Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Continuing Saga

In my last post, I wrote about how a section of our back retaining wall collapsed last autumn. Throughout the fall and winter, we worried about how it could possibly be repaired, and whether we would find anyone to do the work. We called some excavating companies, but they were not available or willing to do the work.

In October, the owner of a local excavating company came and looked at the fallen wall and said he could do the work but he was very busy. The earliest he could come would be in March. 

In February, we hired someone to demolish the shed and remove several more sections of the fence. Larry from the excavating company said he'd stop by at the end of February, but he didn't, and we couldn't get in touch with him. And then late in the afternoon of March 12, a Friday, Larry dropped by. He apologized, saying he'd been extremely busy, but he could start the job next week or the week after. 

That weekend, we dug up all the shrubs and small bushes that were in the section of the yard where the equipment needed to work. We set a few of them aside to be transplanted back into the yard later. The rest we gave away. Our friends D & G recently moved into a new house nearby and wanted to do some landscaping. They came over and helped us dig up shrubs, and took lots of them home for their garden.  

Early Monday morning, we looked out the window to see an excavator being unloaded onto our front lawn. The front lawn would serve as a staging area for the equipment, soil, drain rock, and large boulders for the new wall. 

The Excavator at Work

Excavator Tracks
It was fascinating to watch Jody, the excavator operator at work. The first thing he did was use his bucket to dig up the remaining trees and two large bushes and set them aside. We phoned D & G again, and they came over again. We sent them away with two more car loads full of trees and shrubs. We kept four of the trees aside to transplant back into the yard later. 

This photo shows the narrow area along the side of the house where the excavator came through to the backyard. The light coloured sand in the lower right corner of the photo is the location where the shed used to sit. It was built on a base of large concrete composite pavers resting on compacted sand. 

Jody used the excavator to dig down along the edge of the steep hill to create a wide, flat platform all along where the middle section of the retaining wall used to be. Soil from the backyard as well as the rocks from the old retaining wall went over the edge of the hill.
 


Once the earth platform was created, Jody and his assistant Parker built a new wall using huge rocks. The load of rock was deposited in our front yard, and then Jody brought over a bulldozer (skid-steer) and used its bucket to bring the large rocks around to the back. Jody laid down a row of rocks using the excavator, while Parker directed the rock placement from below. It was amazing to see how precisely he could place each boulder with the bucket and thumb. 

Old Wall Meets New Wall
Once the first layer of boulders was in place, they back-filled the area behind them with drain rock. They also put down geo-grid, which is held in place by the second layer of rocks, as well as by the garden soil that they replaced over the drain rock. 

Parker hand-built the connector sections between the old part of the drystone wall and the new wall. The remaining part of the platform where the new wall is now serves as a path along beneath the wall.

We did not have to tear down the gazebo or the fish ponds! In fact, the goldfish seemed completely unperturbed by all the work going on around them. Presently the gazebo is serving as a tool shed, as we no longer have a shed.

New Wall and Path
As you can see, the slope of the hill below the wall is very steep. 

The whole job of rebuilding the wall and cleaning up the work site was finished by Friday. Yes, that's right. It took only 3 1/2 days in total and cost less than half as much as Larry had quoted. We are very happy with our new wall.

Of course, the story isn't over. There's lots still left to do.

We will need to have a fence built along the top of the new retaining wall and at the side of the house. Without a fence, the deer will come into the yard and eat everything in sight. Although the landscaping at the front of the yard is deer-resistant (plants the deer don't like to eat), the backyard plants are not.

We would like to have a shed, and we need to re-landscape a big section of the backyard, and repair the damage to the front yard. We want to get some plants established on the steep slope below the wall.

The Backyard After the Wall was Finished

Before the excavating company left, they covered the areas where they had worked with topsoil, and left us some of the load for our future landscaping. Our first task was to replant the trees and shrubs that we had set aside.

Replanting Trees

It is a tremendous relief to have a new retaining wall in place. We are thankful that we contacted Larry when we did, because all of the contractors are extremely busy this year. There are a lot of new houses being built, and also lots of people are renovating. All of the tradespeople are fully booked. 

Look for another installment on this topic. In it, I will tell you about the fence, the landscaping, and the slippery slope. . . .


21 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new retaining wall, Jude. What a relief after a very long process. I look forward to hearing more on our catch up. See you soon!

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    1. It is a relief, Donna! To my inexperienced eyes, the fallen wall seemed like a problem that would be impossible to solve. Although it’s foolish to become too attached to things, I felt grief about destroying the trees and demolishing a nice shed. I was so happy we were able to save the trees and gift many of them to our friends.

      Jude

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  2. You've got to hang onto Larry. Our experiences with contractors have been a nightmare. I understand they get busy and it's hard for them to know when they'll get to the work, but the lack of communication is something I don't see with any other profession. Phone calls are rarely returned. One is left wondering whether they're busy, disabled, delayed, rude, or perhaps dead when we don't hear back. I suppose since they are so busy customer service gets less attention.

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    1. Pete, that sounds like a nightmare! We are very happy with Larry and his crew and will be recommending him to others. The guy who dismantled our shed and fence also has been great and will be doing more work for us. Seeing the contractors and tradespeople so busy makes it obvious that there are some career fields where lots of work is available. Of course, this is an unusual year. There are lots of retirees where I live, and all of them have stayed home instead of travelling, and so many of them have decided to renovate this year.

      Jude

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  3. Hi Jude! YAY! What a long journey this has been but I can't help but believe that you will be very pleased with the end result. See you soon. :-) ~Kathy

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    1. Kathy, once we got over the anxiety of watching the wall continuing to crumble month after month, accepted the loss of the shed, landscaping and a big chunk of the yard, and understood that it was going to cost a lot to fix — it actually has become a positive experience. I have a much greater understanding of what this kind of work entails, as well a respect for the skills of the tradespeople. We will be busy in the garden this year!

      Jude

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  4. Wow, finished ahead of schedule and cheaper than anticipated?! I'm very happy to read this. You are due some pleasant surprises, Jude!

    Deb

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    1. I couldn’t believe it only took three and a half days to rebuild the wall after watching it slide away for months and anticipating the worst. It was also a bit of an exercise in trust, because Larry gave us only a loose description of how the finished wall would look and no written estimate. So, as you say, Deb, it was a pleasant surprise.

      Jude

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  5. What an epic! Glad it has been resolved.

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    1. Hi Anabel. Yes, it is such a relief. However, there are a couple more chapters to this epic still ahead. It’s a good thing we both enjoy gardening and yard work.

      Jude

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  6. Jude, I'm so glad to hear you've got a good contractor, the work was done well and less expensive than anticipated. It must be gut-wrenching to have to remove plants, trees, the shed, etc. and how wonderful that you were able to gift many of the trees to your friends.

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    1. Natalie, our friends really appreciated the trees and shrubs, and I was really happy to find them a new home. Because of the way the contractor rebuilt the new wall, the backyard is now significantly smaller and we wouldn’t have had enough room to replant them all. I was choked about demolishing the shed, but I’ve accepted the fact that it needed to be done now. Lesson for the future: don’t build all the way to the edge of the lot leaving no access to the backyard.

      Jude

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  7. Wow, Jude! What an ordeal. I’m so glad the biggest job is done now. It really surprises me how contractors are this busy, because everyone is buying houses and building! It is similar with other things - people are buying RVs, cars, and boats like crazy. Don’t tell me the economy is down because of Covid. There seem to be plenty of people around happy to spend lots of money. It’s a seller’s market right now. Who would have guessed? Anyway, I’m getting off track now (yes, this is affecting us greatly), I hope you’ll get your garden back to its pretty shape from before. Does the insurance pay for this kind of thing?

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    1. Hi Liesbet. I had hoped that our home insurance would cover the cost of rebuilding the wall, fence, etc. But no. They found multiple reasons for not paying. I have very little faith in insurance companies. Many of them are happy to take your money for your policy every year, but getting damage claims covered is often an ordeal.

      To add to your list of things that people are buying a lot of — it’s almost impossible to buy ski equipment, bicycles, or camping equipment this year as well.

      Jude

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  8. Wow, what a huge process. Congrats on the new wall, and on all the work you and Rob have done!

    Thanks so much for gifting us the trees and shrubs. Now, when you come over, our place will be like your second home.

    Please let us know if we can assist in any way, as you and Rob re-landscape.

    Here's to your veggie garden!

    Thanks again for your wonderful gifting of trees and shrubs and for sharing this story of the fall of the old wall and the new retaining wall. Hmm... could be a metaphor...

    D & G

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    1. Hi D. I will be so excited to come and see how your new garden looks! We have certainly been very busy in ours. Yes, you are right — as we redesign the garden, a new raised veggie bed is part of the plan.

      I like your metaphor.

      Jude

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  9. It looks like your contractor did really good work! Hopefully the retaining wall will last into the next century :) I bet you are looking forward to reclaiming your beautiful yard.

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    1. Janis, as long as the wall outlasts our time in this house, we’ll be happy. Somehow, I doubt we’ll make it to the next century. The yard will never again be the same as it was, but I think that it will look nice once we’ve replanted.

      Jude

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  10. I'm glad to hear your retaining wall is sorted. We have a steep slope in the back garden which is currently filled with heather bushes, but I think it needs more work doing.

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    1. Hi Nikki. Thanks for commenting. The area of the coast where we live is extremely rocky and steep. So, many homeowners have to deal with retaining walls and very steep slopes. The good thing about this is that the builders and site developers are skilled in dealing with this type of terrain. Heather is is good ground cover that will tolerate many climates and hold the soil in place.

      Jude

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  11. Hi Jude, I have been off the grid for awhile and I look forward to catching up reading. I was hoping you are progressing with the retaining wall. Quite the project, an undertaking, an ordeal are all understatements. I am forwarding this update to Chuck since I know he has been concerned about you and Rob and this extensive project. I hope and trust the next instalment is a good one, Jude. Thank you for sharing. I hope all is well with you and your loved ones. I miss hearing the stories and the updates. xo

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