The right tools for the job

Hardscape Profit Builder - Hardscape Profit Builder

Decrease the risk of injury and increase productivity on the job.

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May 4, 2016
Meredith Hoydilla
Paver Pounder
Photo courtesy of ICPI

The right tools with proper training help make crews safer by reducing injuries to backs, knees, fingers and elbows. Maintaining a healthy, 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.”

Different prices.

Two new tools that contractors say they enjoy using are very different from each other. One costs less than a dollar, the other around $12,000. The Paver Marker from Pave Tech saves crews hours per week in labor, replacing the pencils and knives used previously to mark pavers for cutting.

One marker will last a month and does not require sharpening.

Another new tool is the Trimble System, an aftermarket package of sensors and a monitor that uses GPS to provide precision accuracy for depth finding and can be installed on 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.

big and small.

Another key piece of equipment for safety and efficiency is the right-sized skid-steer. “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, also of Interstate Landscape Co. “Instead, the crew has to unload three layers off of every pallet (before it can be moved). 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 net profit margin in this industry is 6 percent,” says Bill Gardocki.

This problem is particularly pervasive when it comes to compaction, which is one of the most important things in pavement, says 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,” Jones says. “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.”

Another useful tool 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 using a hammer.

This tool helps prevent tennis elbow, a painful condition that affects many while paving, as well as knee and back injuries.

To run a successful business, invest in tools that improve crew safety and boost productivity.