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Archive for August, 2008

Day four started out a lot like Day 3, with swarms of workers throughout the front and backyards working diligently at their assigned tasks. 

In order to create an opening from the front porch to the new patio a portion of the pony wall had to be removed then patched on each end to look as if it were original.  Today the hardscape crew demo’d the section of wall and finished prepping the front and side walkway areas so they could begin laying pavers.

The curbing had completely cured from the night before so the softscape crew placed all the sod in the backyard, planted plants in their respective locations and added the top dressing of landscape rock to give it all a fresh look.  The backyard was complete!

By the end of the day the hardscape crew completed a portion of the patio pavers and nearly all the steps and side walkway before quitting time.  They also started construction of the pillar caps which we added to the remaining pony wall where we planned to add decorative flagstone caps for flower pots.  Jeff brought out a few pieces of flagstone for us to choose from which would finish make up the caps.  Flagstone is traditionally very pink in tone but he managed to find a few pieces that were more rust/slate in color which worked ~ I really dislike the color pink which proved to cause a big problem with the landscape rocks after the job was complete, but more on that later. 

It was Friday now and work was suspended throughout the weekend.  In the coming week the goal was to finish the pavers, complete the masonry work on the pony wall, finish the flagstone caps, place the boulders and final plants and top dress the landscape rock in the frontyard. 

At the end of the day we had all of the days questions written down so they could be discussed and resolved prior to the weekend.  These included:  it appeared the paver patio was slanting toward the house, the brass clean out fitting was not flush to the pavers as we were told it would be, we did not have a user guide with our new watering system unit and my original pink tone landscape rock was bugging the crap out of me as it totally fought the newer earth tone colors of the other materials.  But that was my issue to be resolved later.  My most immediate concern was making sure the palm and the ocotillo were getting sufficient water as their projected survival rate was only about 50/50.  We needed a review of how much water they needed so I called George.

He took the time to walk through the watering system with us as well as check each drip and valve to ensure all the new (and old) plants were getting sufficient water.  It was the middle of June so the heat was obviously a concern.  He also taught us what to look for as indicators of whether the palm was doing well or not.  He said to regularly check the core fronds as they grew and if those remained green and healthy the palm would most likely make it. He suggested we spray the trunk and shoot water down inside the core each day to keep it properly hydrated.  He also gave me a projected watering schedule for the plants after the two week mark which went from two full hours each day down to one then (after another week) to a traditional watering schedule. 

Innovative Masonry’s team put a level on the patio and established it was indeed angled for proper run off away from the house and I was told they would look into a cover that would make the clean out more flush to the pavers but to this day that’s not been done.  I decided to let that one go.  All in all we looked good going in to the weekend.  Curt said we’d be done by the following Wednesday which would make this an 7-day project not counting any punch list items to be dealt with afterward.

The backyard looked great and we were especially pleased with the sod. We had elected to go with a St. Augustine variety which both Curt and George had questioned along the way.  But because we had this type of grass back east we knew how durable it was and how well it would hold up against the kids and dogs.  Plus, it looks like a lush carpet and doesn’t require seeding or the other intense maintenance many of the other varieties require.  You just water it accordingly for summer and winter and it looks fantastic all year long.  It is slightly more expensive to purchase but well-worth the investment.

Curbing & yard prepped for sod

Curbing & yard prepped for sod

 

Pony wall demo

Pony wall demo

Sod

Plants going in & canary palms new home

Plants going in & canary palms new home

Front walkway prep

Front walkway prep

Paver patio

Paver patio

Side walkway

Side walkway

Materials

Materials

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Day 3, Landscape Remodel

Day three of the remodel was like managed chaos.  It all started again at the crack of dawn and two full crews showed up.  There was a swarm of activity with about 4-5 guys on each crew working away diligently.

The pavers and other material arrived for the hard scape and landscape work so dump trucks and delivery vehicles rolled in and out of the cul-de-sac on what seemed like regular intervals throughout the morning.

George’s landscape team began the excavation & ultimate relocation of the canary palm, finished the sprinkler lines, added an additional sprinkler box in the backyard and relocated the plants that were excavated on the first day to their new ‘homes’.   This included replanting the barrel cacti and several rueillas in the front yard and getting the canary palm in to its new spot in the backyard.  They also focused on leveling and prepping the backyard for the sod and curbing installs that were yet to happen.

At the same time the hard scape crew (led by Jeff and his son Austin at Innovative Masonry) leveled the sections of the front yard where the paverpatio, side walkway and steps would go.  I was very excited about having a walkway to pull the garbage cans in and out of the side gate instead of having to drag the cans through loose landscape rock as well as replacing the old brick paver walkway to the front walk with a more updated version of paver steps. 

This was also a good opportunity to review the placement and color of all the plants that would begin to go in over the days to come.  I made a few switches that had to do with the color of the plants, staggering our purples and reds and moved a few of the plants that I knew would get larger with time, tucking them in to corners where we needed more of the height.  Orange paint marked the location for the curbing and plants making it easier to envision the end result.  The same orange paint was used to outline the final shape and curvature of the front patio and two walkways and we made slight revisions to those as well. 

At this stage we also ordered additional boulders to the front landscape to better balance the yard.  I really wanted to utilize something called ‘boulder retention’ for the paver patio instead of adding any kind of masonry wall.  There’s a fairly steep angle to our front yard and one of the two was necessary to secure the patio edge.  You’ll see it came out looking very nice in the end although I would have liked the boulders to be more staggered (some on their side and some more upright) to give a more natural feel ~ that’s one of the few times I was not home during the project and missed the opportunity to tweak the look. 

Again, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be present throughout a remodel – whether in be insideor outside your home.  My husband and I made sure one of us was home just about all the time so the crews could have access to us with questions and so we could keep an eye on anything that wasn’t matching up with the original plan.  Making tweaks and revisions before the plants and pavers started going in was extremely important from a cost and time perspective.  And then there was the curbing ‘issue’ that caused some stress.

After the crews wrapped up on day 3 the curbing company arrived between 5-6pm.  They installed the curbing in the backyard in preparation for the sod and landscape rock to be moved into place the following day.  My husband was home at that hour but I had to leave to do a final walk through with a client at their new home in Ahwatukee.  I received a frantic text from my husband accompanied with a photo (like the one you see below) asking if this is the curbing we ordered because it looked awfully industrial for a residential backyard.  And it did; it resembled something you’d see in a parking lot. 

I called Curt from Outside Living Concepts in a panic and he assured me it would look great after everything else went in the next day.  I wasn’t so sure as in my mind I had always envisioned the s-shaped curbing you see so often but we never specifically talked about the shape.  It did end up looking great in the end but we agreed it would have been best if he had shown me sample photos at the beginning of the project to keep us on the same page. 

Large projects like this can be overwhelming and there are several things along that way that can go ‘wrong’ simply because they aren’t discussed.  The most minute detail is worth discussing with your contractor.  It’s common to envision how something will look in your head but the outcome may turn out to be very different because you didn’t discuss it with the designer.  Cut out pictures from magazines, take photos of what you see in others homes and yards and take your contractor to actually look at samples of what you are trying to achieve.  Be specific about material, shapes and colors.  In the end it all makes a big difference and will ultimately save you time, money and angst.

Excavating the canary palm

Excavating the canary palm

Installing backyard sprinkler box

Installing backyard sprinkler box

Canary palms new home

Canary palms new home

Curbing installation

Curbing installation

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Day 2 of the remodel started again at 5:30AM.  Curt from Outside Living Concepts wasn’t kidding when he said they start early.  Each crew was on time and I made sure to be up at that hour as well to be sure we were all on the same page before they began working.

With each of the crews the supervisor (for lack of a better word) was always on-site first thing in the morning so I quickly realized this was my chance to review what was set to happen on that particular day.  Each would stop by periodically throughout the day but it was important to catch them first thing.  Also, one person on the crew spoke English but sometimes only enough for us to confuse each other. Regardless, Curt or the supervisor were only a phone call away so it was never a problem.

So on day 2 George King and his crew at GK Escapes moved the old landscape rock to make room for the grass, began excavacation of the plants to be relocated (2 barrel cacti, an ocotillo and a Canary Island date palm) and dug trenching for new sprinkler lines, which later needed to be expanded.  (We ended up with something called ‘water hammer’ so additonal capacity and a new valve had to be added). 

The biggest job on day 2 ended up being the relocation of the canary palm.  It took about twice as long as the contractor had budgeted but the crew did an amazing job, taking the necessary time to properly excavate and move the tree.  None of the relocated plants are warrantied (which is to be expected) but as of this post, all are doing extremely well and it looks like they will make it.   You can see the original location of the palm in the first photo, below. 

For the barrel cacti, I was worried it would not make it because I’d always heard when transplanting cacti they must be replanted in the same direction as they were originally facing. When they were removed the crew didn’t mark the side that was exposed to the western sun but George alleviated my fears and said while that’s true with Saguaros, it’s not for barrels.  And he was right because they are doing just fine nearly two months later!

Digging sprinkler lines

Digging sprinkler lines

 

Barrel cacti

Barrel cacti

 

Ocotillo, transplanted

Ocotillo, transplanted

Reshaped cactus

Reshaped cactus

Digging sprinkler lines, front

Digging sprinkler lines, front

Front walkway, removed

Front walkway, removed

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OK, it’s been awhile since my last submission.  It’s been busy this summer ~ the real estate market is definitely picking up!  That’s good news for many; soon it may be a good time to sell again.

So back to the yard overhaul.  After we answered our big three remodeling questions we interviewed four vendors, discussed our options and made our selection.  We chose Outside Living Concepts as our landscape remodeling contractor.  Two of the things that made us lean toward this company were the comprehensive architectural drawing they provided complete with the placement of every plant, walkway, curbing and rock.  It greatly helped as it’s sometimes tough to envision the full scope/layout of where things will go.  Also, they laid out what would happen from day-to-day so it was easier to track.

We also picked that company because we didn’t want to deal with crews not showing up, delays in the project because of ‘other’ jobs or just plain being late.  Their references checked out and while we paid more going this route, it was good to have a contractor to go to when things weren’t exactly right.  It worked well and the crews showed up at 5:30am each day as promised and left by 2pm to beat the heat.  We knew exactly what they would be doing each day so it made it a little easier for us to manage.  There were definitely a few issues along the way but that’s to be expected in just about any remodeling job.

The first day was dedicated to demo.  Bob and his crew from Southwest Pavestone arrived bright and early.  We had torn out the above ground spa the weekend before (check out the photo of my ‘pre-demo’ crew) so   they demo’d the concrete hot tub pad, two walkways, removed and trimmed a few very large cacti, ripped out a brick border and a stamped concrete curb.  They were in and out pretty quickly and all very professional.  I especially liked Bob who was the one who took on the very mature cacti in our yard!  (Side note, drape your patio furniture during a yard remodel because it will be covered in dust/dirt)

The main lesson from Day 1 was to keep an eye on everything that was going on to make sure only those plants meant for demo were taken out, to give input on how to shape the cactus that underwent a serious haircut and make sure nothing that was meant to stay was taken out. 

After that first day we were set for the landscape crew to come in on Day 2 for all the prep work and first phase of transplanting to begin. 

Concrete pad & walkway removal

Cactus haircut

 

The tools

 

Paver removal

Paver removal

Prickly pear demo

Prickly pear demo

Spa Wrecking crew

Spa Wrecking crew

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