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Adding hardscape services to your landscape business can mean big dividends if done the right way

All it takes is a quick scan of the magazine racks, cable TV channels and Pinterest boards to understand the depth of property owners’ love of hardscape. From the simple — retaining walls and pavers — to the extravagant — outdoor kitchens, entertaining areas and fireplaces —demand for hardscape has never been bigger.

David Land has owned Tulsa Landscape in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for 32 years and began offering hardscape services 20 years ago. “For us, hardscaping has taken over,” he says. “We do a ton of planting, but the majority of our dollars are now derived from hardscape.”

Not only is hardscaping popular with consumers, but equipment like skid steers and a wide variety of attachments make it easy for landscapers to increase the services they provide without sacrificing productivity and efficiency.

Land contributes his business’s growth in the past year solely to hardscape services, and recommends other landscapers consider these projects when looking to expand.

Start slowly
Land started by building retaining walls for clients, then branched into larger paver projects. “Hardscape can have a high return, but you need to be careful because a mistake in hardscape is a lot more expensive to fix than a landscaping mistake,” he says. “If I put in two shrubs and one of them dies, it’s easy to fix that. But it’s a lot harder to come in and fix a bad spot in the corner or your pavers, or if the retaining wall starts to lean.”

Know your stuff
Land recommends business owners first get an education. For example, he received certification though the Interlocking Concrete Paver Institute and National Concrete Masonry Association. “Even though I’ve been doing this for years, I learned things I never knew about,” Land says. “The classes are invaluable for learning the engineering, installation and quality basics.”

Use the right tools
In addition to hardscape knowledge, the right tools are also invaluable. One of the most important aspects of a successful hardscape project is the preparation of the ground before installing elements like pavers or retaining walls. A skid steer equipped with the Vail X Series Land Planer attachment can help ensure level, graded ground. Considered the “Swiss Army Knife” of land planers, it’s able to perform with precision while covering a large area in a short amount of time.

Make easy work of digging out, removing and clearing debris with the Vail X Series Rock Bucket. Designed with maximum rollback, the bucket allows large amounts of bulky rock and debris to stay held in place while sifting and leaving the finer wanted material behind.

The Vail X Series Concrete Mixer attachment can further increase productivity. The portable, agile attachment can mix up to five yards of aggregate per hour, eliminating the need to mix in one place, and then haul to another.

Work with others
Once you have an understanding of hardscape basics and essential tools, Land says it’s important to know when to bring in other professionals. “Sometimes it’s better to subcontract with someone who is really good until you’re comfortable,” he says. “Working with the right people is a great way to get into hardscape.”

Hardscape services can also offer the opportunity to further connect with clients. Land says the majority of his hardscape business comes from clients he has done landscape work for. “I tell every client that I intend to be there for the next phase of their project,” Land says. “I consider it like a bowling game, and I’m just setting up the next frame and getting ready to shoot another strike.”

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