By Jim Connolly of Weston Nurseries
One evening this past spring, I was invited over to my neighbor’s house after a long day’s work for a nightcap. We were sitting on his deck enjoying the cool temperatures with an adult beverage in hand; life was good. The deck was not that large, and my neighbor was discussing with me how he had reached out to his contractor to get an estimate on expanding the deck so he and his family could have more outdoor living area. When he saw the estimate for the building materials, he realized that a deck expansion was not in the cards.
I threw out the idea of installing a large paver patio at the base of the stairs rather than expanding the deck. He had not thought of that at all. When I showed him the cost comparison of the decking materials versus pavers there was an enormous difference. The pavers were a more economical solution to increasing his outdoor living space. Excitedly, he beckoned his wife to the deck to share my idea, as she is the final decision-maker.
I took a piece of paper and proceeded to draw a picture of the outline of their deck and showed them how they could have a large patio which could include space for grilling, a fire pit, flowering and herb plantings in containers, and sitting areas for all to enjoy. The excitement in their faces about how they have always wanted to have more outdoor space for their family could become a reality.
Then they started peppering me with questions about the different paver manufacturers available at Weston Nurseries and what is the difference between them all? What products, colors, and textures do we have? Do we do a border or do an inlay? They felt a little overwhelmed as this was a new venture for them, and they did not know the first thing on how to start the process. I quickly went to my car and pulled out catalogs of the paver companies we represent – Cambridge, Ideal and Techo-Bloc. After viewing the catalogs and oohing and awing at all the pictures, they both agreed that a patio would be the best direction to go. But which manufacturer is best?
The rest of the night we spent going through the pluses and minuses of each manufacturer. Since COVID hit, all the paver companies have reduced their product offerings to their top sellers. This has made it a lot easier for homeowners to pick out the product which suits them best for their project. All three manufacturers produce a slab-style product that contains a small and large rectangle and a square piece. This is referred to as a 3-piece system and this is the most popular product.
Cambridge Pavingstones with ArmorTec® has Ledgestone Design Kit 3pc and a larger version called Ledgestone Design Kit XL 3pc. Pavers by Ideal® has the Andover Collection. And, Techo-Bloc has Blu 60 and a smaller version called Eva, among others. The main differentiator between these manufacturers is the size of the rectangle and square or the thickness of the paver and lastly, the texture and color choices. I always say it’s like Coke and Pepsi – they have different tastes but provide the consumer with similar products. So, which one do you prefer? There are some other differences between the manufacturers such as Cambridge Pavingstones with ArmorTec® Finish, Pavers by Ideal® Andover Collection has Color with 4D Technology™, and Techo-Bloc has products manufactured HD2 or Klean-Bloc technology. You can go online and educate yourself all about the differences between these manufacturers and get even more confused. That is why I like to walk people through the process.
My neighbors looked online, read up about the different companies and then made an appointment to come into the garden center to see the patio display we have built. I asked them, after looking through the catalogs and going online, which pictures best represent what they would like to have as their patio. Their choice was Cambridge Ledgestone XL. At the garden center they were able to see the colors of the pavers and compare a smooth paver next to the textured one. They admitted to me that seeing and touching the products helped to narrow down their selection. When you look at the pictures in the catalogs, most of the completed projects have a complimentary product which is used as the border. I was able to walk them through the process of selecting the paver manufacturer, products, color, texture, and border.
Now the BIG question: who is going to install the patio? Could they do it themselves or should you hire someone with experience to do it?
There is no wrong answer to this question. I explained the installation process to them. I also mentioned that Techo-Bloc has some great videos that show the process as well. It really comes down to whether you have the time and energy to do this kind of project. When hiring a professional installer, you are paying them to do all the heavy lifting. They would have all the equipment and tools necessary to do the job more efficiently. So, my question to my neighbors was this – Do you have the time? Can you make sure the patio pitches properly for water drainage and the base is installed properly so down the road your pavers don’t sink in areas where preparation was not done properly?
With a busy family/work schedule, it was easy for them to make that decision. I provided them with a list of qualified installers, and they were able to find a contractor in their budget. When they met the contractor, he suggested some enhancements to the project which my neighbor agreed with. The patio wouldn’t be complete without night lighting, surround sound, and a gas fire pit.
Before I left their house that night, they were so excited about the thought of an outdoor area to entertain family and guests. It will become a reality later this summer. Next time I visit I can enjoy a cold adult beverage, next to their firepit, while listening to music. Win-Win!!
About the Author
Jim Connolly has over 40 years of experience in the landscape and horticulture industry as a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist, and Massachusetts Certified Landscape Professional and is currently the Garden Center Manager for the Chelmsford facility of Weston Nurseries.
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