When it comes to installation projects, everyone has a favorite tool. Jerry NeSmith, co-owner of is here to share his favorite gear NeSmith landscapes in Tallahassee, Fla., and Andrew Turner, owner of Tyger River outdoor landscapes, also a Spring-Green franchisee, in Greer, SC
While many contractors value the versatility and footprint of mini skid steers, NeSmith prefers a larger skid steer to lift larger pallets of pavers.
“It’s more efficient to use a skid steer to move cobbles, gravel, subgrade and sand, and to excavate native soil than it is to use your hand and a wheelbarrow,” he says. “It’s less strenuous work, not to mention you can do twice as many jobs in the same amount of time. Rent, lease or buy depending on where you are financially with your business.”
Another piece of invaluable equipment for NeSmith is his company’s Wacker Neuson vibratory plate to prepare job sites for paving.
“The plate compactor compacts the subsoil and base,” he says. “If you don’t have good compaction, you don’t have a good paver project that will last and last for many years.”
All the little things
After moving materials, NeSmith says he thinks smaller for his crewmates. He provides crew members who have been with the company for 90 days with a set of hand tools and a tool bag. These include a tape measure; marking pens and markers; a cord; a series of 1-, 2-, 4- and 6-foot levels; a dead percussion hammer, a reel of chalk line; and a rubber mallet.
A plumb line can help capture a project’s parameters and align pavers in a straight line, according to NeSmith.
“When you’re building a wall, you want to set up your first two blocks, drive a stake into the ground, wrap the string around it, and run it to the other end,” he says. “If I touch the string all the way, I have a straight wall.”
Kick hammers are essential for leveling and moving large format blocks without breaking them.
“Some of them are up to 18 inches, and you can hit those larger blocks more easily without breaking,” says NeSmith.
A cut above
According to Turner, his concrete saws are the most essential tools he and his team use when executing hardscape projects. Tyger River Outdoor Scapes primarily uses a Makita 2-stroke power cutter and a Stihl TS 420 Cutquik concrete saw with 14-inch diamond blades.
“This week we cut 6 inch thick steppers out of natural stone so they really go together well. We cut big steps and we cut brick edges. Then we made a small paver section and that’s what we do all our radii with.”
Turner also has an iQ Power Tools dust-free dry-cut tile saw for making straight cut lines.
“If it’s travertine or something very precise, we want something that will cut each paver more precisely, like the iQ table saw,” he says.
According to NeSmith, the advantage of his company’s iQ saws is their “dust-free” capability. He says it’s invaluable for commercial job sites and pool installations. It is also safer for its crews as there is less silica circulating around the job site. Screened pools are common in Florida, and NeSmith says he uses the iQ Saw as a sales tool to explain to customers that his company is using the latest technology with a smaller footprint on the site.
“If you let the regular saws cut, that dust gets on the screens and we end up spending half a day and $500 cleaning the screen,” he says. “It’s a huge selling point for the customer when they say, ‘We have saws that don’t make a mess.’ They see this as an investment in their property.”
Don’t forget the PPE
Another must-have for contractors is Personal Proactive Equipment (PPE). Safety goggles are mandatory when working with concrete saws. According to Turner, crews wear hearing protection when operating the concrete saws.
Steel toe boots are also a necessity on construction/building sites. According to NeSmith and Turner, face masks are also critical when operating traditional concrete saws to protect workers from silica.
“You can get a good mask for $100 and only change out the filters once a month. They’re nice to have.”