Pavers Can Lock in Profits
By Frank O’Brien
Interlock concrete paving offers not only a flexible landscape option for homebuilders but also a path to profit for renovation contractors. The hardscape pavers can be used to create anything from landscape borders to driveways, retaining walls, decks, walkways ,and water features.
And business is booming.
Gross sales in Canada increased 8.8 per cent in 2016, according to the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI), but it adds that competition is also increasing as more contractors get into the business.
Adam Clark, founder and president of Showcase Stone Works, which works in the Ottawa area, credited the recent bad weather for at least part of interlock’s growing popularity. Showcase is among at least a dozen such hardscape contractors in the Ottawa Valley, which has a rich history of Irish stonemasonry.
Most of Clark’s work is on home renovations and commercial contracts, but homebuilders often use the interlock pavers to provide quick, uniform and attractive landscaping for new subdivisions, he said.
If laid properly, Clark said, interlock pavers are not only durable but also resist freeze-thaw climate cycles and can help handle the heavy rainfalls seen this year in many parts of the country.
A growth market could also be in municipal and other government contracts, according to the ICPI, which presented a Montreal seminar this April that was limited to the “staff of government agencies and design professionals providing services to the municipal market.”
There are a number of suppliers and distributors for interlock pavers, but the largest manufacturers serving Central and Eastern Canada are Unilock, which claims to have invented concrete interlock pavers in Barrie, Ontario in 1972; Permacon, a veteran manufacturer based in Woodstock, Ontario that boasts 13 plants and 800 employees; and Techo-Bloc Inc. of Saint-Hubert, Quebec. In the far West, BC Brick Suppliers Ltd. of Richmond, B.C., is a major supplier to the Lower Mainland’s strong housing market. As well, Home Depot, Rona and other major hardware stores stock various brands of interlock pavers across the country.
Interlock concrete paving is labour intensive and can involve heavy lifting, Clark said, and it takes special care to prep sites properly.
“The backbone of the job is the base,” he said, “if the site isn’t prepped properly, you are asking for problems.”
This means laying and compacting a sub-layer of soil, sand and gravel that allows draining and climate flexibility, and a Geotextile layer to stop weeds, he explained, plus a concrete border.
While prices vary across the country—and by the level of quality—a typical concrete interlock paver ranges from $1.25 to $1.50 per square foot, but typical all-in installation costs can rise to $14.50 per square foot, so there is a fairly healthy markup.
Figure on charging from $1,800 to $2,200 for a 300-square-foot patio renovation, for example. A key advantage for contractors is that, if done properly and sealed against weather damage, there are few callbacks on interlock paving projects.
RND Construction of Ottawa installed interlock pavers on its CHBA award-winning Revelstoke Drive project and Edmonton-based Brookfield Homes tapped concrete pavers for the entry to its Orchard single-family subdivision, which was also recognized in the 2017 CHBA Awards for Housing Excellence.