When DIY is a Bad Idea: Hardscaping Tips from EP Henry

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Do-it-yourself projects demonstrated by professionals online seem simple. Until they aren’t.

Do-it-yourself projects demonstrated by professionals online seem simple. Until they aren’t.

The Do-It-Yourself industry offers plenty of products, informational videos and instruction sheets for almost any hardscaping project. While saving on labor costs might attract DIYers, the hidden costs to any project may send them packing.

“The main thing you’re paying for is knowledge and state of the art equipment,” said Dave Busch of Greenview Designs in Ringoes, NJ. “It may seem simple on a DIY sheet but it’s pretty complex. It’s an art and a skill.”

Dave adds that among the many components of any hardscaping project like design, compacting the subsoil, grading the stone base, etc., specialized equipment is also necessary. “You need cut-off saws. A table saw. A dump truck. You need 14000 pound compaction equipment [for pool bases].” Equipment a DIY-er would rent would not yield the same results as professional equipment. Plus, adds Dave, warranties on the patio pavers may be voided if not installed correctly. “I’ve seen people backfill trenches with dirt, not sand. That’s wrong.”

What not to DIY:

Outdoor kitchens

Any plumbing or electrical work in an outdoor kitchen or bar must be left to professionals. Non-certified work may not pass inspection and may end up costing the homeowners much more in the end. For safety reasons, all installations must comply with the municipalities’ regulations.

Pool decks

Revamping an existing pool deck requires excavation, compacting, leveling, grading, town permits and much more. “There are a lot of moving parts,” said Dave. “We have heavily-skilled laborers. Quite a bit goes into it.” In many cases with pool installations, only professionals can obtain work permits for the labor. Another consideration is disposal of earth or discarded man-made materials. Most construction debris is not permitted in municipal or private home garbage collections.

Large patios and long walkways

A one-level, square paved patio or walkway is a DIY to-do for some homeowners. Dave agrees. “Depends on which project size-wise. A DIYer may attempt to tackle a paver walkway or a small patio,” he said. Many videos and websites, as well as the paver manufacturer, provide instructions for smaller installations. Dave advises homeowners to make sure to check paver warranty requirements, and check permeable land requirements. Before any project begins, homeowners must contact utility companies to mark the buried gas and electrical lines. If lines have to be moved, that can change the scope of the project. “There’s a lot of components to doing a project right,” Dave said.

About EPHenry®

EP Henry®, the oldest American family-owned and operated manufacturer of unit concrete products in North America, provides the highest quality and broadest product offerings in Hardscaping(™). Based in Woodbury, New Jersey, EP Henry manufactures a wide range of paving stone and retaining wall products, including permeable pavers which are a best management practice (BMP) for stormwater management. EP Henry also offers beautiful patio pavers, outdoor kitchen kits, garden wall solutions and more. For more information on EP Henry Hardscaping products, visit EPHenry.com or call 800-44-HENRY (800-444-3679).

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Jennifer Caviness
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