CONTRACTOR’S CORNER: Hardscape Installation Labor Saving Ideas

Across the nation, labor shortages are affecting the hardscape contractor industry, making it more important than ever to make efficient use of crew time. Even if the labor shortage isn’t impacting your market, crew efficiencies are a crucial part of profitability. These tips can help contractors turn jobs faster, reduce the length of disruption for homeowners and maximize business potential.

Take advantage of wall construction innovations.

Often, extensive cutting is involved when building a freestanding wall, especially when needing to create curves or include channels for utilities. By using a wall product that offers a back-to-back installation platform, like Belair Wall® 2.0 or Diamond® 9D 2.0, significant time can be saved on installation. Belgard also offers the innovative U Start Base Block, which allows the base course to be installed 63% faster than with standard wall construction techniques.

2.0 wall installation compared side-by-side with a traditional wall system.
Get a head start on wall construction with U Start Base Blocks.

Invest in paver-placing tools.

Hardscape Paver Installation Labor Saving Ideas
AIRLIFT® tool by PaveTech®

Clamps, vacs, cups and other lifting equipment options have exploded in recent years. Not only will they save labor, they will also increase efficiency and reduce the chance for injury or fatigue. With larger format pavers continuing to grow in popularity, these tools will become essential to every hardscape crew. Companies like Probst®, Mquip® and PaveTech® offer a variety of paver placing equipment that can save valuable hours on the jobsite. For a special Belgard discount offer on paver-placing tools, click here.

Install modular outdoor living units instead of custom builds.

The Belgard Elements™ line includes three different series of modular outdoor living units that are not only beautiful, but engineered in a controlled setting, have a warranty, are shipped in pre-built sections and can be installed on a gravel base or slab within hours versus days or weeks. Typically, when an Elements product is sold, they are part of a larger outdoor living installation. Elements are a great way to add incremental value, increase the size of your projects and flip projects much more quickly.

Install a fireplace with 8 man-hours versus 80.

Save installation time on fire features by using prepackaged kits.

Hardscape Paver Installation Tips
Weston Stone® Linear Fire Pit Kit

Unlike the Elements products, fire pit and fireplace kits are completely constructed on the jobsite. The benefit is that they come prepackaged with all the blocks and hardware needed for the installation. This simplifies ordering, minimizes waste and cuts, and speeds installation by eliminating the guesswork. Kits that can be installed within hours include the Belgard Weston Stone® line of fireplaces and fire pits and the Eagle Bay® Dublin™ Traditional Fireplace Kit. Belgard also offers smaller hardscape fire pit kits through Lowe’s, like the Ashland Fire Pit Kit.

Consider machine-laid pavers for larger jobs.

Hardscape Paver Installation Tips Ideas
Lay multiple pavers at a time.

Machine-laid pavers have typically been reserved for commercial projects. However, with the labor shortage, they are something that should be considering for medium and large-scale residential projects as well. It doesn’t take long to recoup the cost of a paver-laying machine when you consider the average costs of a laborer, complete with Workman’s Comp, health insurance, vacation time, gear and other costs.

Use larger format and modular pavers.

Hardscape Paver Installation
Lafitt® Rustic Slab

Modular design and the use of large-format pavers are two outdoor living design trends that continue to grow in popularity. Due to fewer cuts and easier laying patterns, both trends present an opportunity to install large outdoor living spaces with a fraction of the labor that a classic small-format paver or curvilinear design would take. 

Overlay concrete instead of removing it.

Paver overlays present a tremendous opportunity to provide an updated look without all the expense of a complete renovation. It’s critical, however, to make sure the concrete is in good shape prior – as the quality of the base will impact the final product. Techniseal® DriBond™ is a great product to use for overlays and can be used for 30, 60 or 80mm pavers. Once the base is cleaned, simply screed a thin layer (3/8”) of DriBond, place and cut the pavers, and then flood them with water to activate the mudset. Typical driveways, for example, can be overlaid in a day or two with almost no mess or disposal. 

Installs like sand, sets like concrete.

Choose pavers and wall products with false joints over natural stone.

Homeowners still love the look of natural stone. However, natural stone can be time-consuming to work with. Many Belgard paver and wall products offer the look of natural stone with natural textures and false joints that mimic multiple pieces within a single piece. These systems can be installed in a fraction of the time with less expensive labor rates as compared to masonry. Products that offer false joints include Mega-Arbel® pavers, Diamond® 9D Virtual Joint wall and the Tandem® Wall System.  

Get the contractor’s point-of-view on installing the new Tandem Modular Block system.

Belgard Enhances ‘Smart Homes’ for Catastrophically Disabled Veterans

  • Belgard Enhances 'Smart Homes' for Catastrophically Disabled Veterans
  • Cavalier 'Smart Homes' for Disabled Veterans

When Belgard’s parent company Oldcastle APG, a CRH company, learned of the Tunnel to Towers Smart Home Program, the company’s senior leadership knew that an outdoor living partnership with the philanthropic program was a must.

“Outdoor living has become a large part of American culture over the last several decades. Each Smart Home recipient was catastrophically disabled while protecting the American way of life. Belgard is incredibly honored to lend our backyard living expertise so they can fully enjoy their new homes,” said Wade Ficklin, President of Oldcastle APG West and APG’s Tunnel to Towers project coordinator.

'Smart Homes' for Catastrophically Disabled Veterans

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation was created in memory of New York firefighter Stephen Siller who raced on foot from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers in full bunker gear during the 9/11 attacks, losing his life that day in the act of saving others.

The Smart Home Program was developed by T2T as a way to help catastrophically disabled veterans returning from conflicts in the Persian Gulf, an ongoing struggle that began as a result of the events of 9/11. The first surviving quadruple amputee from the Gulf War (Sgt. Brendan Marrocco, U.S. Army) came from a community near Siller’s former home on Staten Island. Due to the local connection, the foundation board felt compelled to do something for Sgt. Morracco, and thus the first Smart Home was built in 2011.

“From there, our Smart Home program was born,” said Charlie Percia, Smart Home Program Construction Manager. “Due to an outpouring of support from companies like Oldcastle APG, we have now committed to building 200 homes. We continue to get more sponsors and larger sponsors every year, which has allowed the program to continue to grow.”

Since beginning its partnership with T2T in 2017, Belgard has donated products for and helped install nearly a dozen outdoor living spaces to date, with several more in progress and a continued partnership commitment moving forward. Recipients choose the location of their Smart Homes, and the foundation builds across the country. Oldcastle APG donates the materials, while Belgard team members and local hardscape contractors donate their time to construct each outdoor living project.

“The original agreement was to build 12′ x 12′ patios, but in the course of building some of the houses, Oldcastle has stepped up to help with needs that have arisen like retaining walls,” Percia said. “Some of the installers have built fire pits—whatever they personally want to do. Each project is unique.”

The foundation is pleased with the partnership with Belgard to provide attractive outdoor living spaces for so many of the Smart Homes.

“Pavers are a lot nicer than concrete and brighten up the landscape for the recipients,” Percia said. “With Oldcastle donating the products and coordinating the installation, it alleviates us having to raise funding for that part of the house. It’s an awesome thing. Quite frankly, we couldn’t complete projects this nice without the support.”

To date, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation has delivered, started construction, or is in the design stage of 85 Smart Homes.

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For more on Belgard’s involvement with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and its Smart Home Program, read our blog: Belgard Team Members Build, Walk, Run & Climb for America’s Bravest.

TREND WATCH: Porcelain Paver Project Ideas

Since coming onto the scene just a few short years ago, outdoor porcelain pavers are quickly becoming the hottest new thing in outdoor living design. Homeowners are falling in love with the contemporary style, durability, stain-resistance and ability to mirror indoor design trends to create indoor-outdoor flow. Used on their own or as part of a mixed materials design, porcelain pavers can be used in a variety of ways. Check out the slideshows below for some inspiration on incorporating the new porcelain trend in your outdoor spaces.

Instagramable Patios and Outdoor Living Rooms

Porcelain pavers offer an excellent medium for creating sleek monochromatic looks. And with endless interpretations of stone and wood, you can also create a design with the aesthetic of natural stone or wooden planks without the fading, chipping or splintering.

  • Quartziti Pavers and Wall Veneer
  • NaMe Patio Porch Pavers
  • Noon Patio Pavers
  • Quartzi Pavers and Bordeaux™ Fireplace
  • Rail Patio Pavers
  • Stones Pavers and Bordeaux™ Fireplace
  • Stones Pavers Patio Porch
  • Verona™ Patio Pavers

Not Your Grandma’s Porch

Whether you call it creating curb envy or curb appeal, an elegant porch is a great way to set your home apart from the neighbors. For rear porches, porcelain has also proven to be a game-changer in creating seamless indoor/outdoor transitions. Porcelain pavers mirror indoor flooring design trends and often have coordinating indoor tiles and porcelain wall veneers to create a flawlessly coordinated look.

  • Noon Proch Pavers
  • Quartziti Porch Pavers
  • Stones Porch Pavers
  • Quartziti Porch Patio Pavers

Creative Transitions

Transitioning from one outdoor space to the next might involve some steps or walkways. Porcelain pavers are excellent for creating steps that accentuate a cohesive outdoor living design. You can also use them to create unique walkways, either alone or to add contrasting visual interest to a concrete paver design.

  • Noon Pavers (walkway) Mega-Arbel® pavers (patio)
  • Noon Paver Steps
  • Noon Pavers (walkway) Ardesie Pavers (stepping stones)
  • Quatziti Paver Steps PoolScape
  • Rail Pavers
  • Quartziti Step Pavers

The True Joy of Cooking Outside

Outdoor kitchens give a backyard that extra umph of livability. And this is where porcelain building materials really shine. Due to its composition and finish, porcelain pavers will not stain. Whether it is mud, oil, pizza sauce or even red wine, simply wipe it off and gone! Porcelain pavers also coordinate quite nicely with other building materials.  

  • Verona™ Outdoor Kitchen Pavers
  • Noon Outdoor Kitchen Pavers
  • Ardesie Kitchen Pavers
  • Quartziti Kitchen Pavers

Water and Fire Features that Sizzle

Fire and water make every outdoor design better. There’s just something about adding those natural elements that instantly make the space cozier. And with an extremely high compressive strength and an ultra-low water absorption rate, porcelain has a highly impenetrable surface. This includes mold and mildew, making it an excellent medium for creative water features. It can also take the heat. You couldn’t do an in-ground fire pit with a wooden deck. That would be crazy. But with wood-grain porcelain…you betcha.

  • Nau Pavers Fire Pit
  • Quartziti Pavers Water Feature
  • Noon Pavers Fire Pit Patio
  • Sundeck Pavers
  • Noon Built In Fire Pit Pavers
  • Quartziti Pavers

Spa-Worthy Poolscapes

Maintenance free and slip resistant, a porcelain poolscape is a modern take on the age-old favorite backyard addition. Porcelain pavers can be used to create sleek ultra-contemporary looks or be mixed with other materials for eye-catching inlaid designs. Porcelain is also an excellent medium for creating a stepping stone pool deck, which is a growing trend in pool deck and patio design.

  • Officine Pavers
  • Stones Pavers (accents) Lafitt® Rustic Slab (pool deck)
  • Quartziti Pavers
  • Rail Poolscape Pavers
  • Quartziti Pavers
  • Stones 2.0 Pavers
  • Quartziti Pavers

Check out how these ideas might look in your backyard with our Hardscape Project Visualizer! To find a contractor near you, visit our Contractor Locator tool.

Outdoor Transformations: Project Ideas for Overlaying Concrete with Pavers

Nothing makes a home look more dated than a tired-looking concrete slab. Stains, cracks, mold and discolorations detract from curb appeal and ambiance. But the time and expense of removing a concrete slab keeps most homeowners from replacing it. So, they try pressure-washing — which can help, but can really only do so much to improve the look. Or, they try expensive resurfacing only to find out too late that it will only last a couple of years before chipping or peeling. The better, more permanent solution: overlay concrete with thin pavers. The transformation is incredible, and Belgard pavers are guaranteed to last the life of your home.

Boost Curb Appeal

Pavers add an upscale look to a home’s exterior, significantly boosting the curb appeal of walkways and driveways. As long as the concrete slab is still sound, it can be overlaid with pavers. DriBond™ Advanced Dry Mudset is an excellent product to facilitate this type of overlay, as it installs like sand, filling in all of the cracks and seams. Once the pavers are laid in place, water is sprayed over the pavers to activate the DriBond, which then hardens and sets like concrete to bond the pavers to the original slab.

Porch and Patio Makeovers

Cross section of this project showing the overlay.

For raised homes, basement patios or concrete porches, a paver overlay will dramatically improve the look and functionality of your space. Keep in mind that the overlay will increase the elevation of the slab, so it is best to choose a paver with the appropriate thickness to avoid having to grind down the transitions. For some situations, you may need to install a french drain along the transition to avoid drainage issues.

Bring New Life to a Walkway or Entrance

Goodbye, cracks and stains! Hello, beautiful pavers. Another benefit to a paver overlay is that it allows for an expansion of the paved area without making the addition look like an afterthought.

Rehab a Pool Deck

A dated pool can become somewhat of an eyesore and can even detract from the property value. Give a concrete pool deck an eye-catching facelift with a paver overlay. The results will have you and all of your friends wanted to spend every day by your pool.

Overlay Paver Styles

Unless you specifically want to increase the elevation of your slab with an 80mm paver, the best choice for an overlay is a thinner paver. Belgard offers multiple styles in thicknesses that vary from 20mm to 60mm that work very well for overlay projects.


Porcelain Pavers are an excellent option for concrete overlay projects. They have the lowest profile (20mm), offer a upscale contemporary look and are highly resistant to stains, frost, mold and fading. And with the concrete base, they can even be used for a driveway.


Belgard offers a line of low-profile pavers specifically designed for overlay projects. These 30mm pavers offer a cost-effective way to bring new life to tired concrete living areas.


Slab pavers also make an excellent overlay option. They provide a larger format for more contemporary looks and a typical thickness of 50mm, which provides excellent stability and strength to overlay concrete and then expand the outdoor living space out further to build a fire pit or outdoor kitchen.

Watch a dated and crumbling pool deck get transformed into a backyard oasis with slab pavers.


Those looking for a contemporary plank design can also overlay a concrete surface with one of Belgard’s 60mm plank pavers.

To find a contractor who can help you with your overlay project, visit our contractor locator.

Paver Edging Options

Long-lasting beauty is the primary reason a homeowner chooses Belgard pavers for a patio, driveway, walkway or pool deck. To create the most attractive look, and to ensure longevity of each project, it’s important for pavers to be edged properly.

Paver Border Design Options

There are numerous options for paver patterns and border designs. Alternatives include everything from a simple lay with no border to intricate contrasting borders or raised edgers. An emerging trend is to entangle the paver field with the surrounding landscape in what is known as biophilic outdoor design.

  • Irregular shaped Paver Edging
  • Porcelain Paver Edging
  • Paver Edging No Border
  • Paver Edging Contrasting Border
  • Paver Raised Edging

Paver Edge Restraints

 Paver Edge Restraints

No matter which border option is chosen, the paver field should be secured with paver edge restraints. Techniseal® offers rigid paver edging in 8-foot sections or coil edging in 40-foot rolls that can both be cut as needed during installation to fit the paver field. For curves, restraints can be snipped at the top if needed for additional flexibility. Galvanized spikes hold the restraints in place, securing pavers to prevent future movement. Once sand and sod have been added, the restraints are hidden underground to create a nice clean look. In the case of a stepping-stone design, restraints are not necessary unless each “step” in the design includes multiple pavers. Pavers that abut a wall or concrete slab do not require edge restraints on the abutment side.

Poured or Troweled Concrete Curbing

According to the homeowner, this hand-troweled concrete curbing began to decay and crack only a couple of years after installation.
A better curbing option would be to use curb pavers.

Some contractors hold pavers in place with either poured or hand-troweled concrete curbing, however this practice is not ideal. Although acceptable by ICPI standards, it is not recommended in northern climates. This type of concrete curbing can also be an unwise choice for moist climates or areas with expanding clays. Over time, the concrete edging can crack or chip away, detracting from the look and reducing the stability of the paver field. For those who like the clean look of a poured concrete edge, the better option would be to use manufactured concrete edgers like Melville™ Curb, which have a higher strength and are designed for this specific purpose. Manufactured paver edgers and curbs should be held in place with standard paver edge restraints, like any other paver border.

Securing Steps

There are various options for forming steps at the edge of a paver field. Retaining wall block provides an excellent option for this, as it is designed to hold the earth back and provide stability. In addition, the coordinating retaining wall cap units are designed to provide a finished look with an aesthetically pleasing exposed edge. Bullnose coping is also an excellent option for step edging and provides a clean look that can be used to coordinate with planters and pool coping. However, most coping units are lightweight and should be secured in place with mortar or masonry adhesives to provide stability. For a more uniform look, the pavers used for the paver field can also be used to edge the steps but will also require mortar or adhesive for stability. Heavier materials like wall cap units, paver step units or large natural stone slabs will be heavy enough to stay in place without requiring additional reinforcement. When using porcelain pavers to form steps, framework and adhesive will be required.

  • Retaining wall steps paver block edging
  • Large paver step edging
  • Bullnose coping step edging
  • cobble paver edging
  • Porcelain paver edging steps

Help us Celebrate National S’mores Day and Enter to Win a Belgard Fire Pit Kit

National S'mores Day, Win a Belgard Fire Pit Kit

August 10 is one of our favorite days of the year — that special day dedicated to ooey, gooey, chocolaty marshmallowy goodness! In honor of this delectable fireside treat, we invite you to join us in celebrating our third annual National S’mores Day Fire Pit Giveaway. Each year, we reach out to our readers and ask them to submit their unique s’mores recipes or stories about enjoying a warm fireside moments with friends and family. One lucky entrant will win a Belgard Fire Pit Kit to enhance their backyard!

Belgard Fire Pit Kit


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As part of our celebration, here are some links for you to enjoy:

Gourmet S'Mores Recipes

Gourmet s’mores recipes: Looking for a new way to s’more? Get delicious Greek-inspired s’mores recipes from last year’s Fire Pit Giveaway winner and Greek chef, Elaine Pitenis.

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Design Patio Around Fire Pit Ideas

5 tips for designing a patio around a fire pit: When adding a fire pit to your backyard, these design tips will help you to create a warm and inviting outdoor living space.

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S'mores Recipes

2018 fireside memories and s’mores recipes: Look back at some of our favorite submissions from last year’s National S’mores Day Fire Pit Giveaway.

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Outdoor Fireplace and Fire Pit Design Ideas

Fire pit and outdoor fireplace design ideas: If you’re considering adding a fire feature to your backyard outdoor living space, check out our Pinterest boards for design inspiration.