The fine points of hardscaping

Features - Sealers

For hardscape construction jobs, contractors must be precise and patient to finish the jobs strong.

March 2, 2018
Megan Smalley
© sestovic | iStockphoto

Hardscape construction jobs require patience since estimating and rushing on these jobs can result in a poor final product.

For example, contractors should avoid guessing how much bedding sand to use on a pavement project. Patrick Perugino, owner of Picture It Landscape & Design in London, Ontario, says he sees many contractors put in too much bedding sand as a result of guesswork on projects.

“(My company) has received calls to repair patios and driveways because the original installer had too much bedding sand and everything pushed and sunk. We actually see this quite often – people miscalculate and add too much sand instead of doing it proper,” he says. So, it’s important to use exact, measured amounts of material throughout the job to make sure it’s done right to prevent the client from calling back for repairs.

The final steps of hardscape construction jobs include applying polymeric sand, sealer and cleaner. Perugino says these are key steps to extending the life of a pavement, so precision and patience matter. While these steps may demand more of a contractor’s time, following them precisely will help produce a better final product and maintain the pavement.

Make it last.

A few elements in the final stages of a construction job help to extend the life of a hardscape such as edge restraints, polymeric sand, sealer, cleaner and good maintenance afterward.

In driveway installations and some patio constructions, he advises using edge restraints, which are “very important” to extending the life of the pavement.

“That’s one extra step that makes a huge difference in the long run,” Perugino says. Toward the end of a project, he suggests using a 10-inch spike every couple of feet and placing the edge restraint down. He says this will help with construction jobs in colder climates to make the pavement withstand a harsh, cold winter.

“If it’s a regular winter where there’s a long period of cold and then it melts in spring, (edge restraints) make a huge difference,” Perugino says. “When you get that melt and freeze, they hold the pavers.” Edge restraints will add to the cost of a project, but he says to explain their value to the client.

At the very end of a job, applying polymeric sand and sealer will both make the hardscape last longer, but Perugino says to clean the pavement before putting those down. “You don’t want salt and debris on it afterward,” he says.

Maintenance after the project is complete also extends a pavement’s life, so encourage customers to purchase maintenance services for their patio, driveway or other hardscape.

Kyle Rea, president at Green Effects in Chicago, says he recommends pressure washing old polymeric sand every couple of years and then sealing it again to extend the pavement’s life. “Keeping up on the maintenance of the pavement is the most important thing,” he says. “Every couple of years, pressure wash out old polymeric sand and then seal it again. We follow up with customers years after if they haven’t called us.”

“(Edge restraints are) one extra step that make a huge difference in the long run.” Patrick Perugino, owner, Picture It Landscape & Design
Steady finish.

The end of hardscape construction jobs must be carefully completed to avoid careless mistakes. “Most errors will occur from crews feeling rushed to get everything done on a certain deadline, where usually just taking a little bit of extra time to make sure everything’s right will save time in the long run,” Rea says.

Applying sealers can’t be rushed, as he says most manufacturers recommend waiting a month to a year before applying it to prevent efflorescence in brick pavers. “Water dissolves the salts (in the pavers) and when the water evaporates, the salts are left on the surface,” Rea says. “You have to wait to allow for these salts to naturally work their way out of the bricks. If you seal too early, you will trap these salts into the surface of the bricks.”

Contractors need to take their time during the actual sealer application process to ensure a clean job. Rea recommends taping off areas to avoid the sealer from going in unwanted spots. “Otherwise, you’ll have a sloppy end-product with sealer splashes,” he says. Once all the sealing is done, Green Effects cleans out its pump sprayer with xylene chemical to help its Viton seals and gaskets last longer.

Taking extra time to keep the pavement looking clean has benefits, Perugino says. Picture It Landscape & Design uses a pressure washer toward the end of a job to clean up.

Confer with customers.

Connecting with the customer throughout the job and at the end is an easy way to retain them for future jobs. Perugino says this is also a good way to get referrals.

When a hardscape construction job is done, get into a habit of walking through the completed project with the client as well. Most of the time, Rea says his customers request a walk through once its finished. “Close to 75 percent of them will do that,” he says.

During the walkthrough, Rea and the project’s foreman meet with the client and discuss everything involved with the project, explaining what happened and offering some maintenance tips for them. Taking time to do this will help prevent a client from calling to complain about mistakes, he says. This also provides an opportunity to upsell on other services, projects and referral incentives.