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A Hole in our Yard - Another Not a Cruise Live Blog

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Here we are, almost 3 weeks later, and I don't really have anything new to report.

The PM stopped by Sunday morning, and the stone company is still telling him they'll be back out to fix the firepit and finish up our project "any day now". They still need to finish the back feature wall and build the kitchen in addition to the firepit repair. Gotta love construction timelines!

Bored Cabin Fever GIF

I'm annoyed, but not too mad about it - the center water feature for the wall has been on backorder, and won't be in until next week sometime. It's also supposed to rain the rest of the week. So it's not like they would have been able to finish the work anyway. The PM however is really not happy. He wants to get the deck going, but the kitchen has to be completed first.

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I feel your pain.  Just keep in mind that the pandemic has truly hobbled the supply chain.  We bought a new house in late February and had it inspected in early March. The inspection showed that one of three burners were inoperable.  We had them order the parts immediately.  It remains on factory backorder.  It would not be so awful if it were not the only burner that includes the simmer option (it is a gas range-so that really matters.)

Hang in there.

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They're here! They're here!

DH and I took down our little fence for the dogs and marked the location of the grill and fridge this morning in hopes that a crew would show up. They arrived about 8, asked a couple questions, and said the kitchen would be completed in about a day and a half. The deck goes will be installed before the appliances are set into place, but it's going to look a lot different this afternoon! 

They have finished building the front already and are working on the back side. It will be built up with cinder blocks then covered in stone - same process as the wall and firepit. 



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The rain held off until overnight, so they were able to get quite a bit finished yesterday. After building the frame, the crew hand chipped the edges of each stone. 



We weren't expecting that was done by hand - I guess we just thought they magically came that way. I was wondering why they said this part of the project would take a day and half when the frame was complete before 10:30 yesterday morning. We really like the look of the finished product, and by 1pm when the crew broke for lunch, they had a nice pile of stone that was ready to go.


I guess the guys didn't want me taking pictures of them all afternoon, because they started adding stone to the back of the counter first. 😆 By 5pm the back and most of the front was finished.



It's supposed to start raining again about noon, but they should be able to finish the front and add the counter top by then.

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2 hours ago, JLMoran said:

That stonework looks really nice! And it’s great they’re using real stone instead of chicken wire with stucco / fake stone face overlay. Guessing it’ll last longer than the rest of the house. 😁


Thanks. I think it looks pretty good too.😉

They worked on the front a bit more, added vent slits in the back, and added the top this morning. 20210415_122743.thumb.jpg.a54a80ace5ba6214da53c6414e669b3e.jpg

They aren't quite finished though. The right side of the grill opening didn't get filled in and a finishing skim coat of mortar. Also, they took out a cinder block plus a little for the vents which left a block in the second row unsupported, so they're going to have to shore that up as well.20210415_160655.thumb.jpg.c70c72d950734b7556a3cc780f7c557c.jpg

They'll cut the opening in the counter for the grill when they set it in place. They're also going to seal the heck out of it. It would be a shame for my strawberry daiquiri to get knocked over and stain the new counter. 🍹

The PM stopped by this afternoon and, in addition to addressing all the little issues mentioned, said decking should start next week and the fire pit repair and back wall completion should happen at the same time. Decking will take about a week. They have to fill in the trenches and put in the sub deck material (one day) before an inspection (one to two days) and then  to lay the stones (two days).

Next up after that is plaster. The PM said that crew is running about 2 weeks behind right now due to the weather.  Since our town doesn't require a pre-plaster inspection, he said he might be able to cheat that a little bit. I'm hoping we have water in the pool by May 7th, but that's probably pushing it. That's our last day of school (we homeschool, and I don't stick to the public school calendar). It would be nice to start our summer off with the pool ready to go. 😎

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On 4/15/2021 at 4:43 PM, JLMoran said:

@melmar02, you’ve mentioned a fire pit “repair” a couple of times now, but I don’t remember you mentioning damage during / after initial construction. What did I miss from earlier?

It isn't damaged. It's the wrong shape. They built a "U" instead of a circle and cut the top stones as wide as the pool coping so it has a very angular outline instead of a more circular shape.


Here's what it should be - the spa and fire pit should look like a very lopsided figure 8 according to all the drawings and build plans.


Instead, we have one circle (the spa) with a horseshoe next to it. 20210324_134629.thumb.jpg.a313f1002d889abe78327c62d60fba51.jpg

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The stone subcontractor finally came back out today (more than two weeks later) to install the grill. They knew it was in the garage, and the two guys carried it around the house and over the trenches to the patio. They set the grill down as soon as they could - I would have too seeing as it's a couple hundred pounds. 😳 They took measurements of the grill and started cutting the hole in the counter. 


I just noticed in the picture I took how precariously the grill is hanging off the edge of the patio. It's hard to see in the photo, but that trench is a lot steeper than it looks. 

Anyway, they had it mounted and added the doors to the existing opening in a little over an hour. 


Does something feel off to you? It did to me. So I took a closer look...and they cut the opening for the grill too far to the right. The doors don't line up with the appliance.

Here's the left


...annnd here's the right.


We've already been in contact with the Project Manager who is coming by in the morning to take a look. He said it will be done correctly, but, between the mistakes and delays, I can't say I'm impressed with their stone subcontractor. If anything I am getting nervous about how the deck will turn out since the same company completes that work as well. 

The time quote we received at the beginning of the project was 90-120 days. We passed 120 a couple days ago. At this rate, I'll be due for a Covid booster by the time it's all done.

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Ugh. Attention to detail is key for any contractor. Not a ringing endorsement, and surprising after all the other work that seemed to come out so well up to that point.

I hope this doesn’t escalate into anything major, and that this particular subcontractor steps up his game for the rest of the project.

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Yesterday the stone guys came back out to tackle the firepit. They removed the two coping stones that connect to the spa and cut them so the shape is a bit more circular. The project manager came about that time and told them it wasn't good enough - the whole thing is the wrong shape. They discussed it for about 30 minutes, and the PM left. I guess he decided they needed a visual aid because he was back about an hour later with the burner that needs to fit inside the hole. Yep, still not a circle. 


While the PM was gone, they tackled finishing the back wall as the last water feature finally came in. Woohoo! The stone guys finished one of their projects!


You can see we have quite a bit of water in the deep end from all the rain we've had. It's had water in it for months actually. Now that it's getting to mosquito season, DH tossed a couple of those mosquito dunks in there so we don't become a breeding ground. 

Right after the stone crew left, the lighting guys showed up. They confirmed all the fixtures the stone crew had installed were working. There are 10 of these little LED bar lights around the pool - one with each water feature, 5 under the coping of the spa and firepit, and the last two will illuminate the steps of the deck.20210505_144404.thumb.jpg.a988fb1b75b8e4f2458e56f225fc80c3.jpg

The PM stopped by again this morning. He's not happy the firepit is still an issue, and he was surprised that the guys couldn't figure it out and the crew that was here is the good crew. 

I'm hopeful that it won't be another week or two...or 5... before they come back out, but they took all their equipment with them when they left. 🤞

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After several days of rain, more work is finally being done today. The project manager stopped by this morning and said he just wanted to check if anything had been done in the last week - he wanted to make sure what to be mad about when he called the stone guys this morning. Whatever he told them, it worked because a two man crew showed up about 9am with a bobcat to fill in the trenches between the patio and the pool. There was just enough room to get the bobcat through, and I was sure he was going to take out the new kitchen when he backed it out of the narrow space.



Once they filled in the ditches, they spray painted a few lines, took a few measurements, unhooked their trailer and left. I wasn't worried I would never hear from them again though... they left the bobcat. 

About an hour has passed and they are back with pvc. They're building the drainage system that will run under the deck. There is a drain that connects to the bottom of the firepit, and I'm assuming they will also connect our existing gutter down spouts located where the deck will be installed. Maybe even our overflow drain that comes out of the skimmer on the left. We shall see. 


A truck of sand just showed up too. A layer of sand then crushed limestone make up the base for the pavers.


The project manager said the base for the deck should only take a day. He can get it inspected tomorrow, and then, fingers crossed🤞, they lay the travertine on Saturday. It's supposed to rain for several days starting Sunday, and I would think they would want to get that base covered so there isn't any erosion. 🤷‍♀️

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2 hours ago, melmar02 said:

It's supposed to rain for several days starting Sunday, and I would think they would want to get that base covered so there isn't any erosion. 🤷‍♀️

They actually may want the rain to help settle the material. I have a paver patio that was put in many years ago, and before the pavers were laid down they put the top layer of sand and soil in place and left it there for about a week, maybe two. They wanted to get it rained on and really settled / packed down so that once the pavers were installed, they wouldn't get uneven from further soil settling and compression.

It definitely worked. The patio is still level everywhere, except the very edges where the retaining strips have come a bit loose as the soil in the yard has shifted over the years.


Glad to see more forward movement. Hopefully those errors in the stone facade and fire pit shaping will be worked out this week as well, before the rain comes.

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1 hour ago, JLMoran said:

They actually may want the rain to help settle the material. 

I'm not sure about the settling; they have been using this vibrating machine to pack down the sand and gravel. I'm hoping that will take care of it, and we won't have to wait since the PM told us it would only take 3-4 days to complete the deck. He may have been talking about working days though.20210513_123032.thumb.jpg.a0c79a0f3d364b1b8ede5e66304028cf.jpg


1 hour ago, JLMoran said:

Glad to see more forward movement. Hopefully those errors in the stone facade and fire pit shaping will be worked out this week as well, before the rain comes.

Good news there too! I took the kids bowling (this is the first week of our summer break), and when we got home, the crew had grown by 3. I spy a circle! 



Right now, they are shoring up the unsupported cinder block under the grill. Since they're here, hopefully they'll take care of the door misalignment too. I'm supposed to write a great big check today, so I'm glad at least the firepit has been taken care of. 

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1 hour ago, melmar02 said:

I'm not sure about the settling; they have been using this vibrating machine to pack down the sand and gravel. I'm hoping that will take care of it, and we won't have to wait since the PM told us it would only take 3-4 days to complete the deck. He may have been talking about working days though.20210513_123032.thumb.jpg.a0c79a0f3d364b1b8ede5e66304028cf.jpg

Our guys used the same machine to level everything out, but did it after the settling had a chance to happen.

NJ soil is very clay-heavy and tends to move a bit once it's wet, especially when topsoil or sand is added in. And in my case, the work was also done after displacing a lot of the soil in the area to remedy a leak / hole in our foundation wall's cinderblock.

If your soil is more sandy or otherwise drier, and wasn't really moved around a lot in that area (not the area that just got back-filled by the bobcat) you could well be correct about them being less-concerned with settling down the road.

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Yesterday afternoon, as the crew was loading up their equipment to leave, I saw the PM in the backyard evaluating the firepit. I excitedly stepped outside and asked what he thought. He climbed up on the edge of the spa and declared, "it's not good enough." 

I got closer and realized what he was talking about. They cut the center hole as a circle, but the outside edge is still elongated and misshapen.

He came back by early this morning and took measurements and pictures to send to the subcontractor. So close!



On a high note, the level, raised ground makes a huge impact. Visually, it's easier to imagine how the finished project will appear. It was also nice to be able to take the dogs out without leaping over the chasms.


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