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Three factors to consider when evaluating hardscape proposals.

Not all installers are created equal! By only considering price, you may be comparing apples to oranges. Here are three factors we recommend evaluating:

  1. Installation process: Do they follow ICPI Standards? Her are some questions to ask:
    1. Will anyone on my project be ICPI certified?
      - Some companies may have a few certified installers, but then send non-certified installers to your project. Your team matters just as much as the company overall.
    2. Do you compact the sub-soil with a plate compactor?
      - Companies often skip this step to save time and reduce wear and tear on their equipment, but compacting the sub-soil helps reduce the likelihood of settling and washout.
    3. Do you install sub-base geo-textile landscaping fabric?
      - Landscaping fabric is expensive, and many companies don't include it to be able to offer lower, more attractive pricing. The fabric is designed to separate the base material from the underlying soils. Florida soils are very sandy and over time and especially during rains, the native soils eventually mix with the compacted base material and eventually weaken the paving system. Installing the fabric will prevent this from happening and aid in the long term durability of your project. The fabric is placed on top of the native soils and your base is then placed on top of the fabric, creating a barrier that allows water to shed and prevents the soil around it from working its way into the base.
    4. What depth of base material do you install? (e.g. 4” for patio, 8” for driveway)
      - Another tactic installers use to lower prices and improve margins is to reduce the depth of base material. The savings for them are threefold: less demo, less hauling, and less material. Unfortunately, it will come at a cost to you later on. Have you ever seen a paver driveway that looks like a waterbed after a short time, with uneven settling, separating edges, and tire tracks? It's usually a combination of factors, but it starts with a poor foundation: inadequate base material and compaction. Don't just take their word for it, either. We recommend asking to see the volume of base delivered, or checking on the depth during the install. This is one of the number one issues we see when we get called to fix a bad install.
    5. Do you compact the base? At what increments? (e.g. compact every 2” for most applications)
      - Compacting the base is as important as installing the correct depth. And 4" or 8" of base can't be compacted at once with most compactors. Using a standard plate compactor, base should be compacted every 2" or it will not reach the necessary hardness.
    6. What depth of bedding sand do you install? (if applicable)
      - Assuming the project won't be mortared or installed on a permeable surface, it will require bedding sand. Most products use an inch of bedding sand. The base should have very little surface variation, so that the bedding sand can be screeded out to a uniform 1" depth.
    7. Do you use edging? How do you reinforce it?
      - There are different types of edging that can be used, but whatever is used it should be reinforced. Plastic edging is usually reinforced with spikes. The soil type determines the spike length and the application determines how many spikes should be used. Concrete edging is popular in the Tampa area, and installing it improperly also seems very popular. We commonly see it installed too high so that it interferes with grass growth or adjacent planter materials. Not only that, it is usually crumbling due to a combination of poor materials, poor site preparation, and a lack of reinforcement when it is needed. Don't go cheap on edging!
    8. Do you use a plate compactor for installed pavers?
      - It is very important to run a plate compactor over installed pavers to further settle your substrate, to level your pavers, and to make the sand settle onto the gaps in between the pavers. Without this it is likely that the pavers will move and settle over time. Some companies skip this, especially on foot traffic areas, because it adds time and some breakage can occur during this process resulting in more time and materials consumed.
    9. Do you use polymeric sand in joints? How do you achieve proper application?
      - Polymeric sand is a material used to fill paver joints, the empty spaces found between each paver, tile or natural stone. It is sometimes called jointing sand, paver sand or hardscape sand. Jointing sand is made up of fine grains, to which manufacturers add a mixture of specific additive particles. When put in contact with water, this substance acts as an ultra-powerful bonding agent that strongly binds together concrete elements. This reduces risk of washout, weed growth, and pests that could affect the overall aesthetics and durability of paver projects. When not installed properly not only do you not get the benefits, but it will often wash out onto the surface of your pavers and stain them!
    10. Do you offer sealing?
      - Even if you aren't interested in having your pavers sealed, check to see if the installer is experienced in sealing applications--it's a good indication they care about quality. If you are getting your pavers sealed, make sure their process matches their manufacturer's recommendations.
  2. Design: Do they just install, or do they design your project flow with the rest of your property?
    - Even if you bring your own designs, a good installer is going to offer feedback and insights prior to starting a project and throughout the install. If yours can't give you good feedback and isn't talking about how the project relates to your overall property, they probably don't have the experience--and it will show!
  3. Cleanup: daily tidying and removal of demo material, leftovers, and garbage.
    - We know it may sound silly, but companies that don't clean up are companies that don't value the customer experience. It's a telltale sign that you're working with someone that cares more about profit than they do about their work. Plus, it won't make your neighbors jealous, just annoyed--and probably you, too. Details matter. Cleanup is the hardscape equivalent of making your bed.


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