big mess up on paths - question on bed now well below grade

raro(7)July 5, 2011

Ugggg! Too upset to take pics to post. The metal edging and rock sand (or is it called sand rock, elsewhere I mistakenly called it sand stone) were installed so poorly and not to measurement. The paths vary in width and they were supposed to be 48" wide for the length of it. Installer insists it was done correctly because paths followed rough spray painting we did to mark the path. Also, I specified that they should be installed at grade to match the bed along the garage that has the apricot espalier and other perennials. But they installed the path so that the edge closest to the bed is a full foot above the bed. They said I could put topsoil up to the edge of the path but then it will slope steeply down to the bed within a space of a couple of feet. I guess I could put an edge around the bed and then the path and the grass next to the path would be level instead of sloping. Would it ever be acceptable to have an edged bed that is lower than the surrounding grade? I hate how it looks but if they won't agree to fix it at their expense I am afraid I will have to live with it for a while.

Sorry for the rant. I can't help myself right now. The main question here is about the grade level for a garden bed, whether it could be lower than the rest of the immediate vicinity?

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Are these specifications in writing?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 10:09AM
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I think having the path higher than the surrounding bed is asking for trouble at the edge. Won't it crumble into the bed nearby? Most path edging is 4-6" high, not 12", so I don't understand how the installer expects the path to last. I'd also be concerned that if the path is much higher than the bed near the garage, and you slope soil toward that garage, aren't you directing rainfall toward the garage as well? Typically you try to direct water away from the base of structures.

If you have not paid for the paths yet, I would withhold final payment until they adjust the grade of them to be correct. I'm sorry you're going through this, it's so stressful to deal with bad (or inept) contractors.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 10:23AM
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Thanks for the feedback. Specifications were not in writing, sad to say. Together the architect and I went over them with the contractor. My husband intends to withhold payment of this portion of the project until we get this figured out.

Pam29011 - you are so right. We have had heavy thunderstorms with torrential rains and lots of the path's rock sand whooshed away. the edging is 4" but they failed to restore the grade BEFORE they laid the path. it had gotten built up with the digging of the trench for the drainage pipes. Thankfully, I have the pics to show original, after pipes laid, after path laid. Apparently the contractor told DH that they cannot lay the path deeper without disturbing the drainage pipes. That means to me that they failed to place those pipes deep enough! Oh what a mess! Then, to top that off, the architect pointed out that they plopped the topsoil right over the compacted original clay soil and that this compacted layer needed to be tilled first. I never should have let the carpenters and their laborers to do the landscape work. They gave me a good story about how easy and quick this work would be and how we already had the bobcat rented and on site for the site work that needed to happen for the hvac location.

Is this fatal? Will I not be able to grow anything due to compaction a few inches down?

Now, instead of going to see our renovation with a happy spring in my step I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 2:31PM
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Hi Raro,

I know and detest that feeling in your stomach. It's almost inevitable in a large reno project. I don't know about the clay soil situation, I only had to live with clay soil once and I just wimped out with raised beds.

The good news in all this is that you have ONE contractor who dug the trench, laid the pipes, and built the path. They can't point fingers at anyone else. Hopefully that will help motivate them to find a solution for you!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 6:13PM
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This is a guess, but it sounds like they laid the pipes then decided use your pathway as a way to bury them.

Unfortunately, I think the path may need to be torn out and the job done over but I'd first call in a landscaper to see what can be salvaged. You're correct, carpenters shouldn't be doing landscaping.

If the contractor laid the pipes that shallow, or incorrectly, then I'd have him dig them up and relay them at his expense. I'm still trying to grasp the 12" above grade!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 10:04PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

It's hard to give any meaningful comment without a picture, but I'll try.
You're right in that carpenters shouldn't be making landscape decisions. I can't emphasize that enough. Where was the Architect, or the landscaper in charge?
As the Architect said, the clay should have been tilled first. I'll take it one point further. Not only should the clay have been tilled first, but the topsoil should then be tilled in with the clay. You don't want a sharp interface between the two types of soil.
The slope to keep water from structures is very important and all decisions as what to do with pipes, paths, and garden areas have to keep that in mind.
That said, I'm a proponent of raised paths....if done correctly. Otherwise the path is in a ditch, a little harder to deal with, but it can be done. I like a path on high, sloping ground, not sharp differences in grade though. Maybe being from Seattle has something to do with it. :-)
Since it appears you don't have much room between the path and the garage, The final grade slope is very important in keeping water from the garage.
From the information given, it appears they're going to have to start all over from square one and get it right the second time....on their dime.
Again, if you can, please post some pictures.

Mike...retired Landscape designer and contractor.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 8:43AM
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Okay. I hired a landscape designer to come out and look at the problems. A breath of fresh air! I will let you know how this evolves.

Meantime, I planted the slopes around the terrace with a cover crop of buckwheat.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2011 at 4:32PM
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