Georgia Institute of TechnologyAllison Elliott Tew
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Backyard Landscaping Project

After 9 years of living in our home, we've finally bitten the bullet and are getting our backyard professionally landscaped and fenced. The dogs can't wait - we've affectionately nicknamed the project "Duncan's Dog Park." And of course we're looking forward to having a nice space in which to enjoy the outdoors as well.

Before Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 After

Before - I Love Orange Spray Paint!

Wednesday, May 30 - We had the final walkthrough on site with our landscapers - Legacy Landscapes. Our designer, Wes, the construction manager, Leo, and the project manager, Mike, were all on site to walk through the design and plan the implementation. The meeting went smoothly, and I've never been so happy about orange spray paint (marking all the locations and plans) in my life. Construction is scheduled to start Monday!

(The first picture each day will be the "view" from our backdoor/patio.)

Day 1 - Bye, Bye Pine Trees

Friday, June 1 - Nice surprise, they were able to start a day early! Today they tackled the pine saplings on the hill. Bye, bye pine trees!

Day 2 - Hello Chipper

Monday, June 4 - The chipper arrived today to make mulch out of all those pine trees. So now the hillside is almost completely bare and we have a giant pile of mulch. :)

Day 3 - Uh, oh...

Tuesday, June 5 - While earth did start moving today to regrade for a larger lawn and our retaining wall, several issues have popped up to throw a wrench into the works. The bobcat broke down and the mechanic isn't available until tomorrow; the blocks for our retaining wall, which were supposed to be delivered tomorrow, aren't going to be ready until Monday; and we have a potential problem with our driveway cracking under the weight of all these trucks, gravel & stone. We're crossing our fingers and hoping for the best on that one. And to top it all off - Roswell just announced tighter water restrictions due to the drought (to only one day on weekends - we get Sundays since we live in an odd numbered house). So we might not get our plants after all. :( The utility companies did come out today for the "locate", so now we have a rainbow of red, orange, and yellow spray paint covering the front and back yards - guess it's the sign of progress to come.

Day 4 - Holy Dirt, Batman!

Wednesday, June 6 - At some point in every project you reach a point where there's no turning back. Today was that day. Our backyard is officially covered in dirt - and not any dirt, but good ol' Georgia clay. They've dug out the retaining wall and the entire right side of the lawn is covered in about 2 inches of dirt and any signs of grass are a mere memory right now. All the dirt has been mounded into a giant pile on the left. They did start clearing out our "forest" and now our overgrown jungle is shaping up into a nice natural woodland. Very exciting - the potential for usable yard space is growing daily!

Day 5 - Oh, That's Where the Wall is Going to Go...

Thursday, June 7 - They started laying out and digging the trench for the retaining wall today. While I'm pleased with how it's shaping up, its different than how I imagined it (I never was very good at visual imagery & manipulations). They also cleared out most of the rest of the "forest" and I took a walk through our "woodland" for the first time in years!

Day 6 - The Wall Block is Here, the Wall Block is Here

Friday, June 8 - Mike stopped me on my way out this morning to give me an update on the project. Our neighbor, Howard, is apparently providing free consulting services and stops by when they arrive every morning to see how things are going and to talk to Mike and tell him how to do his job. :) With the record drought here in Atlanta they don't think they will be able to do the plantings at this time and there are some large trees they will likely have to take down that would otherwise sit on top of the retaining wall. Roswell has an ordinance against removing "trees of significant size", so they are going to look into the rules & regs and whatever permits may be required. They "finished" digging the trench for the wall today, but there's a discrepancy between the designer's measurements on the plan and what they are seeing on-site, so we are meeting Monday morning to sort all that out. The big news of the day is that the block for the wall arrived today (again a day early, after the delay of course) - so we have 14 pallets of block sitting in our backyard, and our driveway survived pretty well, only a few small cracks. Yeah! The dogs are exhausted after a week of protecting the house and being on alert, and it's been early mornings to make sure we are up and out before the landscape crew arrives. So we are all looking forward to the weekend.

Day 7 - Let There Be Wall

Monday, June 11 - A ton of gravel was devliered today (OK, maybe more - I didn't weigh it) and unceremonioulsy dumped at the end of our driveway. The good news is that our driveway has now officially survived all of the heavy loads - it passed the test. Yippee! And more importantly, they've started the construction of our wall.

Day 8 - How Long Does It Take to Build a Wall?

Tuesday, June 12 - Answer - 2 days! Except for the capstone, which will be put in place once the ground above the retaining wall is graded for eventual planting, our wall is finished! We've had an amazing amount of rain over the past 5 days, including a big storm tonight, and the backyard is officially a mudpit. We are very thankful for the rain, but that and all the machinery driving around is creating quite the mess in our backyard, and growing every day. Isn't it supposed to be getting better and less dirt filled sometime soon?

Day 9 - The Masons are Coming, the Masons are Coming!

Wednesday, June 13 - Today was another project report and meeting with the construction manager Leo. Things are on schedule and they expect to finish next Friday! They are grading the hill above the retaining wall, transplanting the maple tree planted in Juno's memory, and cutting down the two large trees that have to go to make room for the planting above the wall. We also walked the property and staked the corners for the fence. The masons arrived today to start the patio, which unfortunately meant more mess and more disappearing grass. But they poured the new slab today and the flagstone was delivered for the patio & walkway.

Day 10 - So Many People...

Thursday, June 14 - Ten separate people are scurrying around our backyard doing various things, grading soil, finishing clearing the woods, spreading pinestraw, laying flagstone - it's a madhouse! But there is definitely lots of progress each afternoon. Unfortuately we've also had several open issues that are starting to make my head hurt. Juno's tree had to be temporarily planted in the front yard since the ground above the wall won't be finished for a couple of days, then it will have to be re-transplanted in the fall. So we sure hope it survives both moves. The dilemma about grass in the backyard continues to be an issue, since it's too hot to plant cool season grass now we can either plant rye grass seed covered with wheat straw (and hope the dogs don't come in orange every day until fall) or we can plant bermuda or zoysia sod now. Trying to balance grass that goes dormant vs what's best for the dogs vs what we can have when is causing my head to spin. Our wall did get finished today, they had to add an extra layer of block, but the cap is finally on and its all done. And the clearing of the woodland is complete and now they are finishing it with mulch and pinestraw. Our backyard continues to attract neighbors, as people stop by to check out what all the commotion and trucks are about, even when we aren't around. And of course Howard must think we are awarding frequent flyer points, because he's a daily visitor for hours at a time.

Day 11 & 12 - Solving Problems (and Spending More Money)

Friday, June 15 - Met with Leo first thing Friday morning to try to resolve all of the open issues and make sure we were still on schedule for finishing next week. After much discussion, agony, and consulting with the experts, we've decided to go ahead and install bermuda sod now. Yes, it will go dormant in the winter, but it's a "nicer" grass than fescue from a landscaping perspective (so hopefully buyers will appreciate that), we can have it now (instead of living with a mud pit for months), and it should be quite durable with pets. Decision made - no looking back - we can't wait to see lush green grass in the backyard again! We noticed the fence stakes had moved slightly since we originally marked them, and Leo explained that was to make the fence lines run straight (our property is shaped more like a trapezoid than a square) and avoid the big trees in the back of the property. The big oops of the day was that the original estimate never included pricing for the stone steps to get from the back lawn up into the wooded area, and I didn't notice. So as with most home projects, costs just keep rising once construction actually begins. Luckily we anticipated this, and saved a little in the budget for things just like this. Our patio and walkway were finished today - and except for a much needed bath to wash all the dirt, dust and grime off (as well as a coat of sealer) - it looks great!

Saturday, June 16 - Yes, you read that right. We got an unexpected wakeup-call around 8 AM this morning as the sound of landscaping machinery once again roared through the air. A bit groggy, we eventually figured out that the noises were indeed coming from our backyard and the crew to install the irrigation system, that had been delayed completing their previous project due to thunderstorms in the area all week and hadn't shown up yesterday, were apparently going to tackle our yard today. So now we have all the pipes laid, and purple & white flags marking things everywhere. The sprinkler heads and control system will be installed next week.

Day 13 - Even More Moving of the Earth

Monday, June 18 - Three tons (!) of boulders were delivered today to build a walkway into the woods without having to slip and slide on the pinestraw. They also delivered the last load of top soil and continued grading and preparing the yard for the grass, which is supposed to arrive tomorrow. We can't wait - we've almost forgotten what grass looks like! In preparing for installing the sod, they've also shaped and mulched all the beds where the plants will go in the fall - so our yard is finally starting to take shape.

Day 14 - Bummer...

Tuesday, June 19 - Intermittent rain and impending thunderstorms prevented any work today. So while the rain was most welcome, after days of coming home to definite visible progress in the backyard, it was quite disappointing to come home to find that a) we didn't have our grass and b) no work had been done. At least the dogs had a day off of guard duty to rest up. Looking forward to tomorrow!

Day 15 - G R E E N !

Wednesday, June 20 - Grass, glorious grass! They laid sod today, and our backyard is once again a wonderful shade of green. The sprinkler guys were also here to install all of the sprinkler heads for both the lawn (which we need now) and the planting beds (which we will need in the fall.) And they installed and programmed the controller in the garage. The crew also did all the finishing touches of cleaning the retaining wall, patio, house, windows, etc. We can almost taste life returning to normal. "All" that we have left is the fence.

Day 16 - A Day Off

Thursday, June 21 - A scheduled day off to let the sod settle a bit before the fence arrives tomorrow!

Day 17 - All We Need is Fence

Friday, June 22 - Unfortunately, it's not ready yet. Leo called this morning saying that the fence contractor was still finishing it and wouldn't be able to do the installation today. :( So we continue to wait. Scheduled for Saturday or Monday at the latest. Fingers crossed!

Day 18 - Grrr...

Monday, June 25 - Apparently, "Monday at the latest" doesn't really mean what we think it means. The fence contractor is having problems with his crew, so still no fence. They promise, promise it will be tomorrow. Over the weekend, we noticed that we are also are having problems with several sections of our sod dying. Some sections aren't getting watered well enough by the sprinklers due to some mis-aiming, but other sections are going brown for no apparent reason. Leo says "he'll take care of it, no problem." That's also supposed to be on the schedule for tomorrow.

Day 19 - 22 - What Morons...

Tuesday, June 26 - Leo calls first thing this morning to inform us that the fence subcontractor has finished the fence in the wrong color! (Completely flabbergasted, I neglected to ask what color, other than the obvious black, they selected.) So they have to remake & refinish the fence - so we wait another week.

Day 23 - 25 - Please, Please, Let us Have a Fence

Monday - July 2 - After all the delays, I stay home this morning to meet the fence contractors and the long awaited fence. At 10:00, I call Leo and leave a message. He returns my call saying that the fence subcontractor built the fence wrong - the rail we wanted added at the top, was added in the wrong place. And again we have to start all over!!! Leo is threatening to fire the subcontractor and will get back to us.

Day 26 - Finally a Plan

Thursday - July 5 - Finally some good news, Leo has fired the fence subcontractor, hired a new company, and they will be here tomorrow to install our fence. However, obviously it won't have the additional rail we wanted on top, but they are trying to get our yard fenced in so the dogs have a place to play. Leo again thanks me for my patience, which at this point is wearing thin. The irony that the one thing that started this whole project is causing all these delays is not lost on us.

Day 27 - Fence, Glorious Fence

Friday - July 6 - Although they arrived 2 hours late (as we were literally pulling out of the driveway) - the fence guys did come today with the correct fence. So we spent the weekend at the lake, got to come home to a nice surprise of a fenced in yard. However, look at picture 2 - notice anything missing. Yep, that's right. We don't have gates. So, the fence is non-functional at this point. There are also several spots where the bottom of the fence is high enough off the ground that our pups can crawl under if they were so inclined.

Day 28 - 31 - How's the Fence?

Monday - July 9 - Leo calls today to make sure everything is fine with the fence - so we get to give him our laundry list of issues: the lack of gates, the gaps at the bottom, the fact that we have sod & sprinkler heads outside of the fence, etc, etc. In situations like this, I love having a contractor who has to sort all of this out! He promises to take care of everything by the end of this week.

Day 32 - I Love Gates! (Not Bill)

Friday - July 10 - Once again we were out of town on Friday, but we got to come home to a nice surprise. We have gates & the top rail has begun to be installed. The dogs got to run around and play for the first time on Saturday and they had a blast. Duncan immediately took off and did a lap from the grass up to the top and back down again, and at top speed. We played ball for what seemed like hours, and he spent the rest of the afternoon/evening begging to go back outside to play some more. So while the last 10% of this job seems to be taking forever, today it was all worth it. :) The dogs are happy, we're happy. Home, sweet home.

Day 33 - The Neverending Project

Monday - July 16 - The fence contractors worked until almost 9 PM tonight trying to finish the lowering of the fence and the installation of the top rail. Things still need some tweaking, but we think the end is in sight. Hallelujah! And it's about time!!!

Last modified 17 July 2007 at 11:11 pm by Allison Elliott Tew