitted to most excavators. Using GPS, the system provides precise depth-finding information for the operator via an in-cab display monitor.

The Trimble GCSFlex Grade Control System features body and boom sensors that can be retrofitted to most excavators. Using GPS, the system provides precise depth-finding information for the operator via an in-cab display monitor.

Another key piece of equipment for safety and efficiency is the right-sized skid-steer loader. “I can’t tell you how many people buy undersized skid-steers because they say they can’t afford that extra $10,000 required to actually lift a full pallet of material,” says Tom Gardocki. “Instead, the crew has to unload three layers off of every pallet [before it can be moved]. You have to think about all the time it’s taking. You’re going to make up that $10,000 real quick.”

Many hardscape business owners initially opt for smaller pieces of equipment because they are lower in cost. However, this eventually costs more in the long run because of additional labor required. “You must have tools for efficiency. The average profit margin in this industry is 6 percent,” says Bill Gardocki. “One mistake on your job site, one breakdown on your job site, and that’s it. That’s your profit margin gone for that job.”

This problem is particularly pervasive when it comes to compaction, which is one of the most important things in pavement, explains Steve Jones, president of Pave Tech. “Compaction is one of those things you can’t start small; you have to start at a mid-range size because it is a time-consuming thing,” says Mr. Jones. “With a small compactor you can get the job done. It may take you two days, but with the right machine, it can get done in two hours.”

The Paver Pounder is a multi-bit utility tool with slide action that saves wear and tear on elbows and backs.

The Paver Pounder is a multi-bit utility tool with slide action that saves wear and tear on elbows and backs.

The Gardockis started using a plate compactor with a roller attachment about two years ago because 70 percent of their installations were paving slabs. They now use compactors with roller attachments on every single job.

When it comes to slabs, there are clamps and suction tools that prevent finger, back and knee injuries; make installation of slabs much easier; and also minimize cracking. According to Bill Gardocki, there is a steady growth in popularity of slab installations. This trend puts these tools high on the priority list.

Another favorite tool of the Gardockis is the Paver Pounder: a slide hammer that can use multiple attachments. With a breaker bit attached, this tool allows the installer, from a standing position, to crack a paver for removal rather than kneeling and whacking it with a hammer. This tool helps prevent tennis elbow, a painful condition that affects many while paving, as well as knee and back injuries.

Bottom line: To run a successful business, invest in tools that improve crew safety and boost productivity. “Compaction equipment: $12,000; small tools: $8,000; ancillary tools: $10,000. That’s $30,000, the price of your average pickup truck,” says Bill Gardocki. “Those are the tools that you need to be efficient in the hardscape industry.”


The Great Enheightenment

In recent surveys, readers have asked for instructional articles with practical knowledge they can use on the job. In response, Interlock Design is pleased to present this first installment of its new how-to series of feature articles that will run throughout the year. We welcome reader feedback and invite you to contact us at with any suggestions or topics you’d like us to cover in the new how-to series.

Why a Raised Patio?

As this issue’s cover story explains, residential outdoor living is a booming market for the hardscape industry. An integral component of an outdoor living space is a raised patio.

Traditionally, a raised patio allows movement from house to backyard without a change in elevation. A homeowner steps out the back door and into the outdoor living space as easily as walking from one room to the next inside the house, creating a seamless transition from interior to exterior space.

Initial Precautions

“If not done properly, a raised patio can do significant damage to the building that it’s constructed against,” says ICPI Director of Engineering Robert Bowers, P. Eng. The main factors that can cause damage are moisture accumulation and the increased lateral load placed on the foundation, and possibly on exterior above-grade walls.

Most exterior above-grade walls of a house are not designed to have moisture continuously against them, explains Mr. Bowers. Whether they’re brick, wood siding, vinyl or another material, these exterior walls are designed to resist water and shed it—to get wet and then dry out. They cannot withstand a continuously moist environment. Placing compacted soil against these types of walls can trap moisture, resulting in mold, decay and deterioration.

Regarding foundation walls, in most cases they are constructed to bear the weight of the supported structure, the lateral pressure from the soil and not much more. By constructing a raised patio, the lateral pressure against a foundation increases. This presents an increased risk of blowout and basement wall collapse, because the increased load to the wall is not counterbalanced. This is called an unbalanced fill condition. When taking on an unbalanced fill project, an engineer should be consulted to ensure the stability of the project. Additional reinforcement of the foundation wall is sometimes necessary. The cost of the engineer’s involvement will increase the cost of the construction, so it’s important for contractors to include this in the price of their proposals.

 “A homeowner should be able to appreciate it,” Mr. Bowers says, “if you say, ‘Hey, I’m concerned that we don’t damage your house in any way and I’d like to have a professional engineer tell us the best way to do this.’”

At the outset of planning, be sure to thoroughly document the existing conditions of the site. Take photos of the exterior walls, the foundation and the basement walls inside and out, carefully inspecting for cracks, bulging and any signs of dampness or water damage.

Design Considerations

The most effective way to raise a patio adjacent to a building is with a retaining wall (aka stress relief wall) that faces the building, offset from it by 3 to 4 in. This creates an air gap that prevents the patio from touching the building’s exterior cladding and also allows airflow so any moisture that gets in can dry out (See Figure 1). Additionally, the air gap prevents a raised patio from covering up weep holes. Covering weep holes compromises the exterior above-grade wall venting system, leading to deterioration and potential collapse. For this reason, covering weep holes is a building code violation. At the top of the air gap, cantilevered pavers and screens are common solutions to prevent debris from falling into the gap. A drainage system at the bottom of the air gap is also required. Another option is applying aluminum flashing against the house. This surface, however, cannot block weep holes designed to wick moisture from the walls.

The higher the patio is raised, the greater the complications and potential risks to the foundation. Most homes are constructed with 8 to 12 in. of foundation wall above grade, atop which sits another 12 in. of floor joists. That means the threshold of the back door is typically 20 to 24 in. above grade. For every foot of elevation a wall is built up, roughly 50 to 100 pounds of additional load is applied to the foundation walls. Depending on a number of conditions, it could be even more.

Coincidentally, a raised patio height of 20 to 24 in. is a gray area for determining if additional measures are required to reinforce the foundation wall. For any patio raised above 24 in., it is recommended to have an engineer review the design, test soil quality, evaluate foundation walls and make recommendations.  Heights of 20 in. or less generally carry less risk in relation to the loads. Ultimately, each contractor must decide on his or her level of comfort and corresponding liability.

“If you think there’s the slightest possibility you might need an engineer, then you need an engineer,” Mr. Bowers says. “I can’t tell you how many calls I get from contractors who say, ‘I’m not sure but I think I might be doing something that requires an engineer.’  They describe the situation and yes, they should’ve had an engineer involved weeks ago.”

Local building codes also come into play at heights around 24 in. or greater and when adjoining the raised patio to a building exit like a back door. Every building code has specific requirements for steps including tread depth, riser height and pitch, as well as for hand railings and guards. Because many aspects of raised patio construction are governed by building codes, raised patio construction often requires first obtaining a building permit.

Raised Patio Construction

Raised patios are constructed using three basic components: walls, flatwork and steps. But before building anything up, the ground must be broken.


When new home construction is completed, often the soil against the foundation wall is excavated backfill of the soil consisting of silty, clay soil unsuitable for the subgrade of a raised patio. A soil probe or test pit will confirm this and is recommended to determine soil type and quality. A common way to reduce the lateral load applied to a foundation wall is to remove poor quality soil and replace it with a higher quality dense-graded, crushed stone aggregate. As a rule of thumb, the height of the patio determines how deep to excavate and how far out from the building foundation. If a raised patio will be 48 in. (1.2 m) high, dig down 48 in. (1.2 m) and out from the building the same distance.

Subbase, Drainage, Base

Dense-graded, compacted aggregate is commonly used for the base of the wall and the raised patio. For some projects, flowable fill may be advantageous because it’s lighter and does not require compaction. However, it can be more expensive to install and may require time to cure.

Once the subgrade and base for the wall are set, install a 4 in. (100 mm) diameter perforated drainage pipe along the length of the wall that slopes to a drain. For the drainage layer above the drainage pipe, use open-graded, compacted aggregate with ¾ in. (19 mm) minus clean stone (See Figure 2).


When using segmental retaining wall (SRW) units to raise a patio, a conservative rule of thumb is that the maximum height of the wall should be approximately twice the depth of the SRW unit. For heights three times the depth of the SRW unit or greater, geogrid should be used to help stabilize the wall. Most building codes require walls over 48 in. (1.2 m) in height to be engineered, and some jurisdictions have set limits even lower.

A conservative initial design incorporating geogrid could specify continuous layers every 12 to 16 in. (300 to 400 mm) vertically with a length equal to the height of the wall, and not less than 4 ft (1.2 m). This design would only be suitable for typical conditions: dense graded aggregate backfill; pedestrian-only loading with no slope or terraced wall above; a stable, undisturbed subgrade to a maximum total height of 8 ft (2.4 m). If these typical conditions do not exist on the site, or the decision is made to optimize the design, an engineer should be consulted to develop the initial design.


Every building code has requirements for steps. For outdoor applications, a common pitch requirement is 6:12: a 6 inch (150 mm) riser and a tread depth of 12 in. (300 mm). Maximum riser heights of up to 8 in. (200 mm) may be permissible, so check local building codes. The steps must have a consistent tread depth and riser height to prevent a tripping hazard. Complete compaction of base material is extremely important. Flowable fill or a well-compacted, cement-treated aggregate can help minimize the potential for settlement.

SRW units (Figure 3) or concrete pavers (Figure 4) can be used to construct steps. Either way, choose a material that has freeze-thaw durability. Snow removal and deicers can destroy concrete materials not manufactured to freeze-thaw resistance. Some SRW systems have cap units that are not meant to support regular pedestrian traffic, so be sure to choose the proper units if using for steps. If pavers are selected for the steps, it is necessary to build the base out of concrete to prevent “roll over” that occurs if paver steps are not properly supported.


For patios with elevations greater than 24 in. (600 mm), most building codes require a guard or handrail, including minimum height requirements, as well as specifications for resistance to lateral loads. For code compliance, the railing, mount and foundation all must resist the applied load. Generally, there are four types of mounts used to connect the post to the stabilizing foundation: surface, core, side and direct.

Surface mounts are common but also typically the weakest. A plate is welded to the bottom of the post and then connected to the top of the retaining wall with lag bolts or self-tapping concrete screws. Core mounts involve drilling down 18 to 24 in. (450 to 600 mm) into the retaining wall and grouting or epoxying the post directly into the wall. Core drilling can be time-consuming and costly and risks splitting the SRW units under certain conditions in freezing environments. While core-drilled guards are potentially more stable than surface mount guards, neither should be relied upon as the only means of securing the guard.

Side mounts attach handrails to the face of a side wall. When side-mounted handrails are combined with a guard system, they contribute to the stability of the entire guard assembly. The most effective way to secure a guard system is with the fourth type, a direct mount, which attaches to a solid fixed object like a building or caisson (See Figure 5).

Site Prep

The main task in job layout is transferring the final design from paper to the site. Verify access and staging areas; identify slopes and drainage conflicts; install erosion control and containment measures; and provide protection for trees, plantings and structures. Confirm the location of all utilities and buried utility lines, making sure everything is clearly marked. Outline the extent of excavation and the patio, install string lines, and designate finished elevations with stakes, string lines and markings on adjacent structures. Make plans for equipment storage and vehicle parking. And always maintain a clean, organized site to make a favorable impression.

When defining the elevations of a project, identify the critical elevations on existing structures like a doorsill. Typically, critical elevation determines the finished elevation, so it is necessary to calculate backward from the finished elevation down to the starting elevation. Repeat this calculation in several locations on-site and double-check them.


Care must be taken when compacting adjacent to a foundation wall; excessive force may cause cracking. Less force can be used by placing soil in thinner lifts. For the first course of SRW units, dense-graded aggregate base should be compacted to a minimum of 98% standard proctor density (SPD). Although industry guidelines call for 95% SPD for the fill behind the retaining wall, ICPI recommends 98% SPD to minimize the settlement of the pavement surface above. It is important to watch the alignment of the SRW units to ensure they are not pushed out of alignment or rotated forward during compaction.

For bases and fill, in addition to the flowable fill alternative previously mentioned, geotextile or geogrid, cement-treated base (CTB) and asphalt-treated base (ATB) are also options. Installers who have limited experience with these materials and methods should receive technical support prior to selection. A geotechnical engineer’s input may also be necessary to determine the strength of the subsoil and the extent of remediation required.

Raised patios also require adhesives for retaining wall caps, treads and other materials. Adhesives that remain slightly flexible after curing are preferred. Though mortar can be a cheaper option, its use is not recommended in areas with freezing and thawing conditions.

Close Out

Equipment removal and cleanup are standard operating procedure. After running down punch-list items and performing final inspection, secure a certificate of occupancy and final payment. As a courtesy, provide the homeowner with spare pavers, sand and cleaner. Photograph the completed project for the company’s portfolio and be sure to write a thank-you note for a high-dollar job.

Continuing Education

The information provided in this article is from the ICPI Advanced Residential Paver Technician Course manual. To sign up for this course or any other offered by ICPI, visit


Innovative Technologies Forum

Invited companies presented transformative technologies that save time and money while increasing productivity in the production plant or on the job site. Presenters included Permaloc, Solidia Technologies and iActEx. Permaloc presented research, practice and cost savings with edge restraints in PICP construction using geogrids that eliminate edge spikes. Solidia Technologies explained accelerated product curing with carbon dioxide sequestration plus a new low-carbon emissions cement. iActEx provided a live demonstration of a paver production plant using their software to identify and address formerly unseen downtime of production line components and processes. To qualify for presenting at the forum, companies submitted an application and provided a presentation in advance reviewed by ICPI committee members for relevance and educational content without commercial touting. 


Investing in Efficiency

Bill Gardocki, owner of Interstate Landscape Company in Londonderry, New Hampshire, brings his 40 years in the landscape business and over 10 years of ICPI and NCMA teaching experience to this year’s Hardscape North America show in two classes covering efficiency. A hands-on class, Tools for Paver Installation Efficiency, covers efficient paver installation, while an indoor class, Increasing Efficiency on the Hardscape Jobsite, covers efficiency from the initial quote to job site preparation and on-site techniques. The classes offer information for contractors new to the business or experienced ones looking to learn more.

The Right Tools

Mr. Gardocki’s hands-on class demonstrates the latest tools and techniques that expert paver installers use, from simple hand tools to big, complex vehicles. Using more efficient tools reduces labor costs and accelerates job completion without compromising quality.

All of this creates more time for more projects and more income. Mr. Gardocki stresses this in his classes, as some contractors often are hesitant to buy new tools due to sticker shock.

“I can’t tell you how many guys tell me that they can’t afford the extra $10,000 for a higher load-capacity skid steer,” says Mr. Gardocki. With their lower load-capacity machine, they have to remove two or three layers of pavers from each pallet to be able to lift and move each around the job site. So I get them thinking about the two or three layers of pavers they removed from every single pallet and extrapolate that out to how many times a year that’s done, and the total amount of time spent. Beside this, I ask them to consider all the little things they think don’t waste time—they think it’s just a part of what they do—and then add up all that time they waste by using inefficient equipment. They think, ‘it takes just five minutes longer,’ but they’re doing it hundreds of times a week and thousands of times a year. It adds up to wasted time and money.”

Mr. Gardocki still remembers coming home from an ICPI class he took 17 years ago and throwing away all of his compaction equipment and completely changing the way his company worked, because it was inefficient. “It was an instant change in our business,” he says. “We were able to extend our warranties. Most guys will offer a one-year, maybe two-year warranty, when you should easily be offering upwards of a five-year warranty.”

“Compaction equipment is probably the most important equipment in this industry and guys just don’t look at it as an investment for better compaction and warranty sales, they look at it only as a necessity,” he says. “In my classes, I try to show them how the compaction equipment pays for itself very quickly over time, more quickly than any other piece of equipment in our industry.”

Mr. Gardocki sees HNA as a great way to find out about new tools that could help make your business more efficient. That’s why he brings some of his employees there to investigate new tools and techniques. “I always tell my guys: ‘If you see something that’s going to make your job easier and less stressful on your body, let me know,’” he says. “Because I’ve invested a lot in my foremen and I want them to stay healthy as long as possible.”

A Solid Plan

While planning is hugely important for efficient, successful contractors, Mr. Gardocki understands why it is often one of the more overlooked aspects of the business. “Let’s face it, most contractors have never taken a class in business,” he says. “The last thing they want to do is come home at night and sit down and plan things out for the next day, but that’s the way it really needs to be done.”

Although planning may not be the most desirable activity for contractors, Mr. Gardocki emphasizes just how important it is by pointing to a statistic from a book by Charles Vander Kooi that reads, “One hour of planning saves eight hours in the field.” For contractors looking to save money, Mr. Gardocki says the first thing they should look into is more focused planning.

He ascribes much of his own success to his ability to plan well. “In my town we’ve been by far the longest running landscape business. It’s not because we’re any better at installation than anyone else—it’s because we’re better at running the office than anyone else,” he says.

Mr. Gardocki explains that finishing a job with a healthy profit margin requires careful planning. In his business, he bids jobs based on the hours they take to complete, rather than on square footage or another measurement. To do this, he divides tasks his employees do into 18 labor functions, which he can then benchmark against previous jobs to come up with the right bid.

“You need to track [this data] so that in the future you’re bidding accurately and understanding how long it’s taking your crews to do certain tasks,” he says. “The record-keeping really pays off in the long run because you may be bidding too high based on tasks that aren’t taking you as long as you think. All the guys I know that are very successful track their hours.”

While some contractors will bid on contracts using square foot pricing as their basis—as opposed to tracking labor hours—Mr. Gardocki says this is a mistake because no two sites are the same.

“There’s no situation where it’s better to do it by square foot,” he says. “One key thing for us is access to the site. You could have two houses right next to each other that both want a 400-square-foot patio, but if one has a fence around the whole backyard and you have to take down the fence and drive across a beautiful lawn and rehab the lawn, the job will cost more. It’s impossible to charge by the square foot and understand whether you’re making any money or not.”

Keeping records of your jobs is helpful for all contractors, but Mr. Gardocki says it’s especially important for people who are new to the trade.

“For the new guys, they have to know and understand that one crew might not be as quick and efficient as another crew,” he says. “So it really comes down to their foremen and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their foremen. Can their foreman handle three guys and be really efficient or is he the kind of guy that can only handle one other guy with him? It’s all in the record-keeping and as long as you’re keeping track, it makes [answering those questions] much, much easier.”


Additional Resources

To learn more about Bill Gardocki’s classes at the 2014 HNA show and to register, visit

The Complete Business Manual for Concrete Paver Contractors


Restoring Glory

Concrete pavers are long-lasting. No one disputes their decades-long staying power. But as with all investments, a little maintenance can go a long way. All pavements get dirty, and interlocking concrete pavement owners want to keep great pavement looking great. From discolored pool decks to driveways marred by oil leaks and tire marks, contractors are rising to the demand for sprucing up pavers, especially high-visibility residential applications.

Contractors today are landing residential and commercial paver restoration projects installed 10, 15 and 20 years ago. “When they first came out, concrete pavers were being sold as [practically] maintenance-free,” says Rich Colletti, founder of Seal n’ Lock, a Florida manufacturer of concrete paver sealing products. “That’s what people believed at the time.” But as they aged, the UV light, environment and surface wear made them not look as good as when they were new.

All pavements are at the mercy of nature and use. However, it’s how they age and what can be done about it that’s important. Older paver projects can be restored economically and quickly. Today, there are a host of solutions that contractors can use to develop revenue opportunities from existing and new clients.

Additionally, the capital investment isn’t as high as that required to equip a paver installation company. The biggest upfront expense is equipment used for power washing and cleaning to remove efflorescence and stains, and for applying sealers. This investment is augmented by the redeployment of existing equipment to repair pavers, including pullers, pry bars, mallets, screens and the like.

Contractors say it’s a good supplemental or standalone business, and it’s growing.

“You do a paver installation, with everything according to ICPI guidelines, but they still need to be maintained,” says Pat McCrindle, east coast regional sales manager and technical sales rep for Global Sealer Technologies (GST) International, who started a maintenance and repair company after several years of installing pavers. “The investment comes back quickly to make you more efficient and effective. It’s a very natural progression to get involved with maintenance, particularly in markets with older paver projects.”

A Product Evolution

In just a few decades, a host of products and methods rose to meet the demand for paver maintenance, cleaning and restoration. Treatment of pavers might include applying a colored seal—yellow, red, green—allowing owners to redesign their installations, or a specific product to protect against mold, moisture or chemical stains.

From water- and solvent-based sealers to penetrating and surface sealers, polyurethane and acrylics, there is a sealer solution for every climate and installation. Many are compatible with polymeric sand. “If you look at 15- to 20-year-old pavers, they’re structurally sound, and they will last another 20 years,” says Al Dorais, president of Techniseal, a maker of sealing products based in Candiac, Quebec, Canada. “We can take old pavers and bring them back to life.”

Contractors report that while interest is increasing among newer clients who are opting for cleaning and maintenance plans that begin shortly after installation, there’s a substantial market for clients with older installations looking for the “wow factor” of restoration. 

Here are some case studies.

Case 1: The Facelift

When Omaha, NE, homeowner Reid Kenedy contracted the installation of a concrete paver patio over 10 years ago, he couldn’t have imagined how it might respond to the harsh climate. Fortunately, a local contractor was able to offer restoration services. “Normally we do our sealing right as we finish the job,” says Justin Hampton of Paver Designs LLC in Omaha. “But we installed a patio more than 10 years ago, and the pavers had lost their original color. We were trying to come up with a way to restore it.”  The 400 sf (37 m2) red and black patio provided a home for outdoor enjoyment and activity while enduring hot, humid Midwestern summers and cold winters.

Hampton recommended a colored sealing product. Kenedy had several extra pavers remaining from the original installation, which they used as a test for the new treatment. They waited 10 days after the test application and decided to move forward with the entire patio. “It made all the difference in the world,” Kenedy says. “They look better today than they did when they were first installed.”

The concrete pavers’ color was restored and the patio has not required additional maintenance since the sealer was applied.

Case 2: Body and Fender Work

Name it, and this 10-year-old Howell, NJ, patio endured it: snow, rain, heat, moss, fading and settlement. Owner Greg Varner initially imagined surface restoration was in order, but the patio required some repairs, too. “The repairs covered every aspect of pavers without replacing them,” Varner says of his repair and restoration, completed by Rob Densieski of Paver Restoration Inc, in Freehold, NJ. The patio had also become a safety hazard. “It’s a high traffic area,” Varner says. “People tripped constantly.”

The 920 sf (85 m2) patio received more than just restoration and spanned services Varner didn’t know were available. “It was a total restoration including cleaning, polymer sand placement and sealing of steps, patio and walkway,” says Densieski, who completed the work in fall 2013. In addition to cleaning and restoring the existing pavers, some were pulled up and moved to relay the shape that had been desired initially—but never fully realized—for the multi-color, multi-shaped patio. This was inexpensive compared to repairs on cast-in-place concrete surfaces that require cutting and replacing with a patchy result.

“We didn’t know this was available,” Varner says. “I called around to landscape and hardscape companies. No one wanted to touch it. They only wanted to rip it out and redo it. I wanted it cleaned, but also wanted it to be fixed.” The project was completed over a week and a half including cleaning and sealing plus the patio expansion with new pavers. “It looks brand new,” Varner says.

Building a Business on Restoration

The concrete paver industry is quickly realizing the potential business from aftermarket products and services. McCrindle began his maintenance business with an initial investment of $4,000. Today, he has a $30,000 trailer with top-of-the-line equipment, including diesel-heated power washers and electric reels. Service contracts are offered to new customers as well as to those with older paver projects. A maintenance schedule is developed for new customers depending on environmental factors and intensity of use. “Patios need some maintenance,” McCrindle says. “Any real estate investment has a maintenance schedule. You paint and repair your house. For pavers, we offer a two-year service contract with a renewal.” The result is a patio that looks perpetually new.

Of the 10 billion sf (930 million m2) of pavers in the U.S., less than 2 percent are sealed. While most don’t need sealing, there is still a significant market. “The growth potential for the market is huge,” McCrindle says. But education is a hurdle, especially when it comes to sealing pavers right after they have been installed as a means to prevent problems, repairs and restoration down the road. Dorias of Techniseal agrees. “It’s about raising awareness.”

Contractors are doing their part to spread the word. For Densieski, the launch of his business came after talking with a paver distributor nine years ago who told him that everyone is installing pavers, but no one is taking care of them. “For the first two years, it was an add-on to my full-time employment,” Densieski says. Now, restoration is 95 percent of his business. “We’ll install new projects, but we don’t go out looking for them anymore,” he says.

Others have been slower to expand into restoration, but they know it’s becoming a lucrative and essential business line. “Historically, we did not push a lot of cleaning and sealing, but we are now looking at it as a mandatory part of the business,” says Charissa Farley of Farley Interlocking Paving in Palm Desert, CA, now in the process of adding a maintenance unit to the business. “We are learning and growing and investigating what’s appropriate and when, not just for residential maintenance but also for maintaining streets. This includes vacuum cleaning permeable surfaces and selecting different types of products for removing stains on municipal paver projects.”

In the same way that waxing and washing a car keeps it looking new, or replacing mulch will keep landscaping appearing fresh, by explaining the benefits upfront, contractors are finding that customers are open to maintenance to keep pavement looking brand new.

“People are spending thousands of dollars on hardscaping,” Densieski says. ”You spent all that money, you want to maintain it to keep your investment looking beautiful.”


ASCE Permeable Pavements Report

With over 100,000 members, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) not surprisingly spends a significant amount of time developing publications to advance its profession. Many publications emerge from ASCE committees as reports, manuals of practice or national standards. After four years of work, a committee report called Permeable Pavements will be released soon by ASCE’s Environment and Water Resources Institute. It is a thorough 200-page sequel to a 2005 landmark book by landscape architect Bruce Ferguson, FASLA, called Porous Pavements.

The ASCE report will be in digital format only, available for purchase and download in its entirety, or by chapter. The report defines and standardizes terms used in permeable pavements. This should help reduce confusion between such words as subbase and subgrade, runoff and run-on, infiltration and exfiltration, underdrains and drain tiles, etc. Besides defining terms throughout the text, an appendix includes a glossary.

The chapter structure of the report is straightforward. The first chapter covers requirements common to all permeable pavements. This includes structural and hydrologic design considerations. A special feature is thorough design and construction checklists. Chapters two through six cover porous asphalt, pervious concrete, permeable interlocking concrete pavements, grid pavements and some new technologies. Chapters two through five are prefaced with fact-sheets consisting of a few pages providing an instant overview of each. The chapter after each then fills in the details.

Based on experiences of the committee and the immense amount of referenced research literature throughout the entire report, chapter seven reflects on actions required for successful projects. These include clarifying owner expectations on maintenance early in the process and holding a pre-construction meeting with the owner’s representative/engineer, contractor, material suppliers and the material testing laboratory. A key objective for this meeting is sediment control through careful construction sequencing and equipment use.

Chapter eight is on maintenance and this one required the most committee discussion. The chapter sets forth surface infiltration test methods to determine when vacuuming maintenance might be required. This includes the recently approved test method for permeable interlocking concrete pavements, ASTM C1781 Standard Test Method for Surface Infiltration Rate of Permeable Unit Pavement Systems.

Chapter nine serves as an introduction to current modeling practice, as the subject could be its own book. This chapter touches on commonly used sizing models and mentions more complicated time-based simulation models used to design permeable pavements. A key consideration in selecting models is whether site outflows only are needed or if the analysis requires modeling permeable pavement within flows through a larger drainage catchment.

Chapter 10 sets forth research needs to make permeable pavements easier to design, build and maintain. This includes full-scale load testing that informs design chart/methods for more reliable structural designs. In addition, better models on pollutant reduction are needed that process inputs on pollutants, sediment loads, and base thicknesses and subgrade soil characteristics. While there have been a few dozen full-scale runoff and pollutant monitoring projects, additional research is needed to tell designers what types of pavement systems are most effective in targeting reduction of site-specific pollutants, such as nutrients, metals or oils.

The ASCE report was spearheaded by a stakeholder committee consisting of civil engineers and regulators from cities, states, the U.S. EPA and industry. The effort represents hours of discussion, debate and in-depth review of research papers on permeable pavements as well as report drafts. The effort also led to creating a comprehensive library of technical papers on the subject.

The motivation behind this effort has been direct; ask the customer what’s needed to design, build and maintain permeable pavements. Obviously, the ultimate customer is the project owner asking about requirements for a durable and low-maintenance pavement. The civil engineer is also a customer who addresses design methods, hydrologic and water pollution models, design details and specifications. The report helps answer those questions from the engineer to better service their clients. As a bonus, the report includes guide construction specifications in chapters two through five that can be modified to project conditions by design professionals.

As a customer, regulators ask how permeable pavement performance can satisfy local or state pollution reduction goals; the ASCE report provides unvarnished information. Among other places, this information is found in the appendices, which include data on volume and pollutant reductions. Regulators also want checklists for plan review and sometimes for site inspections. The checklists in this report help address that need. The intent of the report is that state and local stormwater agencies will reference it as definitive guidance in their manuals.

While the report’s chapters and pictures come from several authors, the editing and layout were orchestrated by Bethany Eisenberg with VHB Consultants and Kelly Lindow, P.E., an independent stormwater consultant. As co-chairs and seasoned stormwater professionals, both began the journey with this committee with questions asked about permeable pavements by their clients and regulators. Having provided answers, the committee delivers a landmark report.


Specialty Paver Applications

To make customers choose your business over others, you must offer unique services unavailable elsewhere. An easy, cost-effective way to do this is through specialty paver applications—small, customizable add-ons your company can offer to a customer in order to enhance the original design or capture more work in the project scope.

“It takes [your business] from ‘everybody does it’ to ‘only a few select people can do it,’” says Aaron Wolfe, vice president and CEO of Wickenburg Landscape in Arizona. “It sets you apart, makes your company the leader.”

What’s in stock

What exactly can you sell to a potential customer? One unique specialty application is down-lighting, Wolfe says, which is lighting installed into trees that casts shadows over the branches and leaves, creating a pattern on the pavers below. “It takes [the design] to another stratosphere,” Wolfe says.

Because the lights are installed and positioned during the day, when the expected shadow design isn’t visible, Wolfe says you must start the project knowing roughly what you’re going to do. “We don’t run the lights until the entire project is complete,” Wolfe says.

An added advantage of down-lighting is that it can be applied at any time, so the service can be marketed to people with existing installations as well as new. Plus, the extra lighting can even improve safety.

specialty2Custom paver designs are another specialty option to consider. Wickenburg Landscape recently installed a Cadillac logo measuring 10 ft (3 m) in diameter using pavers in a residential driveway. Wolfe says the company has also installed horseshoes, flowers, inlaid circles and mosaic patterns.

Make the sale

Added services mean extra costs to customers that they may not initially be willing to pay. To effectively market specialty applications, Wolfe says there is a good amount of customer research that needs to be done.

“You need to understand the history of your client as much as possible. A lot of people don’t get anywhere because they’re recommending the wrong thing to the wrong person,” Wolfe says. “Matching the customer with the specialty product is one of the big keys that contractors miss.”

This includes being realistic about budgeting — if the client clearly cannot afford an add-on, don’t try to sell one. However, if you think your customer may be willing to spring for extras but hasn’t mentioned them, consider upselling, says Bill Gardocki, president of Interstate Landscape Company, Inc., in New Hampshire.

“I include upsell items in every quote, even if the customer doesn’t ask for it,” Gardocki says. “Most people aren’t aware of what’s available, so you have to show them.” Gardocki’s secret is getting customers to the showroom, where they can actually see what a sitting wall or custom paver art looks like. After that, he says, 18 percent decide to purchase upsell items—despite having no initial interest in them. Another approach is presenting examples of lighting design, custom paver designs, or other unique options using high quality photos in your project portfolio and company website. The portfolio can be used to show design capabilities on sales calls and the website examples can be referenced anytime.

Be the expert

While the extra revenue gained from offering specialty applications is tempting, extra legwork is required to successfully sell them.

“It’s a landscaper’s responsibility to learn about the industry, the technology [and] the new advances and then take those ideas and find ways to incorporate them,” says Wolfe, who uses trade shows to get ideas from manufacturers or distributors and make contacts with creative people.

If you’ve done the proper research, you can have confidence in your product—and that attracts customers, Wolfe says. “If you have a passion to do this, it comes out. It makes it easy for me to sell this stuff because I talk to somebody and they can hear that I love everything I do.”

Wolfe’s enthusiasm and creativity sets the context for presenting design ideas to potential clients. As an existing condition to upselling projects, attitude and the ‘vibe’ you bring to future clients is probably the strongest selling tool, next to showing actual project examples. It’s easy to ask a client for business and then upsell when you energetically provide design ideas that delight them as well as provide useful features.


Clearing the Air

iQ Power Tools introduces dustless saws for cutting concrete and clay pavers, segmental retaining wall units, masonry bricks and blocks. These saws combine diamond-tipped saw blades mounted on a table with a vacuum and filter dust collection system. Developed by a former mason, the saws emit almost no dust, making them compliant with personal exposure limits mandated by California and the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

While a hand-held chop saw is the quickest means to cut pavers, it is also the dirtiest because of all the dust it creates. Dust inhalation is a hidden, long-term danger that can increase the risk of silicosis in the lungs. With current regulations that limit worker exposure to silica dust, and possible stricter ones being considered by OSHA, compliance is within reach with these saws.