Monday, November 23, 2015

Dirt Mountain

I've created a drinking game for this post. Every time something gets completely flipped on me, take a drink.

Also, this is going to be a long detailed one, but it's the only way to get the full effect in there.

For 2 years now I've asked and begged to upgrade our "patio" to either a ground level deck or a hardscape stone patio with a cover. Now, I'm not that worried about the rain, but that South Carolina sun gets pretty hot on some of those Summer days. Between saving money, commission checks, and Christmas bonus we finally saved up enough money to really look into doing something back there. As we start talking about it, the wifey says she'd like to build up the lower side of our backyard and install a privacy fence so Rhett could play in the backyard and we wouldn't have to worry about him getting out.

We started having a few companies come out and give us estimates on the deck/patio, and one of those companies did retaining walls as well. While he was here I told him what we were thinking about doing, and the price he dropped was well beyond what we imagined it would be. Perfect, yard job gets pushed back and my deck/patio will become a reality.

My dad knows everybody, so one day he gives me a call and says, "Hey, I have this guy that says he can do that retaining wall for ya'll." Grrrrr, I agree because there's no way he's going to be even close to the ball park after what the first guy said. Well he looked at it and says, "oh yeah, this isn't bad. I have a guy that does grading, so have him come out to remove the stones, and then I can do the wall for a little over the cost of material." Well poo, there goes my deck/patio.

My dad and I removed the massive evergreen bushes, and found these massive boulders hiding inside. We were like, great, those are taking up room that we won't have to spend extra money on dirt to have to fill. Wow, this project is actually going to end up being a little less than we were expecting.

Yeah, wrong. Apparently to install a fence, you need room for the post to actually go down into the ground so it'll actually stand up. Wait, no problem, the grader can pull those out, dig that area out, and bury the boulders down in the hole ... still less dirt we'll have to pay for.

I was able to work from home the day he came, so as I'm working away I hear this massive boom and the entire house shakes (it almost knocked some pilsner glasses off my shelves in the man cave). I go to investigate and realize the boulders are the size of Rhode Island.

Once the boulders are out, he digs their burial site, and we're introduced to Dirt Mountain. Now, you look at the picture and you're like, "That's a lot of dirt, but it's not THAT bad." Note, the tractor in the background that you can barely see ... plus, I'm 6'1 and it's taller than me at it's highest point, and approximately 40 feet long and 10 feet wide.

From picture 1 to here, I still don't know where all that dirt came from ...

All tucked away and ready to go bye bye.

With grading finished, we reached back out to wall installer guy. Have him come out to look at it and give us an official quote. Once he sees it he says something along the lines of, "Oh, well you still need a footer put down, and I don't do that. You'll have to find someone else to install a footer for you." (If you'd like, you can scroll back up to the original conversation and see if he ever said that we'd need a 3rd guy involved ... I'll wait)

After hearing that, I refused to use him. I'm not saying his work may not have been good, but if anything happened we didn't want it to turn into a "the footer was bad", "no the wall faltered" pissing contest. We wanted 1 person to do the job, and if anything happened there'd be no question who to contact.

A bit of a side bar, for our 1st anniversary Dawn bought me a Palmetto Tree. I've always loved the trees, but I wasn't spending that kind of money for one. So, she got me one for our anniversary and there's no gift I could ever buy to top that. Ok, so back to the tree. South Carolina had an unusually cold winter this past year, and not knowing that I needed to do anything special, my beloved tree didn't make it. Since we had this project going on in the backyard, we had to remove our side gate. While it was down, I called the tree company and told them now would be a better time than ever to replace the tree, since they'd be able to use their backhoe, and not have to remove and install another thousand pound tree.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Cocky 2.

We had 5 or 6 companies come out and give us quotes on the wall, with each quote the price gradually went higher and higher, and the time that they could install it was further and further out on the calendar. After 2 weeks of Dirt Mountain Dawn started getting very aggravated with it. She emailed me at work one day and was beyond frustrated. I told her, "During this process just remember the most important thing." She responded and asked what that was so I said that, "This was ALL your idea."

A coworker came up one day and said she had a small retaining wall built at her lake house and gave me his contact information if I'd like to give him a call. Long story short, once he got to the house and we started talking, he's known my wife for years and we'd even met on a few occasions. The price was still well beyond what Mr. No Grading and No Footer Installer Guy was saying (you know, the price that we said, "ok, we'll go ahead and do this", but Dirt Mountain wasn't getting any smaller. Plus, he has an irrigation background, so he mentioned using the excess dirt and building up that back corner of the yard so it'd be more level and the water would flow out the back of our yard and not into our neighbors yard.

We bit the bullet and went with friend irrigation guy, and he started the next week (also part of why we went with him). Each day we watched the progress on our security cameras, but the wall was just out of view, so as soon as we got home and gave everyone kisses ... we'd run out back to see where it was at.

The boulders actually ended up having to come all the way out.

And just like that, Dirty Mountain is nothing more than an extra large ant hill.

One day while talking with the installer, I asked what it'd take to build up the other side of our yard where our neighbor up top's run off water has created a gully over time. In comparison to the job we were already doing, it wasn't that much more and we figured we might as well do it now while the yard is messed up and then we can worry about fixing the grass situation once instead of doing it again next year.

I don't have a before picture for this side, but just imagine about a 1 foot deep gully that basically just held water.

I had this bright idea that I wanted to use black and red mulch to see if I could give the base a little Gamecock look. Although the shadow is hiding it some, I think it turned out pretty well.
(Yes, I'll allow you to steal my idea if your team's colors are black and dark red.)

After the project ended up costing a lot more than we had expected, we decided to wait before we bought any sod, and with it getting late in the year, there wasn't any Bermuda grass seed. We found out that it was the perfect time for Rye grass, and that it was a "cold weather grass", so picked some of that up and put it out. Little did I know, it would grow in a neon green and we'd have a disco looking backyard. Oh well, at least it's green and not dirt.

The last day that the wall builder was working, September 3rd, we had a fence company come out and give us a new quote. Since he built up the back corner, it was actually going to be a shorter and cheaper fence. I signed the papers and the guy told me, "It'll be about 3-4 weeks, but you have about a 7 foot drop off so I'll tell them it's a safety hazard and see if we can get someone out here sooner." We didn't really want to wait 3-4 weeks, but they were coming in well cheaper than any others and we weren't sure if anyone else could really do it any sooner anyway. This was on a Friday, and the following Monday I had a call with the planning lady to iron out to final details.

On week 3 I called to just check on things and to make sure everything was still planned to happen this week or the next. The same lady that I spoke to the first time said, "We're still waiting on the materials to come in, but everything in still set for Oct 12th." If you'd like to go back to see the date that I signed the papers and was given a 3-4 week lead time, I'll wait.

From our original conversation, the 3-4 week lead time had magically jumped to 6 weeks. When I asked the lady about it drastic change my answer was, "Well I can't remember every conversation I have with every customer, but we still don't have the product in yet." I explained that I could remember the conversation we had, and that if I would have heard a 6 week lead time, that we would have at least had a few other quotes done. This all created a back and forth battle with the company to receive any updates. I would call and email and wouldn't hear anything back. Then in the midst of the waiting period, South Carolina was hit with the heaviest rain its had in hundreds of years. The entire state was covered from 3 days of massive rain which lead to major flooding and devastation. Luckily, the upstate wasn't hit as hard as the rest of the state, so we weren't affected as much.

The week of the 12th, I called and spoke to the lady and she said that guy would be in shortly to schedule the job and that we were the priority, so she'd call as soon as it was set. That was on Tuesday. I called back on Wednesday after not hearing anything, no answer and no call back from my message. I called on Thursday, no answer and no call back from my message. I called on Friday, no answer and no call back from my message. Now, I'm not asking you to do back flips, I'm just asking for the answer that you promised me on Tuesday. Dawn decides she's had enough (I had grown numb from the experience after dealing with the wall and fence now for 2 months), so she called every 15 minutes for 4 hours straight. Even then, no answer, so she sent a nasty email. Ok, it wasn't nasty, but basically laid the process we went through out and finished it with, I better get a call today to either tell me the exact day my fence will be installed or a call back telling me when my reimbursement check will be in mail. 

So the manager guy called her shortly after the email was sent, and told her that it'd be installed the next Friday. Yes, a full 7 weeks after the paperwork was signed. After all the waiting they made us do, and the lack of communication, once the job was completed we, uummm, kind of played the same game back at them before we paid the rest of the cost. The lady called 2-3 times, sent 3-4 emails, none of which I answered, of course. I finally decided 3 weeks was long enough, so we cut the check and paid them off.

So, are you wasted yet?

After all of the headaches, set backs, and nasty phone calls and emails, our backyard is finally finished. Well, until next year when we install a new patio with cooking, dinning, and fire pit ...

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