outdoor kitchen bar and grill

You’ve decided to invest in outdoor living area… perhaps you just need a small patio area to house a grill and few chairs for yourself and your significant other. Or perhaps you’re dreaming of a pergola, pool, swim spa… oh, and an outdoor kitchen too!

You’ve decided on a basic concept, but you really don’t know whom to call. How do you decide on a hardscaping contractor to build your dream outdoor space?

hardscape design contractor pa

1. Request References from your Hardscape Contractor

After you’ve met a hardscape contractor, they should be able to provide you a list of previous clients. A list of satisfied clients helps reassure you that the contractor is running a legitimate hardscaping business and installing paver patios and walls correctly.

The Willow Gates Way:

We provide a list of references to all our prospective clients after our first meeting. This list includes a basic description of what was done, including what brand and type of materials used. We share only the contact info that our clients have approved, and it is up to them whether they grant permission for others to visit their home.

hardscape contractor store

2. What is your Contractor’s Relationship with Suppliers

Some hardscape contractors may be reluctant to share all their suppliers, for various reasons. In general, while you may specify a certain paver brand, outdoor kitchen design or landscape lighting product you’d like to use, it’s best not to interfere with your contractor’s choice of suppliers. They’ve likely built a relationship with that supplier, and asking them to go elsewhere may increase the cost of your project.

The Willow Gates Way:

Our list of references also includes a few of our key suppliers. We consider them partners, not adversaries, and encourage our clients to call them if they want further info on our company. We are extremely loyal to these suppliers due to the excellent relationship we’ve built with them. We will have them drive past other hardscape suppliers to deliver to our job sites… our relationships and their service to us are that valuable!

certified hardscape contractor

3. Consider the Qualifications of your Hardscape Contractor

hardscape design and install contractor should have some certifications. A good starting point is the Concrete Pavement Installer (CPI) from the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) and Segmental Retaining Wall Installer from the National Concrete & Masonry Association (NCMA). Some manufacturers also have certified contractor programs (for example, Techo-Bloc has their Techo-Pro designation). Furthermore, does your contractor have hardscape patio design experience?

The Willow Gates Way:

All our crew members are sent for beginner as well as advanced courses from ICPI and NCMA. Willow Gates is also a member company of ICPI and NCMA, as well as a Techo-Pro. And we take special care as your hardscape projects is designed. We want you to enjoy the patio for years to come. See this poolside patio and this raised patio design built in Pennsylvania.

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4. Experience: Can your Hardscape Contractor Handle it?

Obviously every contractor needs to start somewhere! There are new companies that are dedicated to learning and installing correctly, so don’t dismiss a new company too quickly. Even if the company is new, often the owner has had previous experience working for another company.

Bottom Line: The more advanced your project’s requirements, the more important it is that the hardscape contractor has adequate experience. If your project includes poolside patios, outdoor kitchens, hardscaping with pergolas, fire features, or other special considerations, then an experienced hardscape contractor can be the difference between a successful investment in your home or an expensive fiasco.

The Willow Gates Experience:

We have had the privilege of working on many complex projects over the past several years. See some of them in our Featured Projects.

5. Is your Hardscape Contractor Staying Current with Trends?

This is a difficult trait to qualify in a contractor, but the hardscape industry in general has made incredible advances in the last 10 years, even the last 5! Both in materials and installation practices, many of the past shortcomings have been identified and corrected. If a hardscape contractor isn’t staying current, then they may be installing to the standards and practices from 10-20 years ago… and due to that, their work will fail much sooner. Ask if they are installing over limestone screenings (aka stone dust) and if they still cut dry with no silica dust control. If either answer is yes… continue your search for another contractor!

The Willow Gates Experience:

Most of the hardscape repairs we do are on installations built to sub-par standards, which do not meet current ICPI or NCMA standards. Unfortunately, many were also completed by long-time contractors who didn’t stay current. We use modern dust control systems built by Dust Killer Tools to ensure your health while we work on your property and the health of our team as they do the work.

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6. Creative Ideas: Does your Contractor have them?

Recent trends have been towards using multiple textures and colors in a patio. Creative paver inlays (designs inserted into a patio) are also a hot trend. Ask your contractor what he would recommend, both for materials and colors. You may be surprised to find yourself falling in love with a color combination that you would have never considered! Don’t be afraid to make suggestions yourself, however… remember that you are the one who will see this investment every day for years to come. Your hardscape contractor should also be willing to meet you at a distributor to view samples; taking an hour or two to consider all the options is time well spent. Again, remember this is an investment that will be there for decades, so you do want to make informed decisions!

The Willow Gates Way:

All our proposal reviews are done in an indoor showroom, and we review materials & colors along with the design. It’s the most efficient use of time, both for us and our clients!

That’s it…

Six tips for choosing a Hardscape Contractor that will delivery your patio for your lifelong enjoyment.