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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.

Psychology of Landscape Design for Outdoor Living

psychology of landscape design
psychology of landscape design

Knowing about the psychology of landscape design guides landscaping a successful outdoor living room? What makes patio  landscaping a rich and dynamic space that encourages us to go into the landscape and spend time outdoors? The qualities of the landscape design and the landscape construction will determine if you paver patio, flagstone patio, concrete patio or even gravel patio are inviting, warm and embracing spaces. Principles of the landscape design apply to any outdoor room and can be applied to landscape projects of all scales. Some elements of design are universal and others depend on individual preferences. The most primitive and universal principles are rooted in our psychological predispositions and survival instincts stemming from the long history of human evolution. These relate to the geographical and architectural structure of the space in relation to the surroundings. The more temporal and individual characteristics will manifest in the stylistic and material elements of the structure. These elements of style change often with cultural and individual trends while the structural principles landscape design are timeless.

The primary psychology of landscape design principle in the design of an outdoor living patio in called ‘defensible space’ in the western psychology paradigm. Eastern cultures incorporate the same principle into broader design paradigms such as Feng Shui.  Early in human evolution, survival required us to inhabit spaces that could be defended. The first garden courtyards were walled sanctums from a dangerous outdoor world. But we also need a way to see our surrounding, to know what danger may be coming or to have good vantage point for food resource potentials. Humans are comfortable when they feel like there is adequate ‘wall barrier’ around them and when the have good visual viewpoint vantages. These two elements work together in that the greater visibility of our surroundings allows for lesser dependence on barriers. If we are at the peak of a grassy hill and can see a long distance in every direction, we have less need for barrier protections since we can see any danger and flee. Contrarily, in an area dense with visual obstacles, we feel the need for more ‘walls’.

We are many years evolved from those early years of human history, but the principles are ingrained and pertinent to landscape design today. If we are creating an outdoor living space in a rural area, within a setting of beautiful nature, we may want our patio space to open wide to the surroundings. Conversely, in the city we tuck our patios tight to the home and create privacy barriers to the surroundings. So the first principle is that all other principles of landscape design start first with and understanding of the broader geographical and architectural surroundings.

The most common psychological preference, regardless of setting, is to inhabit a space where we can feel safe and private but also have good views of our surroundings when we want them. That is the primary principle to follow when designing a patio in the landscape. The key is how we feel or rather how the person who will inhabit the space will feel. This is where a designer has to be a psychologist. Though security seems to have some universal elements, people feel safe for a wide range of reasons. One person may feel most comfortable back against the wall tucked into a building corner, while another may need to be away from buildings with a good 360 degree view and the openness provided. These are questions that must be resolved to best design a patio for the specific resident.

When it comes down to the enclosure of an outdoor living space, psychology of landscape design can again guide decisions. Remember that it is how the resident feels in the space that determines their level of comfort. There is not a universal approach to how we create the feeling of security and comfort. Some people will only need to have simple distractions around their outdoor living space in order to keep their attention from outside ‘dangers’. This can be accomplished with landscape dynamic landscape plantings, perennials with season change, shrubs with texture and color, and trees with sculptural interest. Other people may need heavier structures using heavy planting barrier designs with dense evergreen foliage, stone walls, wood fences or a combination of all these landscape elements. Landscape design is a process of creating space that will impart a character of feeling, an emotion. Too often a landscape designer focuses on the aesthetics, the forms or the art and the materials from a self-based orientation and they neglect the emotions of those who will inhabit the space.

A successful outdoor living room patio will help create a safe, peaceful and joyous set of emotions for those who ‘own’ the space, those who most use it and for whom it was designed. It will provide ‘protection’ from surroundings where needed and good views of the larger environment where appropriate. It will also have clear delineation for the choreography of movement, the access and egress to surrounding spaces, and adaptability for uses that will likely change over time. But, those landscape design principles will be discussed in a future article.

Outdoor Kitchens – Overview of Elements & Costs

An outdoor kitchen is a well used addition to any outdoor living spaces. After all, families spend most of their time in the kitchen, so why not get that gathering outside. The outdoor kitchen design can range from a simple grill station to a complex design with all the elements of an indoor kitchen. The biggest factor in the design is the budget so let’s look at the basic elements and costs.

The first element of an outdoor kitchen is the base which will hold the appliances and countertop. The most economical kitchen bases are built on concrete slabs with steel or wood frames and exterior grade sheathing. A higher quality base is built with concrete block on a concrete frost footer. The exterior of either structure can be covered with wood, stucco, tile or stone with natural stone being the most expensive. Expect to spend anywhere from five thousand to fifteen thousand or more on your outdoor kitchen base.

 

Outdoor Kitchne_Allentown Pa
Outdoor Kitchen with grill, sink, side burner, trash drawer and refrigerator.

The range of potential outdoor kitchen appliances is vast, so we will stick to the basics. The outdoor kitchen starts with the grill. If you are going through the expense of building a kitchen, you are going to want a professional quality grill, built with high quality stainless steel, very high cooking heat potential and excellent long term durability.  A medium size high quality grill will cost around three to four thousand dollars. The next requirements are stainless steel cabinetry for utility drawers, trash drawers, and storage space which will add another thousand or so to the project. Beyond those basics, you can add refrigerators, sinks, beverage centers, side burners, griddles, smokers and more spending upwards of fifteen thousand or more on outdoor kitchen appliances.

The last elements of the outdoor kitchen are the countertop and the utilities. Granite countertops are by far the most popular and will cost anywhere from twenty five hundred to sixty five hundred or more depending on the kitchen size. When you add the costs for a licensed electrician and plumber, an outdoor kitchen will cost anywhere from fifteen to forty thousand or more depending on the size and the elements included.

A Pergola in Landscape Designs – Add Form and Function

Timber Frame Pergola
A natural timber frame pergola set on a bluestone flagstone patio beside a natural stone outdoor fireplace

A pergola can add form and function to outdoor living spaces and define an outdoor room. The columns signify the corners and walls of the room, while the beams & joists create a roof overhead. It will denote the main room for gathered activates while creating a visual point of convergence and architectural interest. These elements of the form are also main elements of the pergolas function to define a space.

Style is the element of the form that will define the character of the outdoor room. White Palladian columns with clean white beams and joists will create a formal space when situated in gardens of strong architectural and organized plantings such as boxwood hedges. Rough timber frame posts, beams and joists produce an informal feel to the room and blend seamlessly with loose informal planting and a more organic garden structure. The materials used for the pergola construction will influence the resulting style but should also be considered with respect to long term maintenance of the structure. Cedar or other timbers will require some sealing or oiling over time.

There are a variety of companies that produce synthetic pergolas with vinyl, fiberglass and polycarbonates. The higher quality of these products are almost indistinguishable from painted wood, though the lower quality clearly have a plastic feel to them. These synthetic products tend to work best when a more formal style is desired. Shade can be an important function of the pergola. The pergola alone may not offer enough protection from peak summer sun.

Vines grown on a pergola create additional shading and aesthetic interests. Another shade option is a retractable canopy that is set on tracks in the beam structure. These can be either mechanical or manual and provide a much lower maintenance option for shade when compared to the vines. Retractable sun screens can even be fitted between posts to provide protection from the sun when it is lower on the horizon. A pergola can create architectural interest, define and outdoor living space, provide retreat from the elements, and give structure for fruiting or flowering vines. It will contribute both form and function to your garden and outdoor living space.

Pennsylvania Bluestone in Formal Landscape Design

 

Pennsylvania bluestone is the most prominent paving material in formal outdoor living spaces throughout the northeast regions. Some people may refer to it as flagstone or slate, but the proper name is bluestone and the majority of it is from Pennsylvania. The natural stone paving material can be found in estate gardens from northern Virginia to Boston. Here in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, bluestone patios are common around the majestic old homes of West End Allentown, Saucon Valley Bethlehem and College Hill in Easton.

In formal landscape designs, the natural stone is cut in rectilinear patterns for patios. The limit of the pattern design is tied to the creativity of the landscape design and the landscape designer. Random patterns are the most common, but a good landscape designer can come up with multiple paving pattern options to uniquely fir the design. One approach is to install a band of stone on the perimeter of the patio, a running bond pattern in the field and a diamond pattern as medallion in the center.

Pennsylvania bluestone is sorted into various colors, grades and sizes. When left natural cut, the top has a finish known as ‘cleft’, meaning that it has ridges and variations. This rougher finish can be refined by flaming the tops which causes the stone to regularize and leaves a more even textured finish. This finish is most common on the uniformly color range called ‘Blue Blue’ or ‘Thermal Blue’. Classic and formal landscape and patio designs tend to call for the uniform color. Pennsylvania bluestone also comes in ‘Lilac’ ‘Green’ ‘Brown’ and a full color range mix.

bluestone patio
Formal Bluestone Patio in landscape design courtyard project

Bluestone patios can be installed several ways. The stone can be installed on a concrete slab with mortar pointing in the 3/8” joints between stones. Bluestone can also be ‘dry set’ on compacted stone base much like a concrete paver patio is installed. In that approach, polymeric sand or screenings are swept into the stone joints. A good installer will cut each piece of stone such that they all fit into the pattern with less than 1/8” joints, but 3/8” or more is the common joint for ‘dry set’ bluestone installers. A hybrid method involves installing a bluestone curb and then setting the stone on a damp masons mix mortar bed with each stone custom cut to make the tightest joint possible. This technique is expensive and reserved for only the best masons and the higher budget projects.