Blah to breathtaking

Features - Design/Build

Take a basic job to the next level without breaking the bank.

March 5, 2013
Peter Hildebrandt
This fireplace kit was faced with cultured stone and the joints were pointed to give a natural stone look. The hearth was kicked up a notch by installing 2-inch thick Pennsylvania Bluestone with a rockfaced edge. The unit was raised up 18 inches from ground level and a wood box was added for wood storage.

Maintaining straight lines, the proper marking, cutting and laying of pavers and basic cutting techniques can increase efficiency on the hardscape jobsite. But these techniques can also be used to transform ordinary segmental concrete pavements into creative works of art.

The average paver is handled seven times on the job, according to Pat McCrindle, who owns McCrindle Paver Systems (MPS). By simply purchasing a paver cart – in which one worker can pick up 90 pavers at a time – you eliminate handling the pavers three times. Every time you touch a paver, it’s labor oriented and costs you money, according to McCrindle.

“If I can eliminate four times when I am touching a paver when I have to lay it, I’m making money,” he says. Everything from alignment bars to extractors to cutting equipment, vacuum equipment and many others are all designed for the hardscaper and to increase their production and their efficiency.

The bottom line is square footage per man hour and when are you really making money, McCrindle says. That’s what it’s all about, becoming more proficient and showing your workers how to do things better.

These include how three men can screed off a thousand square feet of sand that is 1-inch thick at a level, constant lay so that they can lay the pavers.

That’s what the basics are all about, McCrindle says. The second application would be to look beyond the paving patterns, which would be the amenities: fire pits, sheet walls, fireplaces, water features, lighting, inset steps, columns, driveway applications, pool and deck applications, cleaning and sealing and stabilization of joints among a whole list of other things.

“Especially in the economic times of today, people are very conscious of the money that they’re spending,” McCrindle says. “In this industry, hardscaping is a soft sell. It sells itself. They know what shape, they know what color and they have a growing family and want to put a patio on the back of the house.

“Maybe I did a job 10 years ago, now all their kids are in college and coming home in September and October.

“How cool would it be to take the patio we put in 10 years ago and now put in a fire pit and a sheet wall? Now they’re at home with their family, they can relax with a nice fire out back; there are things like that we offer to clientele – even such things as backyard pizza ovens, these are huge as are backyard barbecues and kitchens. The outdoor living theme is huge.”

The coping was replaced with natural bluestone instead of precast concrete coping. It also included fabricated stone on site, and Bullnose edge with thermal finish.


McCrindle says the challenges in all of this include knowing what’s available and knowing how to find it.

“A lot of the contractors that are out there can lay a patio, build a wall or build a column, but when it comes to knowing what’s available, the different avenues through their vendors, the distributors, manufacturers – it’s really becoming in tune with the tools that are available to the contractors.”


The author is a freelancer based in Charlotte, N.C.

Photos Pat McCrindle