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Category Archives: Lehigh Valley

How much does a Paver Patio Cost? – The influence of Labor Costs

paver patio
Paver Patio in Lower Macungie

How much does a paver patio cost ? A standard concrete paver patio cost in the landscape client anywhere from $14 per square foot to $25 per square foot in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. If you want a specific price and not a broad price range for your patio project, go to one of the many HomeInfo type websites. They will give a very narrow price range for the question ‘how much does a paver patio cost’. But, they aren’t accurate and don’t account for the broad range of landscape design and landscape construction factors of each unique patio landscape project. Those sites list prices at least 20% less than built project pricing. If you want to understand the more complex factors of a paver patio price and why the range is so broad, keep reading. This first article will focus on the cost of landscape labor in relation to the price per square foot for a concrete paver patio in the Allentown region.

First let me qualify my experiences and knowledge base with regard to these price ranges for concrete paver patios. Those price per square foot price ranges are based on over 30 years of real world professional experience in four different states across the country. It is also based on conversations with other professional associates in this hardscaping industry; professionals who practice in California, North Carolina, Maryland and more diverse locations. Finally, it is based on conversations with concrete paver manufacturing companies who are knowledgeable of the range of landscape contractor pricing for paver patios in Allentown, Macungie, Emmaus, Coopersburg and Bethlehem.

patio allentown
Techo-Bloc Paver Patio Construction Allentown

This discussion is specifically about paver patio pricing in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. And more specifically it pertains to paver patio pricing in Allentown, Lower Macungie, Emmaus, Coopersburg and Bethlehem area landscape projects. When combined, the Lehigh Valley is the third largest metropolitan region in Pennsylvania after Philadelphia and Pittsburg. Location affects labor costs which are the first factor in paver patio pricing. Though the discussion of landscape labor costs relate specifically the Lehigh Valley, the principles can be applied anywhere.

Labor is the most significant and most varied cost involved in a paver patio project. The skilled landscape labor force in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton is competitive since the areas unemployment is low. This means landscape labor costs are higher than many other regions. Local business owners report that finding qualified labor is the biggest landscape business challenge. Average wages for a hardscape professional are high compared to other moderately trained physical labor. Not only is labor is the most significant cost in the price of a paver patio, it is also the most significant factor for the quality of the patio when completed.

Labor cost variations influence the range of the square foot price for a concrete paver patio. Landscape clients can hire a patio landscape company from the Allentown area who will build a paver patio for $14/sf. Those companies will pay their employees the lowest wages and thus generally have the least experienced installers. They are likely younger, less experienced and unsupervised. They may have high employee turnover and a work culture of ‘who cares’ because they are just there for now and will move on to a better job soon enough, with higher pay. The cuts will be less accurate, the joints less tight, and the base less well compacted. An established, reputable landscape company in Allentown may charge $18/sf for the same patio. Such a landscape company will have employees who have been with the company for some years and are loyal because they are treated well and paid fairly. Employees who are dedicated to a company are also dedicated to a quality product because they realize the employee and the company survive and grow together. Reputable, established companies take the time required to ensure high quality so that the patio lasts. Supervision, safety and benefits all help the professional patio installer create a better quality patio. You may pay more up front, but in the long run you will save money by note having to repair and replace. When picking a company, ask about the employees. How long have they been with the company? What benefits are offered? Get to know your landscape contractor and the company culture. Then you can find that balance of price and quality with regard to labor costs and what the employees are paid.

The cost of overhead is the next labor factor in the price of a patio. The least expensive overhead is often a company where the owner does the paver patio installation along with a helper or two. They may operate out of the owner’s home property further reducing overhead costs. The owner likely wears all the hats with the help of a part time bookkeeper/accountant. Design is seldom as creatively and thoroughly addressed up front as the creativity can happen during the process with the owner hands on. That has many draw backs, and some benefits. This owner/operator is less often trained in business or landscape design, but may have a unique natural ability in those areas. But be careful, a company like that can be more expensive. Since the owner is out doing the work, that on the job labor cost is high.

The highest cost landscape patio companies are front office heavy with an owner(s), a business manager, a designer and a bookkeeper.  They tend to have larger property and equipment overheads to manage and thus employee fleet managers and yard staff. They will tend to be at the most expensive end of the paver patio price range because all those indirect labor costs must be covered in your paver patio price. They tend to leak money at all the edges, duplicate tasks, and have bloated payrolls. In theory, this can be overcome if the company can maintain high volumes of sales and create an economy of scale. My experience and observation is shows that to be the rare exception.

patio design allentown
Techo-Bloc Paver Patio Design Allentown

Somewhere between the owner/operator and the corporate large company is the tightly run professional landscape design build company. The owner may have a college degree and be a capable business man, landscape designer and people manager. She runs a tight ship, works lots of hours and wears many hats well. The client has a direct personal relationship with the owner during the entire design and construction process. And there is a clear line of responsibility for quality. These companies can have a ‘family’ type work culture resulting in the highest levels of loyalty and dedication to quality. Generally, this scenario yields the best price to quality ratio. In the Allentown, Emmaus, Coopersburg and Lower Macungie areas, paver patios may cost in the $18 to $22 per square foot for a small professional landscape company where the owner wears many hats but does not do the actual construction.

These generalizations are intended to share a framework of thoughts regarding the general price range of a paver patio in the Allentown region. If you are considering a landscpae project, ask the salesman ‘how much does a paver patio cost’. How they answer will shed light on the type of company you are dealing with. There are exceptions to the three categories. I know of large corporate companies, small owner/operators, and landscape design build companies that all build a quality product at a very competitive and similar price. This discussion of landscape labor in relation to paver patio pricing is intended to encourage the potential patio buyer to research a company’s labor culture. Ask how long employees have been with the company. Ask the companies philosophy about labor. Does the employee work for the company or does the company work for the employee and the client? Get to know who will build your patio. Are the landscape technicians polite, neat and organized, reputable and safe? Do they respect the company, like working with the company, plan to stay? Focus first on labor quality and costs in the process of determining the cost to value balance in paver patio pricing.

 

Outdoor Fireplace and Patio Lehigh Valley

Lehigh Valley Outdoor Fireplace Patio Landscape
Outdoor Fireplace with patio and wood pergola

An outdoor fireplace is a common desire for homeowners who want to expand their outdoor living in the landscape. This project was completed by a Lehigh Valley Landscape company. The outdoor fireplace is a synthetic stone. The pergola is a standard milled lumber. And the patio is a Techo-bloc paver patio. This is a lot of landscape design elements to fit into a small project area. But the patio furniture arrangements show that the space can afford a variety of outdoor rooms.

The outdoor fireplace is a custom design constructed with a synthetic molded stone. These manufactured stone products help keep the overall cost low by minimizing the masonry labor. The fireplace does have a firebrick liner in the fire box. It does not have a true smoke chamber designed for optimal draft. A true smoke chamber will add about $1,500 to the price of the outdoor fireplace. The overall price was around $15,000. That is a standard outdoor stone fireplace price in the Lehigh Valley.

The wood pergola is constructed with standard milled, pressure treated lumber. After a season of aging, it can be stained to add more character. The pergola defines the outdoor fireplace room. Outdoor LED lighting in the pergola can provide landscape lighting for evening entertainment. The price of the pergola was about $7,500 with some custom details. Pergola by Lehigh Valley landscape company

The paver patio is a is constructed with Techo-bloc pavers. The seat wall allowed the patio to be cut into the hillside. The wall is made with Techo-bloc wall stone. Boulder steps lead to the patio. The price for the patio and walls was approximately $8,500. The paver patio was provided by Lehigh Valley landscape company.

The landscape plantings were designed by Garden Design Inc. Evergreen privacy shrubs are placed at the perimeter. Flowering perennials decorate the top of the wall. Flowering shrubs include hydrangea and knockout roses. The landscape package cost approximately $3,500.

 

This ouotdoor firepalce, paver patio, pergola and landscape project cost a total of around $30,000. It was constructed by Lehigh Valley landscape companies. Follow link below for a YouTube video of the outdoor living spaces.

 

A completed landscaping project in Allentown, PA

This video is a landscape design and landscape construction project completed by Garden Design in Allentown, PA. The landscaping included a brick patio, stone steps and landscape plantings. This is an existing landscape that was renovated. The project also included a custom cedar wood fence.

This landscaping design was based on a client wanting a diverse range of plantings to create a lush landscape garden. There were some existing plants in the projects area that we re-used. The Japanese maple stayed in place by the side patio. We transplanted the perennials including hosta, ghost fern, and daylily to name a few.

The new plantings included deciduous azalea by the large back windows. We in stalled a range of colors of the exbury variety of azalea. Vanderwolf pines are installed along the back fence to create a privacy screen. These are a lovely pine with a thick, blue hued needle. Serbian spruce are placed along the side fence to screen views of the neighbors house. Flowering shrubs include hydrangea, viburnum, and beauty berry. Aucuba was used as an evergreen shrub in the dense shade.

The outdoor patio space is set at the side sun room. The patio is natural clay brick with a bluestone border. The custom cedar fence provides privacy for the patio. An irregular flagstone patio leads from the patio to the back landscape gardens. Bluestone heavy tread steps transition the walkway from the patio to the back yard gardens. These large, natural cut stones add a warm organic character to the project.

natural brick patio landscaping
a brick patio in Allentown pa

Garden Design Inc. is a landscaping company located in Allentown PA. We specialize in outdoor living projects that include patios, landscaping, landscape lighting and much more. The quality of landscape design stems from the experience and skills of our landscape designers. We gratefully compete with a few other good landscaping companies in our Allentown market. They keep us designing the best landscapes we can creatively dream up.

Landscape Planting Design, Emmaus, PA

Landscape Planting Design
Landscape Planting Plan, conceptual planting design for landscape project in Emmaus PA

Garden Design Inc. was invited to develop planting plans for the pictured property in Emmaus PA. The home is newly constructed with no existing landscaping. But, it does have outstanding views of the natural landscape vistas beyond the back of the home. The program for this phase of landscaping is divided into four phases. One phase is to provide a beautiful entry planting where the driveway exits the main road. Another priority is to install tree, shrub and perennial plantings along the busy main road. The front of the home plantings invite visitors and soften the architecture. Finally, several planting islands extend visual interest and create a sense of space to the gardens. This is a conceptual planting plan. It allows us to share the design ideas and character without investing the extensive time required to detail each planting choice. This level plan allows us to budget a project. Once a client reviews the ideas and budget, we can then design the specific plant varieties.

All of the gardens are a combination of trees, shrubs and perennials. Trees provide the main vertical architecture. They help scale a property into the surroundings. Trees also provide the middle and taller level layers to the landscape. This design has a combination of evergreen and deciduous trees. The evergreen trees are designed as landscape anchors and strong visual screens. The deciduous trees are mostly small to medium size flowering trees. These create a veil to screen views and provide seasonal interest in flowers and fall leaf color.

Shrubs are the backbones of a planting design. This design uses a combination of evergreen and deciduous flowering shrubs. Larger sizes are used along the roadway and the perimeters. These will tend to be more of the evergreen varieties that flower but not as profusely as others. Small and more ornamental shrubs are used to ward the fronts of the planting beds and nearer to the home.

Perennials, ornamental grasses and ground covers complete the planting design. These are arranged toward the front of the planting beds. The perennials are designed with contrasting textures and bloom seasons. The goal is continuous landscape interests from spring to fall.

The next phase in this project is to review with the client. With their direction, we will complete the planting specifications and a proposal to install the landscape project. For more images of landscape plans see Garden Design Plans on Pinterest or Garden Design Landscape Plans

 

 

Holiday Landscape Decorating

Late fall brings the end to the showy colors and rich foliage in most landscapes. But it is also a festive time of year with a couple major holidays running from late November until the New Year. Now is the time to empty the landscape containers and create winter landscape decorating. Mums and annual cabbages will carry the color through the Halloween season, but what to do for Thanksgiving and the December holidays? That is the time to empty your pots and urns of the summer plantings and replace them with fall-winter arrangements.

Start by taking out the old plants from your urns but leave the soil. Pick a couple or few central evergreen feature plant or deciduous twigs for the center and height of the pot. Cuttings from evergreen trees such as holly, spruce, pine, juniper or arborvitae work well. You can also use the bare branches of a red twig dogwood or the winterberry holly with its red berries. Trim the branch ends and insert them directly into the soil.

Next pick mid-level cuttings for the urn. Boxwood, cherry laurel and holly cutting with the red berries work well for the mid-level fillers and are easy to find. Blue color juniper can add a dynamic to the overall color scheme. Magnolia leaves and branches will add a varied texture. Think of these plants as the skirt that hides the bases and gives foundation to the central feature plants. Don’t be afraid to subtly add some fake fruit or ornament to this level.

Finally, the base level foliage can be added. You will want to look for something that hangs over the edges a bit and acts as the lower hem of the skirt. Low growing or weeping type junipers work well for this. If you have access to Russian Juniper (Microbiota) it makes a wonderful accent because the needles turn a beautiful bronze color. Ivy and Euonymus are long trailing plants that will hang low over the edges.

Winter Urns can be a fun and easy project for anyone. The required materials should be easy to find throughout the neighborhood. Finding and procuring them affords a good excuse to meet new neighbors during a holiday season.

Water Features: A Flowing Landscape Element

Water features can be created using a variety of materials.
Water features can be created using a variety of materials, and their water flow can be changed as well to produce a different effect in the landscape.

One of the lesser used forms of residential landscape design would be the implementation of water features. Typically, when a homeowner is proposed a water feature, there is often a wary and cautious response. As a homeowner, you may begin to worry about the cost of the feature, the upkeep and yearly maintenance, and the cost. In early forms of design, yes, this would have posed a problem in residential design. Fortunately, many designers and non-designers alike are finding new and innovative ways to create successful and low maintenance fountain and water features. Tutorials are even available online that teach those who interested to make their very own homemade water feature.

Implementing water features in your landscape, especially if well kept, can cause housing values to increase. Additionally, water features provide a classy appeal to a landscape which can make you feel as if you home is the most expensive on the block.

The types of water features can differ based on your own personal preference. Some of the more common water features include ponds and waterfalls; however, some of the newer ones consist of bubbling rocks and even cascade falls.

Certain flowing water features now have the ability to reuse its water using electrical pumps and the water flow rate can be set off on a timer to turn on or off at certain times. This is both cost and energy effective.

Consider evaluating your landscape and see if and where it would be most suitable to install a water feature. Keep in mind that water features should be placed in area where falling debri is minimal. Installing one near a pine tree is poor planning considering it is likely that pine needles will fall into the feature, which can potentially cause some problems and pump can clog or break. It is also important to ensure that proper lining is installed for in ground water features. Water that sits on karst landscapes, or limestone dominant land, can cause deterioration of the limestone and form sinkholes.

Aside from a few minor considerations, water features are versatile and have the ability to be used in a variety of environments. Depending the number and scale of water features, a focal point can be formed. A water feature can be surrounded by small perennials and shrubs or it can sit in the center of a paved or gravel space. This is solely up to the owner and the designer.  By the end of the implementation, a well-placed and design water feature will be on display for visitors, and it will create a calming atmosphere for the surrounding landscape.

Deck Design

A deck should compliment the housing structure but it is should also be able to stand on its own. It should look appealing but also provide some functionality for an outdoor living space.
A deck should compliment the housing structure but it is should also be able to stand on its own. It should look appealing but also provide some functionality for an outdoor living space.

Are you interested in Deck Design for your backyard landscape? The implementation of decking has a mixed connotation. While they clearly have the potential to create an interesting outdoor living space for the home owner, often times their designs are constructed in an uninteresting, boring, and bland fashion. They are usually the last addition to be constructed on a typical suburban home. What tends to be a common re-occurrence is that the deck design appears to be an awkward rectangular addition to the back of a house, left to rot.

Fortunately, there are many opportunities to dress up a deck, and typically that can be done by experimenting with decking materials, preservation techniques, and surrounding vegetation. Decks have opened the doors to landscape architects to explore how this type of structure can reach top efficiency while also retaining a visual aesthetic.

Primarily, material and surrounding vegetation can make or break a decking design. Materials play a significant role in the sense that it affects color scheme and other forms of visual aesthetics, but it also influences the maintenance and upkeep of the structure as well. For example, wood is not an uncommon material used in construction, but certain types of wood need a type of sealant to prevent water seepage and rotting.  Insects are often a culprit of decking deterioration as well. With proper repellant these detrimental elements can be prevented.

Installing a deck with suitable materials should require little maintenance post construction. Using materials such as composites typically have the least amount of maintenance due to their rot resistant abilities. When using woody materials, it is best to use tropical hardwoods for they are more rot resistant and they do not attract wood-boring insects. Some suitable hardwoods may consist of teak and ipe. One of the newer materials being integrated into decking design is aluminum. A unique feature to the type of aluminum that is used in deck design is that it is a strong material, and it does not give off a ping sound while walking on it.

Keep in mind that this is an outdoor room, so consider the elements when selected the placement of your deck. Sun and wind patterns will play a significant role. While a deck becomes an entity of its own, it is important to integrate the form in its natural surroundings. Perennials, shrubs, and small trees are all suitable vegetation to surround your deck.

As a finished project, decks provide an open space for people to congregate, similar to the roles of a patio. With its elevated properties, a deck gives the illusion of being in the house without actually standing inside the structure, but by acknowledging the similar elevations. Note that there is a range of possibilities of what can be placed on the deck, but nothing beats a nice set of seating and dining area. Adding a few planters would not be a bad idea. Consider what you want to use the space for, and build onto your deck landscape design from there. Perhaps the space will become a dinner seating area, which can be used during the day, and with the implementation of landscape lighting, it can be used after dark as well. Regardless of the design, find one the fits best with you and your landscape

Landscape Plantings & Patios – How to Create Balance

The stone walkway and patio break up the dense plantings.
The stone walkway and patio break up the dense plantings.

How do we develop landscape designs that balance landscape plantings and patios? Balance is one of the key design principles in landscape architecture, and without it, design lacks a primary component. A strong sense of balance between hardscape and plant life can truly bring a design together and transform a formerly plain and uninteresting landscape into a beautiful oasis. Designing with vegetation is always a primary focus, but how does hardscape play a factor in balancing design? In short, hardscape breaks up the potential monotony of vegetated plantings. It provides some structure to an organic flow of vegetated spaces. Hardscape can be defined as man-made structures or elements in a design, and in residential landscape design, materials such as brick, concrete, pavers, etc are common forms of hardscape. Hardscape colors, shapes, and patterns leave a designer with a number of design opportunities making it such a popular design element.

Concrete is the most commonly used hardscape, mainly for its versatility. It often comes poured, but it can come in a variety of colors. Brick more often than not, is manufactured as a bright red, and with a majority of planting emitting a contrasting color of green, the red will easily stand out in comparison to most other hardscape materials. While it can be used solely on its own, one interesting look that some residences are trying is using the brick red as an accent color. Designing a concrete walkway with neutral tones mixed with an outer brick edge, can soften the brick but also brighten the neutral concrete.

Other materials, such as flagstone or bluestone and natural stone tend to work well when designing patios. Hardscape can promote the design of patios, creating great outdoor living spaces without the woody appearance of a deck, for example. Stone walls can create enclosures, creating separate spaces within the landscape. Whether the hardscape becomes the home of an eating area for families or a fire pit gathering for a group of friends, the size, shape, and style are completely up to the user.

Taking a look at Techo Bloc, a landscaping supplier, they offer many products that can personalize a landscape. Pavers, walls, and many other forms of masonry are available for purchase. Some of my personal favorite hardscape designs consist of block pavers that are broken up using grass or fine gravel. This breaks up the monotony of a solid, flat hardscape, and it allows the user to notice a change in ground type.

Aside from the hardscape, the plant selection and other softscape materials  play just as important of a role in design. Selecting vegetation and hardscape of a corresponding color scheme is typically a good place to start. Think of vegetation possibly some mulching that can be used to soften hardscape edges. Or perhaps, you want the hardscape to stand on its own, and the use of seating and landscape planters can create an interesting design. Balancing hardscape and softscape with take some experimentation, but a successful design is always possible.

Landscape Design Company

With a help of contrasting hardscape and lush vegetated greens, a brick home's facade can easily be softened.
With a help of contrasting hardscape and lush vegetated greens, a brick home’s facade can easily be softened.

Garden Design Inc. is a landscape design company that serves Coopersburg. Exploring deeper into the Lehigh Valley, there is evidence that the region has many historical architectural and landscape components. Touching on two smaller cities in the Lehigh Valley, Coopersburg and Hellertown, they are very similar is geographical make up; however, human population and existing development has left each city with its unique set of landscape design and construction opportunities.

With both cities covering less than three miles in area, Hellertown holds the higher population by almost double of Coopersburg. With that said, it is not surprising that Hellertown projects a tighter housing layout as a way to accommodate residents and business owners. While some may believe that the general lack of landscape eliminates the profession of landscape architecture, this statement is proven wrong. It is true that some elements of design may become restricted in urban design, other opportunities such as vegetation selection and hardscape design allow the design to explore.

Planting design is key in this type of urban residential landscape design, and utilizing shrubs that can withstand an urban environment is always a great way to start. Hydrangeas and rhododendron  as well as a wide range of perennials provide just enough pop of color in these cities that it catches the eyes of passersby, but it also does not provide so much that it looks out of place. Add some mulching to create a uniform groundcover that stands out from the grass and the hardscape.

Coopersburg and Hellertown developed fairly early, so there is little room for new construction and landscape design. With this said, residences were typically built much smaller back then. Since then, material choices for building construction has changed.  Some of the early developed houses are constructed of brick, which is often not seen in modern day housing construction materials. The red coloring produces a strong and almost harsh appearance to the house, but this can easily be softened through the use of vegetation. Shrubby evergreen plants and species of climbing plants have the ability reduce the visibility of the red brick, making the façade of the house less intense. Ideally, and this applies to any form of residential design, the design should be relatively low maintenance on the home owner. However, yearly pruning and cleaning will still need to take place.

Hardscape such as flagstone, bluestone, natural stone, and concrete are just a few examples of light colored materials that can be used as a strong contrast against brick for a walkway and/or patio design. Play around with mixing different paver types or arrangements to see which hardscape will work best for you and your landscape.

In a successful residential design, there is interest and visually pleasing vegetation arrangements ad hardscape implementation, but there is also an element that brings the viewer back to the original character of the building and the location. Take the opportunity to explore the unlimited options of landscape design in your area.

Landscape Design

The implementation of an accent hardscape can dress up even the most simplest of walkways.
The implementation of an accent hardscape can dress up even the simplest of walkways.

Depending on the city, the abilities and the types of landscape design will vary. Focusing on the eastern portion of the Lehigh Valley, Bethlehem is leaning in a positive direction for landscape and garden design. Bethlehem is fortunate because despite its average spread, it is still covers a wide spectrum of design being that it holds urban, rural, and suburban characteristics.

Bethlehem residential landscape design is rising in popularity, and regardless of the location, there is always potential for design. Although every landscape company has their own approach, Garden Design takes advantage of existing conditions as well promoting the usage of appropriate vegetation, hardscape design and materials, and landscape lighting.

To start, urban sections and older neighborhoods in Bethlehem tend to give off a small town feel, so simple planting and walkway and patio design is common. Throwing in a few perennials and a unique paver pattern and layout will add a splash of color and aesthetic to a formerly drab landscape. If space for planting design is limited, utilizing planting containers on and/or near the walkway and patio can produce a more welcoming feel to the landscape.

The suburban classification in Bethlehem covers a majority of the land.  This creates overwhelming potential for many forms of landscape design. Depending on when the house was built, a spectrum of conditions can coexist. In some of the newer neighborhoods, there is very little well-developed vegetation, in comparison to some of the older neighborhoods that have vegetation that has been growing for many years.

Large quantities of the houses built in the past ten years or so are typically built on a ‘clean landscape’ , which will be used in the context of little/minimal standing vegetation that existed pre-development. While this could pose ecological problems in the long run, this at least open the gates for more design opportunities for the home owner. Experimenting with front walkway design using different hardscapes can make one landscape stand out from the rest. Flagstone is not a common paver type in newer sections of Bethlehem; however, there is much potential for these materials considering its easy accessibility and attractive appearance.

Sizes of back yards in Bethlehem vary depending on the housing type, location, and year in which the house was built, but most yards are large enough to fit at least a small patio. One of the many benefits of patio design is that there are so many options to explore that can create a solid landscape design. Patio layouts and materials can easily be customized to each individual user.

Bethlehem is moving a steady rate toward more modern designs in the field of architecture and landscape architecture. Taking a look at other designs outside of the residential realm, Steel Stacks displays innovative design methods that will hopefully become translated and integrated into more forms of design.