How to bid a hardscape job.

Hopefully this will put some insight on the HOW TO BID HARDSCAPE JOBS. Starting with basic patio’s so you don’t lose your butt. A big job can cause a lot of heart ache and stress for a small company, not only mentally but become financially devastating. More small companies go broke by not bidding the job correctly. Forgetting small cost details can cost you BIG $$$.

I’d like to thank Tim for sharing his hardscape estimating insights with us. If you would like to join in on this discussion, visit this post at the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum.

How to bid a hardscape job.

How to bid a hardscape job.

Begin with a good design and that starts from talking with the customer and discussing what they are looking for. If they have no clue (which most don’t) then start by showing them some picture and catalogs with different designs, then you can implement them together to make your own. Use color pencils and be prepared to draw it out a few times before you get it how you see it in your mind.

Hint: I use a design cad program because my freehand isn’t the best anymore and this allows me to be very creative and move things around easier. A good valued design program will cost under $100 from any Staples or Office Depot. The advantage of design software is if you have it on your laptop you can take it with you and show the customer in 3D motion the design and this part helps sell the job also. What would you like to see, a pencil scrible on crumpled paper or a 3D design complete with landscape in motion? The customer will be impressed the your attention to detail using the software. If you only have a desktop PC then print it out in color and single line with dimentions and show them your blueprint will have about the same effect as 3D over and above the pencil scrible. You’ll want to print your design anyway so you can add it as an attachment to the contract and have the customer initial the drawings as approved.

This is very important and will show guidelines of the scope of work to be completed. Plan on spending at least 1 hour with the customer discussing the design and making notes, remember to speak professionally and always at the very least act as if you have done this before, but be honest, if they ask have you done jobs like this before tell the truth they will respect you more and you can reassure them you are most capiable of completing the job in a professional manner. You will want to add this time to your bid, design work can become a timely event and you need to be paid for it. The profit margins are there to be made.

Question to ask the Customer:

  • Do they want a fire pit?
  • Do they want a grill pit?
  • Do they want plant boxes or plant areas around the patio?
  • Are there going to be any steps? Steps that are most comfortable to walk up are on a 7-11 tread (If so check with local building code requirements for handrails and other step codes).
  • Do they want any segmental accent walls, freestanding or corner columns?
  • Are you to incorporate any accent lighting, area lighting or landscape lighting. If so you may need to sub out a licensed electrician to do the high voltage wiring and have it inspected.

Permits: Local, city and county may require permits to be pulled and the cost is minimal. Here and in most city building permits are $25 to $50. If you are required to pull permits for your patio job make sure you have the city building inspector come out to the site and look over the work being done, keep this person in the loop. He/she can be a good source for more jobs to come.

Hint: They like doing this kind of thing also, makes them feel more important. ALWAYS CHECK WITH THE LOCAL AUTHORIES HAVING JURISDICTION ON PERMIT REQUIRMENTS.

  • Water: do they want any water gradens, falls etc.
  • Are you or the customer to prove the landscaping.
  • Always add seeding and straw to complete the job around the edges of the new patio as needed.
  • Is there going to be a need for leveling the area, is dirt going to be required to bring the yard up to grade of the patio?

The following is from a pavestone training and certification manual. I have add a few thing to this that I have found to be helpful in many ways.

Equipment List:

  • Gloves & Safety Glasses
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Lumber (2) 10′ straight 2″x4″ yellow pine
  • Sledge hammer or heavy rubber or plastic mallet
  • Shovel & spade
  • (2-3) 8′ lengths of 1″ steel electrical conduit pipe
  • Nylon mason’s string
  • (2) long tape measures
  • Broom
  • Carpenter’s chalk line
  • Rake
  • Wooden or metal stakes
  • Carpenter’s level
  • Line level which clips to a string
  • Pick, if ground is hard
  • Grease pencil
  • Aluminum edge restraint
  • Landscape nails

Rental List :

  • Gas-powered plate compactor
  • Guillotine-type stone cutter or masonry saw with diamond tip blade for more precise stone cuts.
  • Roto-tiller
  • Ask your all purpose rental store for prices and availability.

Base Material:

  • Vehicular Traffic: 1.2 cubic yard of crushed limestone or reclaimed concrete (very fine) for every 75 sq. ft. of project at 4 in. depth.
  • Pedestrian Traffic: 1- 94 lb. bag portland cement for each 30 sq. ft. of project.
  • Roto-till into existing subgrade. (We use limestone for all project).
  • Edge Restraint: Aluminum edging with landscape nails.
  • Driveway Concrete Toe: 1- 94 lb. bag of portland cement for every 25 ft. of concrete toe. Add the equivalent of a 3-to-1 ratio, sand to portland. Also use #3 rebar through the center of toe.

Step 1 – Excavating
For our first step, we laid out a rectangle which most closely approximates the patio’s finished shape, by
placing a stake about 2 ft. past each corner. To guide accurate stone laying, it’s important to
establish parallel sides and 90° corners. You can make an accurate 90° angle using the 3-4-5 triangle

A. Drive a stake at the primary corner and wrap a string line right at the corner.
B. Measure from the stake 3 ft. along a straight base line. In this case, it’s the home’s foundation. Make
a mark on the foundation with a pencil.
C. Lay the string out in the general direction of 90º from the house. Make a mark 4 ft. away from the house.
D. At your first 3 ft. pencil mark, measure 5 ft. out diagonally towards your 4 ft. mark on the string.
When the mark on the string is exactly 5 ft. from your first pencil mark, you have created a 90° angle from the house. Next, determine your finished patio height. The patio height should be slightly above the surrounding ground so that rain water won’t stand on the surface.
E. At your first stake against the house, tie the string-line at the level that you want to represent your finished patio height. Attach the other end to the outer stake.
F. Attach a line level to the middle of the string-line. Slide the string up or down the outer stake, as
needed, until the string becomes level. Establish an adequate patio slope so rainwater will
drain away from your home.
G. Mark the level point on the outer stake. Allow at least a 1 in. drop for every 8 ft. away from the house. Example: A patio 16 ft. out away from the house has a 2 in. drop.
H. Slide the string down the outer stake to the proper slope and secure the string-line.
I. Dig out the soil to the proper depth. TIP: Use a powersod cutter for best results. Use a shovel and pick, if necessary, to dig a “rough” depth to within an inch of the final depth. Use the string-lines (and additional cross lines) to determine proper excavation depth. In this case, 3 1/8″ in.
J. Continue your excavated area 6 in. out past your string-lines and to the depth determined in below the finished patio or walkway surface.
K. Roll up the sod and store it in a cold damp place to keep it moist. When the job is complete, replace the sod around the edge of the paving stones.

Step 2 – Preparing the Base

As you might expect, the secret of a long lasting patio lies in a good base for the paving stones. The thickness of your base depends upon the soil; low lying, wet soils need a thicker base than well drained soils. Four (4) to six (6) inches of well compacted, finely crushed stone should be enough. However, the type of base material available varies from region to region. Local Pavestone Company retailers can recommend a suitable base and help you figure how much you’ll need. Pavestone Co. retailer can also help gather and, perhaps, deliver your other supplies – coarse washed Pavestone paver sand, edge restraints and paving stones. One pallet of stone weighs 1.5 tons.

Remember, paving stones are heavy. Home delivery should be seriously considered. In some areas with sandy soils, you can use Portland Cement (1-94 lb. bag per 30 sq. ft.) called cement stabilization. Spread Portland Cement over excavated sandy soils, then roto-till the Portland Cement into your existing native soils. Compact it with a vibrating plate compactor as we did on our project. After compacted, lightly wet the area to form a rigid base. This is called cement stabilization and is used for “foot traffic” areas only. The gas powered plate compactor, approx. $60/day rental, saves a lot of hard labor when compacting the aggregate base.

Later, you’ll want to compact the surface of the paving stones too. You’ll find it well worth the rental fee. It’s a heavy machine that is quite easy to use, but should be used by adults only. Since your finished patio surface will conform to the base, showing any dip or rise, it’s important to assure that the base is flat and the slope is just right.
Edge Restraint - If you are using aluminum or plastic edging, nail to secure your edge restraints using landscape spikes, being careful to accurately follow your string-lines. If you are using a concrete toe, go
ahead and screed your paver sand 5 in. beyond your finished edge and lay your paving stones. The toe will be installed near the end of the project.
Step 3 – Screeding the Sand

Place two parallel pieces of 1 in. steel conduit pipe about 5 ft. apart onto your base. Place coarse sand between the conduit pipes. Screed it back and forth with a straight 8 ft. 2 x 4″ board to make it smooth.
Then, carefully fill the gaps made from removing the pipes. Do not walk on the paver sand. Complete 8 x 8 ft. square sections at a time, laying the paving stones before smoothing the next section. *Note: When laying paving stones next to an existing concrete surface, the sand should lay exactly 2 1/8 in. below the concrete surface. Cut a 2 1/8 in. notch out of your board to speed up the screeding. Check your sand height by placing a paving stone on it against the concrete edge. It should stand 1/4 in. above the fixed surface. Compacted paving stones drop exactly 1/4 in. and “no more” in the 1 in. foundation of coarse sand.

Step 4 – Laying Paving Stones

Start in your square corner and work your way out in a triangular direction. Most projects are bordered with Holland Stone to form a clean edge and a picture frame effect. A Holland Stone border was used in this project. Lay each new paving stone against the previously placed stone and slide it straight down. Do not slide paving stones across the sand, as it will disrupt your carefully screeded sand bed. Install each paving stone without leaving gaps. Nudge them tighter by tapping with a hammer handle or rubber mallet.

*Note: Never stomp a paving stone into place. Should you find the paving stones not aligning, stop and find the problem. Check the starting corner to make sure it’s exactly 90°, and adjust the border stones if necessary.

Step 5 – Cutting the Paving Stones

Once all of your paving stones are in place, some areas may require cutting to form a particular line or edge. Draw a line on the surface of the stones with a grease pencil (crayon-like pencil). Splitting the paving stones with a guillotine cutter will work for simple cuts. But for angled cuts and better results, you’ll need to rent a wet saw with a diamond blade, about $65 to $80/day rental. It’s quick and accurate.

*Caution: Be sure to wear safety goggles when cutting or hammering stones.

Step 6 – Edge Restraint

Aluminum or plastic edging is our recommended edge restraint. Aluminum is lightweight, flexible, easy to use, and does not warp. Use long landscape spikes to secure your edge restraint along all exposed sides. When aluminum edge restraint material is not available, you can make a concrete edge called a
concrete toe . Concrete Toe (Optional) – Good for Driveways

When all paving stones are cut and laid in place, use a flat shovel and dig a trench around your finished edge. This is done by digging straight down, 2 to 4 in. below the bottom of the paving stones and out 4 to 5 inches. Dig straight down with a flat shovel, making sure not to disturb the paving stones. Next, follow the directions on a bag of Portland Cement to make a thick cement mixture. Shovel the mixture into the trench and smooth from halfway up the paving stone, in a 45° angle to the ground. Let it set. For driveways make the toe larger and set a piece of #3 steel rebar in it.

Step 7 – Compacting

Finally, set the paving stones firmly into the paver sand with the plate compactor. Like mowing the
lawn, make only one pass. Use a mallet and wood block to set hard to reach areas. Sweep sand into the surface cracks and vibrate them one final pass, sweeping more sand in as necessary. Two passes with the plate compactor is sufficient. The paver sand, in the joints, will pack down after a few rainstorms. Keep extra paver sand on hand to refill the gaps as needed. We use polymeric sand for all jobs. This type of sand is resistant to weeds and insects, it has a sticking agent added to it to keep it in the joint. Be sure to use all safety equipment required.

Now that you have gone over the design and installation process lets get down to business with estimating a project.

For a example project our customer Ms. Smith wants a 10′ x 20′ *patio.

Notes: Yard is level out to 20 feet and the patio door is 6″ above the existing concrete patio, we are to remove the concrete patio and install the new Rec & Square Patio with border in its place. Customer will do all landscape themselves.

Job Cost Estimating Worksheet (Pave Stone)
Project Name: Ms. Smith
Quantity Cost Total
Removals: Concrete, Asphalt, Brick, Other 1 $750.00 sq. ft. $750.00
Dumping Charges 1 $300.00 $ $300.00
Drive approach (min $1000.00) $0.00

Base Prep: Excavation to 9-11″ (Driveway or Patio) sq.ft. $0.00
Excavation to 1″ (Patio/Sidewalks) sq.ft. $0.00
Flex Base 4″ base/1.2 tons per 50 sq.ft. 4 $44.00 ton $176.00
Sand 1 ton = approx. 100sq ft. 2 $38.00 ton $76.00

Pavers: Total area for pavers = * * * * *200 sq ft. $0.00
Border = * * * * * 60Ln ft= * * * * 44 sq ft. sq ft. $0.00
Square & Rec. Feild (Less Border)= * * * * * *156 * sq ft. 200 $3.12 sq ft. $624.00
Delivery 1 $190.00 truck load $190.00
Fork Lift Charge included per load $0.00
Drop Charge included 1/2 truck $0.00
State Sales Tax (pavers only) included 6% $0.00

Edge Restraint: Alum Brick Stop Ln ft. $0.00
Concrete Toe Ln ft. $0.00
Plastic Brick Stop 60 $2.33 Ln ft. $139.80
Spikes 120 $1.25 pieces $150.00

Equip. Cost: Concrete Saw Diamond Blade 3 $75.00 per day $225.00
Guillotine Splitter 3 $50.00 per day $150.00
Compactor 3 $75.00 per day $225.00
Roto Tiller per day $0.00
Skid Loader *(Mini) per day $0.00
Skid Loader *(Large) 1 $300.00 per day $300.00
Other $0.00

Other: Steps $0.00
Utilities to encase concrete $0.00
Overlays $0.00
Joint Sand Polymeric 5 $36.95 $184.75

Installation: 3 Men x 8 Hrs. x *2 Days 48 $35.00 $1,680.00

Sub Total: $5,170.55
PROFIT @ % 0.15 $775.58
SUB TOTAL $5,946.13

Cost per sq. ft. less the expense of removing concrete patio is $22.98.

There you have it a complete estimate using the Quick Estimate Program.

I hope this has helped some and if not I am willing to answer any question. Jump on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum to read this post.

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Lawn Care Business Books And Software.
How To Get Lawn Care Customers Vol. 2
The landscaping and lawn care business plan startup guide
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The GopherHaul Lawn Care Business Show Episode Guide.
Stop Lowballing! A Lawn Care Business Owner\'s Guide To Success