Your behavior appears to be a little unusual. Please verify that you are not a bot.


Design/build contractors share their go-to tools, large and small

February 9, 2022 -  By
NeSmith Landscapes prefers power tools that don’t take as much space on the job site and don’t kick up as much silica. (Photos: NeSmith Landscapes)

NeSmith Landscapes prefers power tools that don’t take as much space on the job site and don’t kick up as much silica. (Photos: NeSmith Landscapes)

When it comes to installation projects, everyone has a favorite tool. Here to share their go-to equipment are Jerry NeSmith, co-owner of NeSmith Landscapes in Tallahassee, Fla., and Andrew Turner, owner of Tyger River Outdoor Scapes, also a Spring-Green franchisee, in Greer, S.C.

While many contractors like the versatility and the footprint of mini skid-steers, NeSmith prefers a larger compact skid-steer to lift larger pallets of pavers.

“It’s more efficient to move pavers, gravel, base, sand and excavate native soils with a skid-steer rather than by hand and wheelbarrow,” he says. “It’s less back-breaking labor, and not to mention, you will be able to do twice as many jobs in the same amount of time. Rent, lease or buy based on where you’re at with your company financially.”

Another piece of invaluable equipment for NeSmith is his company’s Wacker Neuson plate compactor to prep sites for paver installation.

“The plate compactor compacts the sub-base and the base,” he says. “If you don’t have good compaction, then you don’t have a good paver project that will last and hold up for many years.”

All the small things

After moving materials, NeSmith says he thinks smaller for his crew members. He supplies crew members who have been with the company for 90 days a set of hand tools and a tool bag. These include a tape measure; marking pencils and markers; a string line; a set of 1-, 2-, 4- and 6-foot levels; a dead blow hammer, a chalk line reel; and a rubber mallet.

Jerry NeSmith provides tool bags for all his design/build employees. The contents include several levels, marking tools and more. (Photo: NeSmith Landscapes)

Jerry NeSmith provides tool bags for all his design/build employees. The contents include several levels, marking tools and more. (Photo: NeSmith Landscapes)

A string line, NeSmith says, can help capture the parameters of a project and line up pavers in a straight line.
“If you’re building a wall, you want to put your first two blocks down, put a stake in the ground, wrap the string around it and run it down to the other end,” he says. “Touching that string all the way, I’ve got a straight wall.”

Dead blow hammers are essential for leveling and moving large format blocks without cracking them.

“Some of them are as big as 18 inches, and you can hit these bigger blocks easier without cracking,” NeSmith says.

A cut above

Turner says his concrete saws are the most indispensable tools he and his team use to execute hardscape projects. Tyger River Outdoor Scapes primarily uses a Makita two-stroke engine power cutter and a Stihl TS 420 Cutquik concrete saw with 14-inch diamond blades.

“This week, we cut 6-inch-thick natural stone steppers to make them fit in with each other really well. We were cutting big steps, and we cut brick edging. Then we did a small paver section, and we do all our radiuses with that.”

Turner also has an iQ Power Tools dry-cut dustless tile saw to execute straight cutting lines.

“If it’s travertine or something really precise, we want something that will cut each paver more precisely, like the iQ table saw,” he says.

NeSmith says the benefit to his company’s iQ saws is its “dustless” capability. He says it’s invaluable for commercial job sites and pool installations. It’s also safer for his crews because there’s less silica circulating on the job site. Screened-in pools are common in Florida, and NeSmith says he uses the iQ saw as a selling tool, explaining to clients that his company uses the latest technology with less of a footprint on the worksite.

“When you have the normal saws cutting, that dust gets on the screens, and we have to end up spending a half a day and $500 cleaning the screen,” he says. “It’s a tremendous selling tool to the customer to say, ‘We’ve got saws that won’t make a mess.’ They see that as an investment for their property.”

Don’t forget the PPE

Another must-have for contractors is personal proactive equipment (PPE). Safety glasses are a requirement when working with concrete saws. Turner says crews wear hearing protection when operating the concrete saws.

Steel-toed boots are also a necessity on design/build job sites. NeSmith and Turner say face masks are also key when operating traditional concrete saws to protect workers against silica.

“For $100, you get a good mask, and you just replace the filters once a month. Those are nice to have,”
NeSmith says.

Comments are currently closed.