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There are not a lot of tools that are necessary to get started with a hardscaping business or to begin your do it yourself project. A lot of the tools that cost a lot more money than simple hand tools can be rented on a job-to-job basis which will allow you to get some cash flow into your business to buy those tools at a later date when your business is more stable. This is also better for your taxes as well, but more on taxes later.
We want to focus this post on the tools needed to start a hardscaping business, though if you are already running a softscape business there are some crossover tools from softscape to hardscape. If you do not remember the difference, hardscaping involves the installation of hard products like concrete or natural stone patios, driveways, and retaining walls.
The purpose of this website is to inspire you to take action and create your own hardscaping business and start working for yourself, expand your softscape business, or get your do it yourself project going. We want to show you that you can start your business with little to no cash investment, start getting clients, and building your business fast.
This process all starts with having the right tools on your side. For the purpose of this post, a tool is defined as something that costs less than $500. This is because where I am located (Ontario, Canada) anything under $500 is 100% deductible as a capital cost allowance in Class 12, whereas anything more than $500 is deductible over time. Therefore, these tools are better for you come tax time and they are also the things you want to get started on any job.
We will list a tool and discuss what it is used for on any particular job and why it is a necessity to have for when you are starting your business. The tools will range from the obvious like a shovel to the less obvious like…well maybe for some, a shovel is less obvious.
If anything below confuses you or you do not know what we are talking about, be sure to check out our complete guide to hardscape construction where you can learn everything you need to know to build walkways, patios, driveways, and retaining walls.
Here is a list of required hardscaping tools that you should invest in:
Equipment Needed to Start a Landscaping Business from Scratch
Personal Protective Equipment
Not necessarily a tool per say, but it fits in our definition of a tool in this post and is the most important thing you want on any job site. There is nothing more important than safety. There is no working if you are seriously injured and thus no money coming in to your business.
- Steel Toe Boots
- Safety Glasses
- Hearing Protection
- Dust Masks
- Work Gloves
What we pick up is heavy and hard. That is why it is called hardscaping and not softscaping. If you drop one of these things on your toe, you would be lucky if it is not broken. We would you not wear steel toe boots? It just does not make sense. Eventually something will fall on your foot. Accidents absolutely do happen. Plan for the best and expect the worst. These are the first things you want to purchase. You do not want to cheap out on these. You will be kicking concrete blocks around often. Steel toe shoes will get mangled within a season and you will have to replace them. Proper steel toe boots will provide protection, comfortability, and they will last for many seasons to come.
Every job has cutting or chiseling involved. Safety glasses are a must when doing either of these things. Pieces of concrete do fly up when doing either of these. This is not a precaution that concrete pieces may fly up into your face while cutting or chiseling. This is a warning telling you 100% that this happens all the time and eventually one of these pieces will fly up and hit you in the eye. Sure you have two of them, but once one is damaged you have just one left and half the vision. Wear safety glasses.
Cutting concrete produces quite the racket. A very loud and piercing noise. Enough to cause your ears to ring. Forever. Tinnitus is really annoying. Always hearing a buzzing in your ear can be extremely tiresome, especially when you are trying to sleep. Wearing your hearing protection helps protect your ears from being damaged.
Concrete dust is super harmful to your lungs. When you are cutting, if you have no water or vacuum taking care of the dust, you will be engulfed in a cloud of this stuff. You cannot hold your breath long enough, nor should you be doing that to protect yourself against dust. Buy a package of dust masks and wear them as needed. Otherwise you will be coughing up the worst stuff and you will cause worse damage in the future to your lungs. It is just not worth it.
I know a lot of guys that do not wear gloves. Sometimes I do and sometimes I do not. When I am laying pavers, I tend not to wear gloves. Unless they are thick and large or giant slabs. When I am building a wall, I might wear gloves once the first course is down. The benefit to not wearing gloves is that nothing is going to get nudged or moved like your screeding layer. You know exactly where your hands are and you can feel if you are touching your base. However, the down side to not wearing gloves is your hands will become extremely dry from touching concrete products all day and they will likely get cut up. Gloves can be handy for those reasons. No pun intended.
Hand tools are what help you plan, prepare, and execute a successful project. These are things you are always going to want in your truck and ready at a moments notice should you need them.
- Tape Measure
- String Line, String Level, and spikes or stakes.
- Rake and / or Landscaping Rake
- Hand Tamper
- Steel Screed Bars Maximum 1″ Diameter
- Rubber Mallet
- Caulking Gun
- Push Broom
- Leaf Blower
This is the number one hand tool you are going to need. From measuring your project so that you are able to provide a quote and order product to making sure your heights and measurements are working out while installing, a measuring tape is an absolute necessity. Actually I have multiple hanging around my truck because I lose and misplace so many of them all of the time. It is the worst showing up to a clients house and scrambling around the truck looking for your tape measure. Now I keep one in my glove box which always gets returned there after using it no matter what. The others float around the truck.
String line is used for marking the outside border of your walkway, patio, or driveway, as well as determining the slope of your project and creating a straight line to lay your pavers from. For a retaining wall, it will help you mark a level and straight line for you to build your wall to. The line level is what helps you get those slopes and make your line level for your retaining walls. The spikes and stakes are required to hold that string line in place. All necessities on any project to make sure your end product is something you can be proud of.
A shovel. Of course you need a shovel. You are going to be doing some digging on every project. Or a lot of digging if you opt not to rent a machine. You are going to want a good steel shovel. Not one that is going to break the first time you press it into the ground. You will want something that can pick up a lot of dirt. You may opt to also pick up a flat head shovel as well, but a pointed shovel is an absolute necessity.
In my first year of business my friend gave me his wheelbarrow. I thought it was great until the wheel kept on falling off. Again and again and again no matter how many times I fixed it. The winter was coming so I vowed to stick with this wheelbarrow until the season was over and then I would invest in a better wheelbarrow. Do not do what I did unless you absolutely have to. Wasting time fixing your tools is a…waste of time. When you are a business owner, time is money. And that is money out of your pocket. Might as well use that money on the best wheelbarrow you can find.
I have always had both in my arsenal. I solid small 16″ metal rake for moving and spreading heavier mounds of gravel and a large 36″ landscaping rake that allows me to screed or fine tune over a larger area. If you have to choose I would probably go with the smaller one to start. When you are tired of getting on your hands and knees to screed with a straight edge then you can invest a little bit more money into the larger landscaping rake.
You will likely be renting your plate compactor when you start your business. This is what you use to compact your base. You should not be using a hand tamper to compact your base. Make sure that your base material is compacted properly to avoid having to return to fix your project later. A hand tamper is useful for those hard to reach areas or along the edge of places. It never hurts to have one of these in your truck. Make sure the one you buy has a steel handle. The wooden ones break way to easily after pounding as hard as you can on a hard ground.
Levels are important for screeding and building retaining walls. I have multiple sizes in my truck, but to start off you can get a 4′ (foot) one and a torpedo level, though an 8′ level will really help you be more productive. The 4′ level will help you with leveling your screed bars (though the bigger the level the larger the area you can level and screed thus reducing the amount of times you are moving and re-leveling your screed bars) and the torpedo level will help leveling your walls. Both are absolute necessities that you can build your level collection from.
You will also need some sort of flat edge to screed with. There are some products on the market specifically for this, but for when you are starting out you can use your 4′ level or whatever size level you have at your disposal. You can also opt to get a straight piece of wood that you can use.
You want the maximum outer diameter of your screed bars to be no more than 1″ (inch). This is because your screeding layer should never exceed that 1″. I have screed bars at various lengths. I have two 7′ (foot) ones that just barely fit in the box of my truck, four 5′ ones, and two 3′ ones. I simply just went to a hardware store and asked them to cut these from 10′ lengths. The longer the better for these as long as they fit in your truck or trailer. You wont want them sticking out while you are driving. The longer they are, the more area you can screed, and the faster your job will progress.
Having a hammer is good for two purposes. You need something to hammer in the nails for the edge restraint to finish your interlock walkway, patio, or driveway. You also need something to hammer the chisel if you need to create a rock face on one of your walls. Either way nothing will work except a hammer.
We mentioned what the chisel was necessary for when creating a rock face on a wall block. There are not too many other uses for this, but it is really handy for what it is used for.
Having a rubber mallet is completely necessary for that first layer of your retaining wall. Making sure your wall blocks are level in every direction requires the use of some force pounding on it to make sure it is in place correctly. If you use a steel hammer you will chip the wall blocks and likely break them. A rubber mallet prevents this from happening and provides the force to level your base course.
A caulking gun will come in handy when gluing your top course, coping, or capping on your wall. Simply install the tube of glue into the gun, slice the top off, pierce the seal and start pumping the glue to where you want it. How else will you get glue out of those heavy duty tubes?
A push broom is used for installing polymeric sand into the joints of the interlock. For this you will want to purchase a medium bristle push broom. A hard bristle broom will be too rough and a soft bristle broom wont be able to push the sand around. Having a good quality broom is important for this stage in your installation. You are near the end at this point and do not want to have your broom breaking on you, especially when you are in a race against the clock.
A leaf blower is used during the installation of the polymeric sand as well. Once the sand is swept into all of the joints you will need to give it a good leaf blowing to ensure all of the excess sand particles, polymers, and cement dust (if it is in the mix) is blown off the surface of the stones so that it does not harden to the surface. I find that having an electric or gas powered leaf blower works best. I had a battery powered one to start, but I always forgot to recharge it and was left having to wait for it to charge at my clients house before continuing any further.
When I first started my hardscaping company, I found myself going to the store or online when I found out I needed it instead of doing my homework before hand and learning about all of the different tools I needed. I was unorganized and it costed me, and continues to cost me, lots of time. And in business, time equals money.
Do not let this happen to you. This post simply lays out everything you need to start your hardscaping business. Most other things can be rented on a job-to-job basis which will keep cash in your pocket until you can afford to own it.
Everything included in this list is something you will absolutely need when on a job site. You do not want to show up ready for work only to find that you do not have your string line in your truck or that you did not buy a rubber mallet because you thought that a regular hammer would help level those wall stones.
We hope this post helps you get your hardscaping company started on the right foot and stepping in the direction of professionalism and efficiency while on your job site.
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