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Crosspost: What is hardscaping and what does a hardscaper do?

Most homes have yards, whether it’s a few feet in the front or a few acres all around. Yards allow us to experience the outdoors within the comfort of our home and give us a place to gather with our family and friends when the weather is nice. It can be hard to decide what to do with your space, but most people opt for a combination of softscaping (commonly referred to as landscaping) and hardscaping. We sat down with our hardscape manager, Josh, to discuss what hardscaping is and why homeowners choose to hire contractors to assist them with hardscaping.

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1. Why do homeowners choose hardscape?

Most of my clients want to hardscape their yard because hardscaping gives more usable space and adds to the look of the home. It can also reduce water bills, and it’s a no-maintenance solution to beautifying their yard when they’re tired of looking at the broken yard space they already have.

2. What’s the difference between hardscaping and landscaping?

Landscaping involved plants, trees, flowers, grass, and sprinkler systems; that kind of stuff. Hardscaping would be anything not alive, such as walls, artificial turf, walkways, patios, pool decks, etc.

3. Why pay a contractor to do hardscaping for you when you can DIY?

Most people can’t do hardscaping themselves. It’s very labor intensive, and there’s definitely a skill and an art to it. You need someone who knows what they’re doing. A lot of things can’t be learned by watching 10 minutes of YouTube – it takes years to perfect those skills. Hardscaping also requires a lot of specialized tools that most people don’t have access to, such as jackhammers, mixers and plate compacters, which are costly to rent. It also requires more than one person to do a good job. Most people don’t have the means to arrange delivery or transportation of the material.

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4. Is hardscaping expensive?

It’s like anything else – you can spend the minimum amount and get something functional, or you can spend a little more and get something that’s functional and aesthetically pleasing. If you have eclectic tastes, we can accommodate your requests to create a space that hits all three categories.

5. Describe your role as the hardscape manager

I’m the initial point of contact with the homeowner. I meet with the homeowner, sell the job and come up with the design. From there, the project manager takes over and makes sure the project is completed in a professional and timely manner.

6. What is the most common hardscaping project you do?

We do pavers most often. Clients want pavers because they’re a cost-effective upgrade over concrete and it looks significantly better. Paver performance is far above any other hardscape surface. It just makes sense when you’re beautifying your home, given the price point.

7. Describe the general workflow of a hardscape project

When installing interlocking pavers, the crew will arrive early at the job site to start excavating the area. The pavers will be delivered unless it’s a big job and there’s a lot of excavation – then they might do that for a couple of days until the area is ready. The guys will make sure the ground is off-level, which means it’s sloped, so any water from sprinklers, hoses, etc. will flow away from the house when the project is done. Next, the crew will compact the earth and then they’ll put down Type 2 granular road base, which is a gravel mixture, to give the area a solid but flexible foundation. On top of that, they’ll level one inch of sand before adding bedding sand. Bedding sand has a very jagged texture, so that once the pavers are set, the rough edges will hold everything in place. They’ll put the pavers in the sand and compact them, which pushes the sand into the joints and squeezes the pavers together. Lastly, the crew will spread joint sand over the pavers so you won’t see a whole bunch of gaps. Then the crew will perform the final cleanup and the area will be ready to use that day. There’s no waiting or curing time.

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8. What do you wish your customers knew about the hardscaping process?

There really is an artisanship to it. Not anybody can pick up a shovel and just do it. The same variation you’d get from one artist to another is the same variation you’d get from one hardscape contractor to another. Hardscape isn’t just moving rocks around, as much as we use them in our finished products. My favorite part of hardscape is probably the design process firstly, and then seeing the finished product. I love standing with the homeowner and envisioning this new scene for them, and then being there when they see their vision come to fruition. One recent project that really inspired me was this little patio we just finished in Seal Beach. There was this young couple with a brand new baby and a backyard full of dirt, and they wanted something they could enjoy in the nice weather. I was really excited for them when they upgraded their yard to a space they could enjoy as a family.

9. What is the most common misconception your customers have about hardscaping?

Similar to the question above, the most common misconception I encounter is that there isn’t much to hardscaping, which is why I make it a point to explain the processes to our customers thoroughly and let them know what goes into a new hardscape project, whether it’s something as simple as pouring concrete or something as complicated as laying flagstone.

10. What tips can you offer homeowners to communicate their desires effectively to their hardscape contractor?

I try to keep my clients updated throughout all the steps in the project so they understand what’s happening with scheduling and why we do or don’t have the crew on site on certain days. Constant communication is key – we always want to stay in contact with our clients to make sure they’re happy and confident about what we’re doing.