Handheld tools for hardscape projects

April 15, 2019 -  By
Photo: Outback Landscape

Photo: Outback Landscape

Having the right tool for the job saves crews time and energy and reduces the risk of an injury. For hardscape projects, there are several tried-and-true handheld tools to get the job done. Here’s a look inside the toolboxes of contractors from around the country.

Tools that limit strain

Located in South Windsor, Conn., Bahler Brothers offers design/build, landscape lighting and hardscape maintenance services. While it services the occasional commercial property, the main focus for this $4.4 million company is residential, says Josh Bahler, production manager.

The company uses several of Pave Tool Innovators’ products, including its mallet hammers, which have rubber heads and wooden handles that can be replaced. Bahler and his team also have flat chisels, flat pry bars and trowels, which he says are a necessity.

Levels are another important tool Bahler Brothers keeps on its trucks. The team uses different-sized levels, including 6- and 8-foot ones that can be adjusted, ensuring the work is straight and has pitch, when needed. “Levels do go bad, and that could mess up a whole project,” says Bahler, who has his team test them every morning.

For putting down spikes, the team uses a hammer drill.

Josh Bahler, Bahler Brothers

Josh Bahler

“It saves on hand injuries and on forearms cramping up because it’s a lot less manual labor,” Bahler says. “If there’s a machine to do the job you’re doing, use the machine to reduce injuries and labor.”

The company provides gloves, safety glasses and any other required protective equipment. All work trucks are equipped with dedicated toolboxes containing everything a crew will need for each project.

Quality of the hand tools is also important, and Bahler looks at whether parts can be replaced or adjusted.

“Hand tools don’t cost that much, but downtime does,” he says. “The guys appreciate it when you spend the money and give them good stuff, and they’ll respect the tools — and the company — more.”

Good fit for crews

Outback Landscape also gives each crew its own set of tools, including saws, shovels, blowers, drill sets and dead-blow hammers, says Tyler Washburn, operations manager.

Outback Landscape uses demo saws — the company’s most-used hardscape tool — for tasks such as cutting PVC pipe or pavers, as well as chop saws for cutting rock. The crews also have Corona shovels, including spade and flat-nose shovels.

Located in Idaho Falls, Idaho, the $3.5 million company offers maintenance, design/build, landscape/holiday lighting, irrigation and snow and ice removal services. Its customers are 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial.

The company looks for tools that are easy to use, safe, have good user reviews and that crews like to use, Washburn says.

“It doesn’t make sense to buy a $400 or $500 tool that sits on the shelf and doesn’t get used,” he adds.

Don’t forget maintenance

Tyler Washburn, Outback Landscape

Tyler Washburn

The team at M.J. Design Associates in Plain City, Ohio, uses tools like steel spades with flat edges from A.M. Leonard. They hand dig everything, says co-owner Molly John.

The company offers landscape design/build, maintenance and seasonal enhancement services and has $2.3 million in annual revenue. Its customers are about 70 percent residential and 30 percent commercial.

Shovels, rakes and hand tampers also get a lot of use at M.J. Design. All crew members keep a soil knife with them to cut rope, containers and other materials.

John’s team members perform yearly maintenance on their handheld tools — sometimes more often for metal components. They check their wood handles, sand them down and re-treat the wood to prevent splinters. They also clean and oil the metal pieces.

“Hand tools aren’t free of maintenance,” John says. “We make sure our equipment is in good working order and safe to use.”

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