Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Circle - Wallstone (redo)

Wednesday, September 27

In the morning, Tim demoed the first 2 course and places them around the site, so that it'd be easy to place them back. At the same time Tom's crew was there grading the top soil more.

When I had gotten home, Tim and I had taken a trip to Home Depot and purchased the cinder blocks for the bottom course. When we got back, we laid them out and repositioned the wallstone back in place, but this time, on top of the cinder blocks.

It was clear, when the stones were back in place, that it was the way to go. They were now at the right height to the grade of the driveway. I hated to redo everything, but sometimes it's for the best.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Circle - Wallstone (redo)

Tuesday, September 26

Ah,.... how's that phrase go.... two steps back, one forward.

After finishing the first course of wallstone and starting on the 2nd, we came to the hard conclusion that it was very low. The gravel circle had been built up more than we had expected (which is good), but not for my plans in the center.

For stability, the first course should be buried (below grade). Unfortunately, to get it up to grade, 2 now would be buried. Tim said the simple sulotion, but I didn't want to hear it. That was "redo". Ooohh.... how I didn't want to hear it. Then I talked to my parents, and they said the same darn thing. With 3 people saying it, I had to give in to reason.

My Dad suggested something that I had read about, but had forgotten. A trick to save the first course, (aka money), is to use cinder blocks, instead of stone. The first course is buried anyways, so it doesn't matter what it looks like. So.... that's what Tim and I will do tomorrow..... purchase cinder blocks and redo the first 2 courses.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Circle - Wallstone

Monday, September 25

Last week on the 18th, one of the places we had gone, besides meeting up with Tom, was to go to a landscape nursery. I've been searching for a stone yard in our area, but unfortunately the quarries have recently closed and there aren't many places locally to purchase wallstone anymore. I did find a nursery that's only 10 min away, but being late in the season there's not much to choose from.

Fortunately, the wallstone we liked was actually what they still had in stock. The colors match our stone veneer fantastically well. They had 2 full pallets left. So I purchased them.

It was an interesting experience talking to the owner, who was actually very knowledgeable and gave us tons of useful information about building a stone wall, as well as landscaping and other building info. The reason this was an interesting experience was because we had to look past the owner being a cross-dresser. Ooooohhh... let me tell you about being caught off guard :) Looking past that.... he was by far one of the most knowledgeable and nice person we've run into during the building process.

Today the 2 pallets of wallstone were delivered. So we could get started on building the square stone wall, for the raised flower bed, that the magnolia tree will reside in.

The first course was going down very nicely. I've read that the first course sets the tone. It needs to be stable and as wide as at least half the height of the final wall height, for stability.

I love it so far. I'll tell ya though.... it's a lot of work. Some of those pieces have to weigh at least 30-40 pounds. I could really feel it in my legs and my arms when I was done for the day.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Front Yard - Circle landscape (excavation)

Sunday, September 24

I've had sketched a landscape plan of what I wanted the center area of the circular driveway to look like a couple of months ago. I've been patiently waiting for the yard to be graded so that I could carry that plan out.

The center will be made up of different shapes and levels of natural wall stone. The center-most being a square/diamond and the highest point. That area will be home to a Star Magnolia tree, that Mom wants to treat me to. It's 8 square feet and will be at sitting height. Instead of typical mulch, am considering having decorative pebbles there. And I chose to incorporate a diamond shape into the landscape in order to continue design elements from the interior of the house to the exterior.

Each of the other shapes will be separated by wall stones and varying height as well. There will only be one area of grass. The other areas will either be mulch or decorative pebbles. The grass will be the lowest level and I'm going to plan my Japanese Maple that's been patiently waiting to be planted.

Since the yard is now graded and flattened, we got to work today with our excavation of the center. We started by drawing the lines of the design with landscapers marking paint. We then could use those guides to start digging trenches for where the stone walls will be built.

As I've read, when building a retaining wall, a trench needs to be dug out so that the stones have a lip to keep them from slipping. Then a base of gravel goes down before the stones are placed.

My Dad was kind enough to lend some manual labor power to help me dig out the trenches, while Tim scraped off some of the top soil, from the back yard, to build up the center and grass area of the plan. It was a lot of work and were were definitely pooped afterwards, but I felt that we accomplished a lot in a short period.

Also..... last week, Tom's crew did stop by and install those septic extension hatches for easy access. They look ok..... not too bad..... considering they'll save us effort when we need to use them... I don't mind them.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Front Yard - Circle Construction

Thursday, September 21

Yeah..... today we finally get what we've waited for... our circular driveway in our front yard. They came this morning to start, before I left for work, so I was able to get some photos of the start of it.

Later on, in the afternoon, I received an email from Tim with an a pic attached of our band-spanking new circular driveway. He even got up on the roof and gave me a birds-eye-view. His email jokingly said that he risked life and limb to get me this photo :)

One of my favorite movies is the Money Pit with Tom Hanks. There's a part in it where they finally get stairs and Tom Hans jumps up and down on them and cries in disbelief that they finally had stairs. That's what I felt like when I have seen the pic.

I was so excited I had to show my coworkers Paul & Charlie. They thought I was nuts. I told them that if they had witnessed the picture too, then it must be real. Charlie then said that he didn't know and it might be a mass delusion :)

It wasn't though..... it's real :)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Front Yard - Graded, Septic Issues, Top Soil

Wednesday, September 20

Tom came to work on yard today. He and his crew came to clear & grade the yard some more.

He had come before I left for work, so I had the chance, with Tim, to talk about the septic and drainage issues before I left for work. One thing we found out was that the culvert was definitely blocked.

Tom said that was definitely the culprit for our reoccurring septic alarm. Due to the runoff water not having anywhere to go, it was raising in the pump tank and would cause the pump to overheat and turn off. The water would raise too high and set off the alarm. Not just that, but Tom and his crew found the float to be too high anyways, for the pump to turn on, so they lowered it to a better height.

Now my question is why couldn't G&K Sewer figure that out?

Also... oh... it gets better.... Denise @ G&K also had done a couple of other things I have choice words about. Mainly the fact that they hadn't installed any sort of easy access to the clean-out access panel. This means that we would have to have someone dig out the manhole (under the lawn) every time we had to have it maintained.

Also.... Tom asked us where our filter access was. We just looked at each other and shrugged. Considering that Denise STILL has not given us our manual, we had no idea what Tom was talking about. Apparently with a sand filter there is a filter that we're suppose to clean off every 6 months - 1 year. If it's not, we could have a backup inside the house. I was so pissed. That too was also buried, with no access.

We wound up deciding to purchase some access extender hatches, from Tom. They are a heavy duty green plastic dome for easy access. Tom unburied the septic to find the manholes and said that he'd install the domes for us this week.

It's really amazing..... how in about 30min Tom was able to figure out what G&K Sewers couldn't figure out in 8 months.

Amazing-amazing. Gee wis..... just makes me all warm and fuzzy with thoughts of our builders, Mike & Joe, from Sales Associates of WNY :)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Front Yard - Graded & flattened

Tuesday, September 19

Well... just as Jerry stated, if Tom says they'll come, they will come.... and they came. At 7:30, just as I was about to hop into the shower, I heard some rumbling that sounded like a truck. Sure enough, Tim yelled in that they were here.

I stayed around for a few minutes, but I had to head to work.. It killed me to leave, but I looked forward to coming home to seeing a yard cleared of weeds.

It looked so awesome to drive up to the house, after work and see the weeds gone. *sign* I can't tell you how awesome it was.

Of course there is a catch. There's always a catch..... now with this contractor..... with our old friend Denise, from G&K. To confirm what we already decided about his professionalism, he's the type of contractor that gets in, gets out and doesn't offer anything beyond that.

Tim had a fabulous time on the phone with him today discussing the fact that the septic alarm had gone off this morning. Tom, our landscaper discovered what the issues were that Denise reluctantly looked into and had any answers for. Finally.... finally we get answers.... and not even by the person that installed it.

Apparently the reason why the alarm kept going off is because there's no where for the drain/run off water to go. We either don't have drainage culvert or it's blocked. The run off water from the downspouts, as well as septic has no where to go, the water raises during a heavy downpour, the float for the pump either shorts out due to all the water or something else that causes the water not to drain from the property.

Tom even came by, even though he said he had a full schedule, to look into things. That's what I view as professional. Having someone blame things on everyone else and not giving a care once they get paid is not a professional to me. And just because something is to code, doesn't mean that it's professional either.

Besides the poopy party of the day and having to deal with Septic installation issues again.... it was a relief to finally see the front yard taking shape. Tom will be checking into the culver and tomorrow hopefully we'll get things straighten out and all fixed up.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Front Yard - Met Tom (Landscaping Co)

Monday, September 18

After getting several quotes and talking to several landscaping places, we decided in the end, to go with Tom, the man Jerry recommended. All we had to do was sign the contract and they were ready to get going on it. Tim had met Tom, but I hadn't until today. I had taken a half day and we met up with Tom at the office to go over and sign the contract.

He's very nice and reminds me a lot of Jerry..... fast paced, hard worker full of ideas and energetic. He's actually in a wheelchair, but gets right in the dozers and does a lot himself.

While chatting about the job, he asked several questions about the site, including septic. When we had mentioned the issues with the septic, he asked who had done it. When we mentioned G&K he gave one of those looks like.... "oh that's why". We got the feeling he didn't think much of his work, which we could understand after having so many issues with their professionalism.

Anyways.... Tim and I decided we were comfortable with him and the contract, so Tim signed it and gave him the deposit. So... if all goes well, they'll be starting tomorrow at 7:30 am.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Pine - drain pipe

Sunday, September 17

Today we had fun digging in the clay. In order to build my retaining wall, a drain pipe needs to be installed. So Tim and I dug out a ditch today that led out past the soon to be sitting area, by our pine tree.

When that was done, we had gone to HomeDepot, bought a perforated black drain pipe and landscapers fabric. The headed over to the town nursery where we purchased a couple bucket loads of gravel.

The landscapers fabric is used on the bottom to stop mud and such from clogging up the perforated pipe, then gravel goes down for drainage, then the pipe, another layer of gravel and finally landscapers fabric covers everything. I wanted to get that done, just in case that area gets covered with landfill, we won't have to dig it out again.

Soon, I'd like to purchase some wall stone. I originally wanted to use retaining wall blocks, but I was so much more attracted to natural stone. People have been building natural stone walls for centuries.... and if it's built well it will last. It's obviously more work, but you me..... just like putting the bamboo flooring on a 45, I just can't help myself.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Yard - Quote from new landscapers

Tuesday, September 12

Ok... so we've been waiting for a while now for the landfill guy to drop off the landfill. We finally decided to find someone else. Jerry recommended a person named Tom, from a landscape company he deals with a lot. He said he trusts him and if he says he'll do something, he'll do it. So... we decided to get a quote from him, which Tim said was dropped off today.

Hopefully Tom will work out, but we're also going to get a couple of other quotes and see who else we can find. We're going to look in the area also in the near by towns as well.... just to see what the difference is in quotes and ideas of different places. As we found out..... knowledge is power.