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April 15, 2021   
November 03, 2005 


Retaining wall jobs can be easy to sell because many homeowners know what
the walls can do to enhance the functionality of a backyard, hold back earth to level an area, control erosion or just add an appealing aesthetic element.

Because people want to enjoy their homes more and are eager to extend their living spaces to the outdoors, you can profit by selling and installing retaining walls. But it helps to know a few basics about the product, its
installation, and the best way to present it to the homeowner.

Selling the job

There are plenty of ways to create some interest to get the homeowner excited about a retaining wall project. For example:

 Visit manufacturers’ Web sites, where you’ll undoubtedly find photos of their best work. Print these and show them to your clients. Point out how the wall has solved a problem or made the area more functional.

 Find nice retaining wall jobs in your area and take the homeowner to see them.

By showing your client retaining wall examples, the homeowner will get landscape ideas and begin to visualize how a retaining wall might work in their yard.

Most manufacturers also have sample kits that provide a hands-on view of the product color and allow you to explain how the wall is installed and stays in place. Explaining the installation is an important step, as most people are
more comfortable with things when they know how they work. They also will begin to understand the degree of labor, materials and equipment involved in a typical job, which may help them understand why your estimate may be higher than what they were expecting.

Also, be prepared with design ideas, and know the latest product trends. For example, adding lights, columns or a water feature can add a dramatic focal point to a home’s landscaping. Retaining walls have become more attractive in recent years, and the homeowner now has more to choose from. Color, texture and scale choices can be customized to the customer’s needs.

Colors go beyond the drab grays of the past, withchoices that include a variety of warm earth tones and blended colors. Manufacturers are also addressing texture, aiming to avoid a sameness in retaining wall projects.

Blocks have varied faces, which create a randomness more like a natural stone wall. Different block size offerings provide another way to make each wall different and match the scale desired. Retaining wall blocks come in several sizes, which can be mixed and matched to create a more unique finished wall.

Bidding a retaining wall

The first task in bidding a retaining wall project is to determine the height of the wall. Gravity walls — those no higher than 4 ft. — generally (depending on soil type and other factors) do not need reinforcement and can usually be installed without help from an engineer. You also can terrace the walls to create a series of lower walls that may eliminate the need for an engineer and heavier equipment, such as forklifts and skid steer loaders. Be sure to check with the manufacturer to determine requirements for terracing walls.

Once the height is known, consider:

Material quantities and costs — includes blocks, caps, reinforcement, aggregate, drain tile, backfill and adhesive. If the job is more complex, it could include lighting fixtures or other elements.

Labor hours and costs — anticipate variables such as difficulty of preparation, proximity to the staging area and access to the site.

Equipment costs — may include a forklift, skid-steer loader, compactor, assorted small tools (you probably already have) and transit costs.

Subcontractor costs — could include an engineer to draw a project plan to submit to the municipality or other subcontracted services.

Overhead costs — include costs to pay your office overhead, taxes, insurance and other associated costs of operating your business.

Profit — make sure you make one.

Manufacturers have training manuals, experts available via phone and Web-sites that provide more information on how to bid a retaining wall project.

Add service to the sale

The most successful contractors add great service to the project mix by providing references to the homeowner they can use to let them know the contractor is capable and will do a good job. Also instill client confidence by being licensed and bonded, and volunteer that information. Offer to provide lien waivers, even if the customer hasn’t asked for them. This proactive approach to service builds positive reputations and referrals.

Provide a timetable of when the project will start and when it will be finished. Remember to underpromise and over-deliver. Explain potential disruptions
and inconveniences that might occur during construction, and try to minimize them.

Once you have gotten to know your client and explained the details of the project, it should be easy to provide a detailed, no-surprises bid. But before you do, make sure it is a job you can — and want — to do.

Forecasters expect 2005 to be another stellar year for new construction and remodeling, and landscaping is along for the ride. With the proper information and tools to sell a retaining wall job, it can be a stellar year for you, too.

Back to News/Press Releases >> Source: Landscape Build/Design
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