Spring 2016 – Article in Landscape Management Magazine, April 2016

Using tents to work through the elements

April 8, 2016 –  By Emily Schappacher

Tented projects allow companies to work through winter weather and retain their talent during the off-season.

Davis Landscape Co. shares an example of the finished project.

Davis Landscape Co. in Lisbon, Maine, uses tents to work through winter. Gary Booker, the company’s hardscapes manager, has worked as a mason for nearly 40 years and brought the process with him when he came to Davis Landscape 20 years ago. The full-service company, which has a half residential, half commercial clientele, doesn’t seek out this kind of winter work, but it will do it for the right clients when necessary. For example, a regional medical center needed a stone sign installed and invoiced before the end of 2015 for budgetary reasons, so Booker and his crews tented the project and worked through the elements to complete it on time.

“That was a special circumstance, but there are clients you will do that for,” Booker says. “Clients realize that there will be extra costs—and they are not overly impressed with the idea—but that’s the result of wanting the project done at that point.”

Booker says a tent can add about three days to a project, so Davis Landscape adds an extra 10-20 percent to the cost of tented jobs, which require heating the tent’s interior to 40 degrees F, the minimum temperature required when working with mortar. The company also charges clients for the costs of renting the portable heaters and providing the heat. Because of these upcharges, Booker says most of the company’s tented jobs are done for residential customers who can afford the extra fees and are anxious to have their projects completed. Commercial customers, on the other hand, are typically working with set budgets.

“The price tag that goes with winter work is a bit more substantial, so you can usually talk people into waiting until spring or summer,” Booker says. “But some just don’t want to wait and, in that case, we go through and estimate the job.”

Booker says contractors who are considering tented work should take the time to carefully estimate the job to ensure it’s profitable. He also says winter work isn’t for everyone. A lot of his guys look forward to a little time off at the end of the year to rejuvenate themselves for the busy spring season. Those who are interested in working through the winter also have the option to help Davis Landscape’s owner renovate houses, which Booker says can be a more dependable source of income than relying on landscape design/build work during the winter.

“We go real hard in the spring. We have boots on the ground the minute spring hits, and we’re going for all we’re worth as long as we can into November,” Booker says. “Once it starts getting colder, the guys are getting tired. It is helpful to keep guys on staff with winter work, but most of the guys here look forward to the layoff to rest their bodies a little bit.”

Photos: Davis Landscape Co.