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Credentials: Licensing & Certifications
Although it is advisable for consumers to ask about or even request a copy of a company's credentials, it rarely happens, so we decided to build a page dedicated to our professional credentials to make it easier for homeowners to obtain this information without feeling uncomfortable asking us face-to-face.
State of Maryland
Business License - Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC)
This license is issued by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. A MHIC license is required of any contractor who is going to make the following exterior home improvements (improvements that apply to Kingdom Landscaping's services are highlighted in boldface type). Please note that "lawn mowing" companies are not required to have a MHIC license to mow your grass, but if they put a shovel in the ground to plant a flower, they must have a MHIC license. Why is this important to you? Well, have you ever heard any horror stories from homeowners who hired an unlicensed contractor that did terrible work for them? Sure, we all have. The Maryland Home Improvement Commission strives to protect both the contractor and the homeowner by providing mediation services and a Guaranty Fund when a home improvement is performed by a "licensed" contractor that was done in an incorrect or incomplete manner.
Exterior of Residence
- Fire Pits and Fireplaces
- Gravel driveways
- Gutters and downspouts
- Retaining Walls
Contractors who possess a MHIC license have already been "vetted" by the Commission for the homeowner by requiring the contractor to:
- Pass a written exam covering basic business and construction practices (Contracts, Insurance, OSHA, Taxes, Employment Practices, etc.).
- Must meet the Commission's financial solvency guidelines based upon the applicant's personal assets on a bi-annual basis.
- Must report any Felony or Misdemeanor convictions for criminal background check.
- Pay licensing and Guaranty Fund fees bi-annually to maintain an active license.
Don't Be an Unlicensed Contractor's Next Victim! by The Maryland Home Improvement Commission
Ten facts you need to know about unlicensed home improvement contractors:
- It is a crime to act as a home improvement contractor or salesperson in the State of Maryland without a MHIC license.
- An unlicensed contractor may have a criminal history of violent crimes or he may be on probation.
- Each year, unlicensed home improvement contractors defraud Maryland homeowners of millions of dollars.
- Unlicensed contractors may charge for work they never perform or for unnecessary repairs.
- Elderly homeowners are favorite targets of unlicensed contractors.
- Many unlicensed contractors come to Maryland from other states, so recovering money or stolen items can be very difficult.
- Often an unlicensed contractor will quote a very low price and then demand more money or engage in a "bait and switch" scam.
- If a home improvement ad, contract, or vehicle, says "Licensed and Bonded," the individual may not be licensed and has no bond. Bonding companies typically do not issue performance bonds for residential jobs.
- An unlicensed contractor may have an invalid or no MHIC number posted on the side of his or her vehicle. It is important to check with MHIC to see if the license number on the vehicle is valid and is issued to the contractor.
- Unlicensed contractors may have held a MHIC license in the past and had their license revoked because they performed shoddy work, failed to complete jobs, or for other violations of law.
If you want to check the status of our license or someone else's license, just click on this link: https://www.dllr.state.md.us/license/mhic/
Plant Dealer License
This license is issued by the Maryland Department of Agriculture. Did you know that it is a required license for everyone that deals with plant material including those who grow, buy, sell, and install plants? The main purpose of this license is to protect nursery stock from transferring plant diseases and pests from one area to another. If a harmful insect is discovered, like the Emerald Ash Borer for example, the Maryland Department of Agriculture can immediately alert everyone with this license to be on the lookout for this pest and report it to them if it is discovered on any of their plant stock.
Sales & Use Tax
Every business inside the State of Maryland must possess a Maryland State Sales & Use Tax License if they are selling consumer products to customers. Services are not taxed; just goods. This license is issued by Comptroller of Maryland.
State of Pennsylvania
Business License - Home Improvement Contractor in Pennsylvania
This license is issued by Pennsylvania's Office of the Attorney General, and it differs greatly from Maryland's Home Improvement Commission license. How? Well, this type of license is more of a company registration certificate: no exam, no criminal background check, no financial solvency check. However, Pennsylvania homeowner's do not fear...just hire a licensed Maryland contractor, and you can be assured that you are getting a reputable company from a business standpoint. Obviously, none of these licenses has anything to do with work quality, work ethic, and work experience that's why you need to look at a company's training and certifications.
ICPI - Interlocking Concrete Paver Installer
The Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute was originally founded by owners and CEOs of several paver manufacturers. Why? Well, because they were producing an incredible product that was being installed incorrectly by homeowners and contractors. There's nothing more frustrating and disappointing than driving by a paver patio or sidewalk and seeing waves and dips throughout the pavement, and this type of incorrect installations cause homeowner's to say, "I don't want a patio that looks like that." Well, we don't want patios that "look like that" either.
ICPI is dedicated to training contractors and hardscape professionals in the proper installation of interlocking concrete pavements: patios, walkways, driveways, pool decks, parking lots, roadways, etc. The ICPI class usually lasts two days and requires a passing grade on the final exam of at least 70%. In addition, you must meet certain experience criteria before being approved to take the certification class. Kingdom Landscaping originally obtained this certification in 2000 or 2001 (...it was a long time ago). In addition, ICPI requires regular continuing education credits in order to renew the bi-annual certification. Kingdom Landscaping--as a company--is a member of ICPI. Tom Tyler--as an individual--is ICPI Certified. A company cannot carry the certification; only an individual can. Membership and Certification are two separate things.
So, what does all of this prove? Well, there are still many contractors who are not installing pavers correctly. Oh, they may look good for the first year, but what about after the first "freeze and thaw" season, or 3 years, or 5 years??? Obviously, all projects require some sort of routine maintenance (cleaning off leaves and debris, removing weeds and/or moss, etc.), but paver surfaces should not become wavy like a roller coaster.
Basic ICPI Installation Guidelines for Residential Patios:
- 6" Compacted Crushed Stone Base (3/4 CR, CR6, or CR8 depending on quarry)
- 1" Washed Concrete Sand (C33)
Common Shortcuts Taken by Non-Certified Contractors:
- Installing only 2" - 4" Crushed Stone Base
- Installing Crushed Stone Base with Insufficient Compaction (should be 95%-100% compacted base)
- Using Incorrect Crushed Stone (should be 3/4" and under with fines; 3/4 CR, CR6, or CR8 depending on quarry)
- Using Stone Dust instead of Crushed Stone (using stone dust voids most manufacturer warranties)
- Using Stone Dust instead of Washed Concrete Sand for 1" sand base
- Using Fine Masonry Sand (C144) instead of Washed Concrete Sand (C33) for 1" sand base
If you want a patio that lasts, insist on an ICPI Certified Contractor like Kingdom Landscaping.
PICP - Permeable Interlocking Concrete Pavers
Tom and Jodi have both completed the PICP specialist course. PICP is part of the ICPI. PICP is a specialty installation of permeable or "Eco" pavers thataid in capturing and filtering stormwater runoff. Permeable pavers are especially beneficial for driveways and parking lots. For more information on the installation and benefits of permeable pavements, please visit our web page on stormwater management.
The course we took was offered by Eagle Bay Hardscapes in Virginia, and it was a two-day educational course with an exam. Jodi was very proud of her final test score: 96% (of course, she is wondering in her mind what could she have possibly gotten wrong...). Unfortunately, Jodi's certification doesn't count unless she becomes ICPI Certified first; she took the class and the exam for the knowledge to help her design permeable pavement systems for customers. Tom's certification is the one that counts on the jobsite!
At this point, our Certification is listed as "Record of Completion" until we have installed 50,000 square feet of permeable pavement, and then it will be converted to an official PICP Installer Certificate. We are well on our way to meeting this goal, and we look forward to installing more permeable pavement projects in the future.
NCMA - National Concrete Masonry Association
The NCMA offers a training course on installing Segmental Retaining Walls. We chose to send our son, Matt Tyler, to this educational course because he is the one who is directly involved with building our retaining walls. Again, this is an in-depth training session that includes taking an exam at the end of the course. We are very proud of Matt for passing this course with flying colors. ("Flying colors" ... what does that mean exactly - lol).
Knowing how to properly install retaining walls is very important, because if the retaining wall fails, the entire project could fail. How many of you have seen retaining walls that are leaning, dipping, or falling over? Obviously, there are many factors that can contribute to a failing wall system, but the most common is improper stone base installation for the footer as well as insufficient stone behind the retaining wall for drainage. In addition, the type of block chosen for the wall can have a major affect on its success or failure. Also, having geogrid reinforcement in between the walls is important. In addition, soil types, wall height, ground slope, all wall load are just a few of the factors that need to be considered when designing and building a retaining wall. Hire a professional who is knowledgeable in this field. It's a whole lot more than just stacking blocks on top of each other!
CAC - Certified Aquascape Contractor
Being a Certified Aquascape Contractor is extremely rewarding. Aquascape is the leading manufacturer and builder of ponds and waterfalls. Their knowledge and their team are second to none in this industry. What's even better than that is that the Aquascape Team is directly involved with all of the Certified Aquascape Contractors. We call ourselves a "Tribe." Why? Because we can rely on one another for help and advice when designing and building our water features. We meet several times a year for hand's on training in different parts of the country with our annual meeting in Chicago (Pondemonium) every August. Kingdom Landscaping has even participated in the Aquascape Pond Squad show for an episode that was filmed with the Incredible Dr. Pol at his home in Michigan.
In 2016, Kingdom Landscaping reached the level of Professional CAC. There are 3 levels: Basic, Professional, and Master. The main deciding factor for each level is product purchases. Most of the "Master" CACs are companies that only install ponds (no landscaping, no hardscaping) and their bi-annual product purchases from Aquascape must exceed $50,000. The purchasing level for a Professional CAC is $25,000 every two years. Kingdom Landscaping installed their first Aquascape ecosystem pond in 1998 in Thurmont, Maryland. We applied for CAC status from Aquascape in 2010 although we had been installing ponds for more than a decade before applying for Certification. The Certification process requires a minimum installation of 3 water feature projects, must pass an online training course, as well as have three completed surveys from water feature customers, in addition to using Aquascape products exclusively and adhering to Aquascape's construction methodology.
Kingdom Landscaping is first-and-foremost a paver installer who works with many different products from many different manufacturers. We have installed pavers that were manufactured by:
- EP Henry
Personally, we believe the top four paver manufacturers, as far as the quality and durability of their product is concerned, are EP Henry, Cambridge, Techo-Bloc, and NicoLock. There are different products that each of these companies offer that we really like. For instance, we absolutely love EP Henry's new Cast Stone Wall line as well as their new Chiseled Stone paver. Excellent Product! In addition, we really like Techo-Bloc's line of Maya Steps and their Antika pavers for mosaic borders. And, there are times when we have combined products from both company product lines to produce an exceptional look for an outdoor living space. Why are we saying this? Well, we never want you--the consumer--to feel locked in to one manufacturer. On the other hand, we don't want to cause confusion by handing you four different paver catalogs to browse through. The variety of choices can be overwhelming. However, as a design and build company, we will do our best to learn your style and help you sift through your choices.
EP Henry Authorized Contractor (EPHAC)
We are very proud of our EP Henry Authorized Contractor status. This is much more than just attending a one-day seminar and being mailed a certificate a couple of weeks later. The EPHAC Program is one of value to both the contractor and the homeowner.
Contractors don't generally apply for this status; EP Henry has one of their sales reps recommend a contractor for review and possible inclusion in the program. Once recommended, an EP Henry representative will conduct several site visits with the contractor while construction of a paver project is underway. They actively inspect one or several projects throughout the construction phase. Then the contractor must submit the following information to EP Henry:
- ICPI Installer Certification
- NCMA Segmental Retaining Wall Certification
- State Business License(s)
- Federal ID Number
- Personal Credit Report
- Proof of Liability Insurance
- Proof of Worker's Compensation Insurance
- Pictures from Several Hardscape Projects with Customer Contact Information
- Three year warranty on workmanship.
Why does EP Henry go to all of this trouble? Because they want to make sure that they are recommending quality contractors to consumers. Kingdom Landscaping receives job leads directly from EP Henry. In addition, EP Henry provides a limited lifetime warranty to homeowners that use EP Henry Authorized Contractors! And, in case you didn't know, Kingdom Landscaping has had several projects featured in the EP Henry catalog over the past three years (2014, 2015, 2016).
Techo-Bloc's Techo-Pro Contractor
The certification process to become a Techo-Pro Contractor is similar to EP Henry's but not as thorough. They don't require construction site inspections, but they do require:
- ICPI Installer Certification
- NCMA Segmental Retaining Wall Certification
- Proof of Liability Insurance
- Proof of Worker's Compensation Insurance
- Two-Year Warranty on Workmanship
Nicolock is going through the process of upgrading their certification requirements to more closely resemble those of their competitors: EP Henry and Techo-Bloc. However, at this time, we are considered a certified NicoLock installer because we attend their seminars and workshops every year. They have never issued an official installer certificate. We do occasionally receive job leads directly from NicoLock.
When we first started installing pavers almost 20 years ago, we fell in love with the Cambridge pavingstone line. Maybe it was because of the old world "Kingdom" references that Cambridge portrays in their paver line: KingsCourt Collection, RoundTable, Renaissance, Excaliber...love it! Kingdom Landscaping has over 100,000 sf of Cambridge pavers on the ground all over the tri-state area (Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia) including large commercial projects like:
- Hilton Garden Inn - Allentown, PA (2,500 sf)
- Freedom Park - Leesburg, VA (8,000 sf)
- Gateway Ministries - Williamsport, MD (6,000 sf)
We've even been to their main manufacturing plant in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, and spoken personally several times with the owner/founder Charles Gamarikian (great guy!). On a side note, I will never forget that visit because it was the first time I had ever seen the "Twin Towers" in New York from across the river. That ought to give you a clue how long ago that was...before 9/11.
As far as I know (I could be wrong), but I think Cambridge was the first manufacturer to start the two-step manufacturing process of pavers to include the top 3/8" having a finer aggregate, more color pigmentation, and uv color stabilizers. We went to the manufacturing plant to view this process of how pavers were made. Cambridge calls this process Armor-Tec, NicoLock calls is Armor-Con, and EP Henry calls it Durafacing technology.
Unfortunately, during the mid-2000s, Cambridge pavingstones were no longer being carried in the Hagerstown area, so we ended up switching over to EP Henry, which are conveniently carried at Sunny Meadows Garden Center in Boonsboro. Cambridge pavingstones are still available in Frederick, MD, Winchester, VA, and Dillsburg, PA.