We briefly met with our landscape designer yesterday to go over the four initial layouts for placement of the new garage. This step was critical to moving forward with the overall design since the location of the garage would have a significant impact on the remaining landscape elements. There were pros and cons to each layout, but two of the four stood out to us as being most feasible: B and D.
Layout D was nice because the driveway didn’t have a lot of length. That would result in reduced costs and reduced time spent keeping in clean in the winter. There was also a shorter distance between the garage and entry into our home, making for greater convenience when lugging stuff from the car inside the house. But it really limited the yard space, creating awkward areas throughout and no clear way to watch the kids play from the patio/deck.
With that in mind we both concluded that Layout B would be the best choice because it offered the largest and most functional yard space and the driveway would take up a portion of the yard that currently has very little value – the narrow strip that runs between our house and our neighbor’s house. Downside? Well, the driveway will run along almost the complete distance of our property. And what does that mean? That means a potential pain in the ass when it comes to getting out of the driveway and keeping it clear in the winter. That being said, positioning the garage in the back corner of our lot would keep the location identical to the majority of homes in our neighborhood. So by no means would the placement seem odd.
With our first decision made, it’s now up to us to provide the designer with any specific landscape details that we would like worked into the master plan.
Finally, things are beginning to take shape and that alone is exciting. If only we could get the damn snow to go away for good we’d see things come together at a much quicker pace. I can only hope…
Sweet Mary and Joseph, the fence is finally finished. What was expected to be a two day build turned into a week and a half long fiasco that involved myself (the disgruntled homeowner), the misfit fence crew, their boss man (a voice in the phone), and my local home store sales manager (the vigilant savior).
I thought it was a done deal yesterday until I got a call at work from the sales manager. She asked if I was happy with everything and I explained that we loved the final product but the main gate was a little funky at the bottom (uneven due to it being on a sloped driveway). I admitted that I hadn’t done a thorough check on both sides even though I signed off that the job was complete (should have known better). She agreed that they should have done a better finish job on the gate and said that during her walk-around she also noticed a couple other things – some nails that hadn’t been driven all the way flush with the pickets and they hadn’t put back in place a small portion of my neighbors edging that had been pulled up when they dug one of the post holes. I also remembered seeing a few nails that were supposed to have gone into the cross beams but missed.
So the crew leader came out AGAIN today, which for him is an hour and a half drive, to do about 15-20 minutes of work. I can imagine how happy he was and I wouldn’t be surprised if he curses my name for the next several weeks.
With the fence in place, I’ve been working on carving out some planting beds around the perimeter of the yard. I have pretty good vision for this portion of the project and I really love how it’s turning out. We’ll need to have some massive quantities of mulch delivered to fill the beds (10-12 yards) and we’ll also need to do some plant shopping, though knowing what plants to buy is a friggin’ mystery to me. I may call a landscape designer and have them draw up a plan which I would then implement. I got a quote for that once and it was about $200-$300. Money well spent as far as I’m concerned. Plant shopping just stresses me out. I think I may have a fear of plants. I’ve never been good at caring for them and have had many die under my watch. It’s the kind of thing night terrors are made of. I never know which plants are best suited for the different areas of the yard – low sun, high shade, part shade, high sun…are you kidding? Just give me something that looks good throughout the year and requires very little maintenance. I’m sure those kind of plants exist, right?
Another thing that has come to mind now that the fence is up is getting a patio or deck built. This will be a Summer ’08 project that I seriously cannot wait to dive into. Already I’ve been spending more time out in the yard and with a true outdoor living area in place I may never leave. Hallelujah. My oneness with mother nature is just beginning.
If you’ve been keeping up with my fence debacle, you already know that things have been going far from smooth…miles from it actually. After I brought to the crew’s attention the 34 posts that weren’t set deep enough in the ground they returned the next day with a “driving auger.” It had mini tank tracks and the driver would stand at the back of the unit and control the arm of the auger making the process of digging the holes nearly effortless. They used this machine to pull out the incorrectly installed posts and dig down to the proper depth.
It just so happens that the weather wasn’t conducive to this type of machine being on my lawn, which led to track marks in a number of areas throughout where the mini-tank pivoted too sharply and dug into the soft underbelly of the turf. Then there was the narrow area between my neighbor’s house and mine that really took a beating. The back and forth of the treads pounding on the soft grass made it look like a worn Lambeau Field after a muddy overtime gridiron battle – mostly brown with small patches of green. And there was no explanation, no apologies, no, “I know we beat the hell out of your lawn but sit tight cuz someone will be comin’ directly to fix you up.”
All I got was my neighbor letting me know there were pieces of concrete in their yard and the corner post that butts up to their fence was as wobbly as a drunk frat boy during rush week. So they had to come back and add more concrete to the hole. Needless to say, they finally sunk all the posts again and managed to put up the cross beams and pickets along the back line of the yard. Actually, looks pretty nice and I will be unbelievably relieved when this project is complete.
Throughout this process we’ve had to get our local home store involved since they’re the ones we purchased the fence through, and they’ve been surprisingly helpful, coming on-site to work directly with the crew and ensure they go about things in a professional way. They even extended my warranty an additional six months to cover a couple of seasons of potential frost heaves. Trust me when I say we will not go through a home store again when large projects that involve subcontractors are involved – they simply can’t be trusted.
And that’s my final answer.
For those looking to pay a builder to install their fence, following the five rules below just might save you from strangling someone when everything blows up in your face.
Rule #1: Do Some Research
Know something about fence building before you bring someone in to build your fence. It’s a heckuva lot easier to spot mistakes or crappy labor when you know what to look for. So when you see that your ten foot posts are more than 8 feet above ground you’ll know you have a problem on your hands, and a serious one at that if you live somewhere that faces yearly frost lines. You’ll also have a better chance of noticing whether your fence posts aren’t evenly spaced, though even the untrained eye of a two-year-old could notice something as obvious as that.
“Daddy, that space is bigger than the other ones.”
“I know, punkin.”
“I don’t know punkin…I don’t know,” I respond in a muffled voice, burying my face in my hands in exasperation.
Rule #2: Identify the Man in Charge
When the crew arrives, find out who is in charge and make sure that guy or gal knows what they’re doing. How will you know? Ask. It’s that simple.
“Do you know what you’re doing?”
If you happen to see four dudes hop out of a couple pickups looking like they’re coming straight from The Outsiders movie, get on the horn and call the man in charge. If he happens to be one of the guys struttin’ around in your yard, compliment his hair and keep your kids inside.
It’s also a good idea to know something about the company you’ll be working with. Get some references and look at some of their previous work to help you make a more informed decision.
Rule #3: Discuss The Plan
Go over the entire plan before any digging begins. Property lines and how far the fence should be set back from sidewalks, driveways or anything else should be covered when the crew arrives, not with the foreman over the phone after all the posts are set incorrectly and you’re gently recovering from a mild stroke.
Rule #4: Demand Restitution
If something isn’t right, call them on it. Even if you’re afraid the crew might slash your tires for ratting them out. And even if it means the 34 posts that were sunk have to all be ripped out and replaced with new ones. It’s your house, your fence, and your money. Don’t settle for anything less than perfect.
Rule #5: Skip the Subcontractors
In particular those who are contracted by the large home stores that most of us frequent on a regular basis. In my experience many are less dependable and provide lower quality work than what you would get if you were to work with a local builder directly. You never know who you’re going to be working with and you have no way of ensuring they’re capable of handling the job in a professional manner.
Those are my rules. And since all of the examples I provided apply to my current fence building nightmare, I can say with a high level of certainty that each of my rules are extremely valid.
If only I had known…