The Sixth House: Progress Report
If this were a progress report in grade school the grade would be "Needs Improvement" and in the parent/teacher conference you would surely hear the phrase "progress is not going as hoped nor as planned." If you too are having trouble finishing a job as designed or even getting someone to start your job, you will relate to this post. Warning, it is a painful tale. I have never had a project go this badly, ever. Part of it is being new to the area and relying on recommendations and assurances of people we have not known for long and do not have a real sense of their quality expectations and part of it is the pandemic and lack of available trades. Nonetheless, it is painful.
Last year in the summer we contracted with a landscaping company to undertake a large exterior project for us. On the list:
Remove existing landscaping and underlying weeds
Replace and expand the footprint of the existing back deck
Add a back patio
Re-landscape the yard
Re-grade the yard after new landscaping is installed and properly seed all spots in yard where needed
Create a pad for a detached garage
Replace the front walk
Add a walkway to the side door
Add covered porches to the front and side door
Remove existing landscaping and underlying weeds - the weeds remain in full force
Replace and expand the footprint of the existing back deck - the wood used was not kiln dried after being treated as should have been so there is a tremendous amount of "checking" (aka cracks) in the wood
Add a back patio - the patio is complete, however it is significantly higher than the landscaper had presented to us resulting in a much larger retaining wall around the patio than expected
Re-landscape the yard - there are a number of plants that are not living and the beds are rampant with weeds and old plantings that should have been removed
Re-grade the yard after new landscaping is installed and properly seed all spots in yard where needed - complete F in this task
Create a pad for a detached garage - done, although the garage is not here which I will talk about in a bit
Replace the front walk - for some reason the level walkway that we had was replaced with a ramp towards the front door. This, of all the issues we have in the yard, is John's largest pain point by far. It has caused a grading problem in the front yard that did not exist before and John cannot stand the ramp.
Add a walkway to the side door - this is the biggest improvement in the yard by far
Add covered porches to the front and side door - this has not begun and based on the quality of the work will not be completed by the landscaping company
When the work began it was in the fall of 2021 with an expected completion date of mid-November. Initially things seemed to be going well and we were assured that any issues that we pointed out would be remedied, other than the front walkway and back patio retaining wall because those ships had sailed by the time we discovered them. The weather turned abruptly, there were a lot of Covid absences from the crew and pre-planned vacations for the crew because our project was taking longer than expected with weather delays. We were out of town for Thanksgiving and off and on through December when the crew came to try and do some finishing work that was unsupervised by us. When we returned home it was impossible to see the work they had done because it was now covered with snow and ice. All work on the job was stopped in January due to the inclement weather. The front porch was not complete, the grading and seeding was not complete, and some of the landscaping was not yet planted. When the crew came back in the spring we gave them the list of everything that needed to be addressed and were met with a fair amount of resistance. Soon after we would not let them do any more work until we addressed all of the issues that had shown themselves once the weather turned for the better and we were on the same page about how to address them.
After reading this I doubt you will be surprised to hear that we have not had any contact with the landscaping company since we voiced all of our concerns. "Crickets". This has left us in the position of having to seek out new companies to both fix and complete the work that should have been done in November. This is doubly painful because we feel we have overpaid for the work done and now need to pay for the work to be remedied. "Needs Improvement" perhaps is too kind a grade. Definitely. Too kind.
I have some pictures to show you of how things look today.
This is the front porch, not complete and looking pretty sloppy. We are in discussions with masons to either fix or replace. So far we are hearing it needs to be re-done. I am praying we do not have to start from scratch.
No cover on the porch either. Once we find someone to repair/replace the stones, John and I are planning to build the covered porch portion ourselves.
These next two pictures are the plantings around the side entrance. They are supposed to be filled with flowing lavender and grasses. The landscapers planted different varieties of lavender and the grasses are all dying (and the lavender looks dicey too).
No covered porch on the side door either. Another Kerry and John project. No detached Jeep garage either. You may remember that we brought in a garage that matched exactly what we presented to the neighborhood association and once it was in place the neighborhood association said it needed to be removed. I talked about it in this post. I don't know what we will do now. We still want the garage. We have talked to an architect about using the existing pad to build a new garage and it is doable with some slight modifications. This has fallen to the bottom of the priority list for now though. We will see.
Here is a sample of what our yard looks like where old landscaping was removed. All of these areas needed to be cleared, re-graded and seeded. There was no true grading done with high quality topsoil and all that came up in these areas was all of the old weeds that were there before the project started. We have sprayed to kill the weeds and need to address the grading and seeding. We got an insane price quote to do this work so we are still working on finding someone to complete this task.
Despite the weed treated grass, we do have some plantings that seem to be coming along.
This will be a line of hydrangeas by the deck. We cannot paint/stain the deck until the wood fully dries out and we are still on the fence (no pun intended) about replacing it with the proper type of wood before we do that. Eventually the rails should match the color of the garage doors and trim on our house and will look great when finally finished. You may also be able to see the cable/internet line for our house draped along the bed. The landscapers cut the line in the winter and we are waiting for Spectrum to come bury the new line they put in last year that has been lying on top of our yard for months now.
These will also be hydrangeas that line the garage on the front of the house. We were supposed to have flowering ground covering in front of these bushes that I do not think "the crickets" will ever plant. Another Kerry and John project no doubt.
More hydrangeas and rose bushes in the front. The little one you see in the bottom right of this picture is a transplant. Hopefully it survives because it has the most beautiful colored flowers.
I am happy to see this Japanese maple in the front of the house looking healthy. It was being chocked by weeds and shrubbery last year and looked to be on its last leg. Although we still have weeds to remove, it looks like the tree will make it!
The transplanted boxwood border around the patio, which John called "an experiment" does not seem to be going well so we will probably have to start with new, smaller boxwoods like the two on the end in this picture.
Three of the newly planted bushes that are lining the driveway are dead so those need to be replaced. Hello "crickets" - these should be under warranty. Will you please replace them? Silence from the "crickets".
I still think that what was planned for the exterior will be beautiful, it will just take more time and sweat equity than we had hoped and planned for.
John has completed the shutters for the house. This is what they look like.
And this one is for the large window over the garage. The shutters are made from PVC and we have ordered some specialty paint for them to match the color on the garage doors. The paint is specifically made to cure on PVC which should make the shutters virtually maintenance free. As soon as the paint is here we will be able to spray the shutters and install them. The shutters will make a tremendous difference on the appearance of our house.
The last report is on the interior renovation. The proposal came in yesterday and is over fifty percent higher than the original estimate. The original estimate was already more than we wanted to spend and as we worked through the design process I took things off of the list so I was praying/desperately hoping that the amount of the original estimate would be the same as the final proposal - that the reduction in work would compensate for price increases. No dice. It is a testament to the rising costs of everything that we are all dealing with now. We went through and took some things off the list yesterday to see what that does to the number. We should have the revised figure by the end of next week and then we will really have to determine the scope of the project and potentially break it into phases. Whatever the project scope is, we will not start demo until January of 2023. I am trying to look on the bright side that perhaps this will work in our favor and costs may come down before then. Regardless I have plenty of time to strategize and refine my design plan to ensure we will still love the finished product.
There you have it, the reality, and it is not pretty. The landscaper we used was recommended by a neighbor, we did not just pick his name out of a hat and still we are in this position. It is disappointing, I still have every intention of making my designs for this house a reality despite the setbacks and I will keep you updated along the way. Someday, hopefully by the end of the summer, the exterior will be exceptional.
I know for sure that I cannot wait to show you how the house looks when the shutters are up because it will be a mind boggling difference. The progress report for those should be "exceeds expectations"!
I will be back tomorrow with an It's All In The Details post. I will see you there.
Thank you for following along with my saga!