Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Winter Construction What to Expect

So you want to build in winter? Sounds like a great idea right? Well, in many respects it is! You can save money with winter pricing, you can have your work completed so you can enjoy your new landscape feature through the entire spring and summer. However, there are a few things to be aware of before you solicit construction in the winter.

First, not all projects should be done during below freezing temperatures. For example, painting when the temperature dips below freezing may cause ice crystals to form in the paint, which will later turn into bubbles or cracks. Make sure you check with your contractor and check the weather before starting work.

Second, there may be more delays. Frozen earth and snow covered terrain can set work back. It will take longer to dig into frozen dirt and if there is snow on the ground, the project may have to be put on hold. Make sure your contractor is aware of how the weather can affect your project.

In conclusion, winter construction can be a great idea. Just make sure you plan ahead and check the weather. Good Luck!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Retaining Wall Installation

Just like with paver installation, as I talked about in my last post, we follow nationally recognized standards for retaining wall installation. With both paver and retaining wall installation there can be subtle nuances to the jobs. For example, the type of soil and slope of the earth will play a role in how installation goes and what is required. Many retaining wall projects also require a local permit and certified engineered drawings.

However, I think that is is very helpful for property owners and home owners to know what to expect so that they can make sure their retaining wall is installed properly and that their investment lasts.

We often use Nicolock pavers and this is taken directly from the Nicolock website:

Walls up to 3 feet in height (2 ft. 6 in. for Sierra) are attainable without the need for soil reinforcement (Geogrid). Recommended installation procedures should be followed to ensure the life of your wall structure.
  1. Wall Cap
  2. 3/4” Crushed Clean Stone
  3. Top Soil
  4. Existing Site Soil
  5. Reinforced Soil
  6. Filter Fabric (as required)
  7. Geogrid (as required)
  8. 3/4” Processed aggregate Footing
  9. Drainage Pipe (as required)
  10. Foundation Soil

 Illustration shown is not for construction purpose. Please confer with your local engineer for proper placement of geogrid.
IMPORTANT! Walls higher than 36" above grade, terraced walls, weak soils and other loading conditions require special considerations in design and construction. This should be done by a qualified engineer & a professional contractor. Check with you local building department for code requirements.
The following Installing procedures apply to all Nicolock Retaining Wall Units constructed as a conventional Gravity Wall system.
PREPARING / EXCAVATING. Before beginning excavation, make sure there are no utility lines in the wall area. Excavate area to the proper depth. For geogrid-reinforced retaining walls or for more detailed information, consult your local distributor or contact Nicolock.


Excavate a trench a minimum of 6" beyond the front and back of the wall block. Dig trench 9” to 14” deep, enough to create a 6” thick leveling pad and to bury at least one whole wall block below grade. Compact the soil at the bottom of trench. Shape the slope behind wall to allow for 12” of drainage material.


Place filter fabric in trench and up the cut slope. Fill trench with clean, graded aggregate and compact.


Position a level string line at the straight face of the unit to maintain alignment. Place the wall units side by side in the center of the prepared base. Bury the first course of block to a depth equal to 10% of the height of the wall, measured in inches. Level units from side to side, front to back.


Fill the space in front of wall with clean fill to grade to hold units from shifting. Place a perforated pipe behind wall on top of base for drainage. Fill drainage area with clean aggregate keeping filter fabric in place. Backfill soil on outer side of fabric and compact.


Place successive courses by fitting the keys and grooves onto the units in the row below (if applicable).  Keep the tops of each course clean to maintain a level surface. Stack units in a running bond pattern (crossing joints).


Continue building the wall to the desired height. Backfill with clean aggregate behind each course as completed. Backfill and compact soil. Finish the wall by securing the wall cap with a suitable masonry adhesive.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Paver Installation

One of our most popular projects is pavers-- and for good reason! Pavers often come with a a lifetime warranty, they are durable and when installed correctly can last for a very long time. When we install pavers, we follow ICPI standards and this is the process we use:



Determine the area to be paved. Measure for square footage and sketch a diagram of the shape & pattern of paving stone desired.


Before beginning excavation, make sure there are no utility lines within the area to be paved. Excavate area to the proper depth depending on the type of traffic. Refer to cross section diagram.

Establish the finish grade and slope or pitch of pavement to allow for drainage. Lay out the lines and corners with string line and stakes. Compact sub-base with mechanical compactor.


Spread aggregate base uniformly throughout the entire excavated area and 8 in. beyond perimeter lines. Base aggregate material should be processed 3/4” minus gravel or crushed concrete blend.


Compact the base aggregate evenly throughout the area with a mechanical plate compactor. Do not compact the base aggregate in more than 4” layers. The compacted base should conform to the contour of the finished paved area. The grade of the base aggregate should be 3” to 4” below the finished paving stone surface depending on the thickness of the paver.


Spread 1” of concrete sand evenly over the compacted base. Screed the bedding sand to a level, smooth surface using a screed board.  For areas wider than the width of the screed board, use 1” conduit pipe as screed guides 4’ apart. Screed sand, remove screed rails & fill in depressions with fresh sand. You should end up with a complete layer of smooth sand.  Do not disturb sand bed after it has been screeded.



Install edge restraints as required. Pavers butting against curbs or foundations will not need an edge restraint. Various types of edging materials can be used. Nicolock recommends a Snap Edge edge restraint system since it is easy to install and will not rot or decay.

Begin placing paving stones on the screeded sand bed in the desired pattern. Hand place the paving stones with a hand tight joint.  Work from the paving stone side of the installation as they are set. To achieve the best mixture of colors and blends, remove pavers from delivered bundles section by section, not layer by layer, and work from several bundles at a time. Cut pieces as needed to fill in the pattern.
When all pavers are placed, sweep surface clean. Spread a fine jointing sand over the entire surface and broom sweep to fill all joints.  Leaving excess sand on the paving stone surface, tamp the paving stones into the setting bed with the mechanical plate compactor with a rubber pad. Broom sweep more sand to fill any open joints.  Backfill over the top edge restraint and grade. Your installation is complete and ready for use.
Note: Concrete dust created by saw cutting pavers can stain the surface. Be sure to cut pavers away from your installation. The use of an approved safety mask is recommended when cutting any concrete products.

Source: http://www.nicolock.com/homeowner-tools/installation/paving-stone-installation

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Who We Are

Have you met the president of our company, Ilie 'Eli' Pintilie? He really puts his heart and soul into this company-- often working 80+ hour weeks, from 5am to 10pm Monday-Saturday and he has been at this for over a decade!

He started this company based on the American dream. He came to the USA with $20 in his pocket seeking freedom and opportunity through hard work.

Eli found a job picking tomatoes and watermelons on a farm for a measly $4/hour. Although he is college educated, he took the opportunity, since other options were few and far between. He worked hard and saved his money surviving on $1 for food per day. Since he had nowhere to stay and was not making enough money to afford an apartment, he lived in abandoned buildings.

Eventually, with the money he saved, he was able to buy a lawn mower and he began pushing it door to door to get lawn care clients. As his lawn service company grew, he bought a truck and educated himself about landscape techniques and began offering larger projects.

Eli knew that knowledge was important and he continued to seek out certifications and continuing education to build his resume. He also began hiring skilled workers to help him with some of his jobs.

With Eli's determination and the hard work of his teammates, the company bloomed.  I am happy to say that Green Future is in its 12th year of business and we have seen growth each year!

One of our founding principles is that we want to make you love your yard. We know the feeling of seeing a beautifully landscaped yard, or enjoying a fall afternoon on a gorgeous patio. Our goal is to give you those feelings.

I hope this post helps you understand a little more about our company and I hope you consider using us for your next landscape, construction or tree service project. You can find us at www.greenfutureus.com or call 3016031080.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Green Future: Next Generation

My son is now old enough to enjoy movies. This means that sometimes, on Sunday nights we curl up on the couch with the latest animated flick on Netflix. While some movies are better than others, I have started noticing that the theme of many of these movies is protecting the earth.

This got me thinking, will the use of this type of propaganda help create a generation of people who care more about the earth? Will the next generation be more "green" than this one. Will we be able to stop our reliance on fossil fuels and tame global warming in the next generation.

I know that it will take much more than a few cartoons, but I am hopeful.

Look at all the technological advances that this generation has seen. Think about if all the time and energy that goes into producing the next generation of iphones went into protecting our environment.

My dream is for Green Future to become more environmentally friendly as time goes on. I hope that we can find ways to reuse or recycle more scrap materials, that we can make use of scrap wood and woodchips, that we can help people protect and save trees rather than remove them.

Who's with me? What are you doing to give the next generation a "green future."

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stump Grinding and Stump Removal

Over the years we have learned that clients have no idea what to expect when it comes to stump grinding and stump removal. I wanted to demystify the process so that you will have a better understanding of what takes place. Stump grinding is not part of the "tree removal" and is usually a separate process and item on the invoice.

If we are grinding a stump we take our stump grinder which looks like this:

You can see the round vertical blade in the picture. That is what grinds down the stump. We move the blade down and side to side. Typically, we grind down 10-12" below grade (the level of soil around the stump).

Once the stump has been ground it looks like this:

Yep, that is right, it is just a big pile of saw dust. Depending on the size of the stump you can leave this pile and it will settle over time. This is where the "stump grinding" process stops.

However, if you don't like the look of a pile of saw dust, we can remove some of the grindings and put soil and seed so that it will (eventually) blend in with the rest of your yard.

Sometimes if a stump is small, we can excavate it by hand and remove the entire thing.

Please also note that stump grinding does not necessarily mean root removal-- a tree's root system can be huge and it would be near impossible to remove all of the roots for most trees. However, if you are interested, some surface roots can be ground down like the stump.

I hope this helped elucidate the process of stump grinding and removal. Please feel free to contact us for any stump removal needs 301-603-1080

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How to make your Yard "Green" for Spring

There are many ways you can improve your yard for spring, and incorporating a little "green" into your landscape is a great place to start. 
Here are some tips and ideas on how to make your yard more eco-friendly:
  1. Fix Drainage- If you have flooding or erosion install a drainage system. Helping to disperse water prevents run-off and erosion which can damage ecosystems. 
  2. Mulch- Mulching also helps prevent run-off and erosion. In addition, it is a great natural way to help nourish and protect your trees and shrubs. 
  3. Buy in Bulk- Why waste all that packaging when bulk mulch and gravel is usually cheaper anyway. We now sell bulk items at our store in Laurel, MD. 
  4. Think Permeable- Permeable pavers and concrete are great options for hardscaping that are more environmentally friendly because they help to filter water naturally, preventing erosion and run-off. 
  5. Go Native- Use native plants, which are better adapted to your environment and thus require less maintenance, water and chemical fertilizer.
If you try any of these or other tips for having a "greener" yard please let us know how it works for you! 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How much is it going to cost?

Ever thought about having some work done on your home and looked around online trying to find out how much it will cost you, only to come up with drastically different or vague answers? So you suck it up and schedule some estimates to get an exact price. Then, when you get the estimates your eyes pop out of your head because the numbers on the paper weren't what you were expecting.

Yep! Us too! Well, the reality is that pricing can vary for a number of different reasons. We get phone calls all the time asking for an approximate price over the phone, but it is really difficult to do this type of pricing for most projects because of how different factors affect the cost. Also, sometimes a small detail to you (the property owner) may be a big detail to us (the contractor).

It's good to go into an estimate knowing an approximate price for the work you are considering and having a budget set aside for that approximate amount, but don't be married to that amount, because, like I said, prices vary!

I want to demystify our pricing to you, so you can have a better idea of why our prices are the way they are. Here are some factors that will contribute to the cost of the job.

1. Location, location, location: Just like the cost of your home (i.e. a large mansion in NoWhere, Nebraska (no offense Nebraskans and much love to you) will be substantially less expensive than the same house in New York City), construction and landscaping prices will vary based on the area as well. Cost of living, cost of gas, property values all factor into pricing either directly or indirectly. For example, a company that has to pay higher prices for gas, materials, utilities and office space will have to offset those costs in their pricing. Thus, construction costs in some locations will be inherently cheaper than others.

2. Quality of materials: It might be helpful to ask your contractor to break down the costs of materials vs. labor. Obviously sometimes quality costs more. Make sure your contractor specifies the type of materials that will be used and that they are of high standard. This could also be a way to save money if you are willing to sacrifice slightly on material quality, again depending on the project.

3. Access: A tree that can be accessed from the road will be easier to trim than a tree that you have to hike a mile to get to. The time and energy it takes to transport material and labor to a site are factored into the price, so that a site with difficult access can be significantly more costly.

4. Liability: Liability insurance is expensive for tree service and construction professionals. If there are power lines or another structure that may be easily damaged nearby our risk for damage or injury increases and thus this is factored into the price.

5. Labor: How much would someone have to pay you to haul heavy bricks in the freezing cold for 10 hours a day. We pay our guys a fair wage, which means well over the minimum wage. While some companies may try to cut costs by hiring unskilled laborers at a low wage, we know the value of a quality worker who knows his trade.

6. Overhead: It costs a lot to run a business the right way: with appropriate licenses and insurance. And for good reason-- it protects you, the property owner. Hiring a company without licenses and insurance may be cheaper in the short term, but it may end up costing you in the long run because you will end up being responsible for any damage done to your property or anyone who is injured on your property.

Of course some prices are based on square footage or linear footage, but I hope that this posts helps you understand why prices vary between contractors. Understanding our pricing will help you get the best value for your project.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

What New Home Buyers miss that could cost big.

I have been watching a lot of HGTV lately. If you are not familiar with the network it is sort of like the home improvement channel. A lot of the shows focus on home buyers finding the perfect homes or home owners renovating their property. Watching the shows I started picking up on things first time home buyers look for (things I could totally relate to when we were looking to buy our first home) and things they miss (things that I wish I had thought about when we were looking to buy our first home.)

Most first time home buyers go in looking at aesthetics. Are there granite counter tops? Stainless Steel appliances? Walk-in closets? However, the more important details that can have a big impact on living in the house, are often over looked. Here is my list of big items that you should consider when purchasing a home.

1. HVAC- I once rented in a small house where the heating bill for one month was $1000. I have also lived in a small house that used diesel heating, which cost about $600/month for heating. That's a lot of money to burn during winter months that many home buyers overlook. Check out a home's HVAC system before you buy. Is it new? Is it central air, diesel or gas?  It can make a big difference in the comfort of your home and the price you pay through the lifetime of the house.

2. Roofing- Roofs are another big ticket item. Replacing a roof usually takes at least $5000 and that is for a small home. Check to see if the roof is in good condition, or have the inspector check. Its never fun to shell out a few thousand big ones for home improvement a few years after you purchase the house.

3. Landscaping- Curb appeal is a big factor in real estate and while many want a nice big back yard, few first timers think about the work it will take to maintain the yard. Regular, mowing, trimming, and weeding is the bare minimum for a landscaped backyard. In general hardscaping, gravel and artificial turf are easier to take care of. Make sure you budget to hire a landscaper or budget time to do it yourself. Also check for drainage issues which can be very costly over time, especially if it results in flooding.

4. Environmental factor- Ever looked at a home with solar panels? How about a home with a charging station for electric cars. As our world changes, I think choosing a more environmentally friendly home will make a big difference. A lot of "green" home factors also tend to save you money which can be a huge plus. Even something as small as environmentally friendly windows and insulation can make a big difference in the overall cost of your home.

5. LOCATION, location, location- Any realtor will tell you that you can change just about anything about your house except for the location. That is why location is such a big deal. Do you want a home close to work, close to the city, in a good school district? Are homes in the area selling for more or less money than the house you are buying? Make sure you know what area you are getting into before you buy.

These are some key points to look into when considering buying a home. Can you think of anything I missed? Anything that you thought of AFTER you bought your home that ended up costing big?