This post could have been called “What to do When Things Don’t Go Exactly As Planned” but I didn’t want to scare you away … hmmm did I just do that?
After our first site meeting with the Quality Homes Foundation Supervisor and our Site Contractor, we had a clear understanding of our next steps on the lot. The first item on the list was to clear more trees. Of course the thought of clearing even more trees nearly broke my heart but I consoled myself with the assurance that we can always plant new trees once the big machines have cleared out. I actually had conversations about it with the trees, the forest and the creatures that call the woods home (woowoo or not, it made me feel better). Then I called a tree guy and set a date.
Selecting a Tree Service Company
Luckily, friends of ours had recently had some trees removed on their property so we received a good recommendation for a local tree service company. Just to be sure we were getting the best price and service, I also called a couple other companies from a little further south. One couldn’t get to us until at least January, maybe later, and the other said they’d have someone call me but they never did.
It seemed as though our options were limited to one if we wanted the work done soon but we still wanted to be sure we were choosing the right people for the job. Even though taking down trees is a fairly straightforward task on a vacant lot we still wanted to be clear about the work to be done and how professional they are. We also wanted to confirm that they are insured; then we can rest easy that the people working on the lot will be covered by their employer in case of injury.
In our meeting with TJB Tree Services, we explored our options for either using or disposing of all of the wood. Thomas was willing to remove everything for us, of course that would probably come at a price. We knew there had to be value in the logs and we wanted a good amount of wood chips to use around the lot as well. So, we asked him to give us a price based on stacking the logs over 8″ diameter, mulch anything smaller and leave it in a pile for us to use on site. In the meantime Brian found an interested buyer for the logs so we thought we were set up pretty well.
During the site visit for the tree removal quote, Thomas also noticed a few other old, sick and dangerous trees to be felled while he’s there, before they become troublesome. I can see how people can get carried away and before they know it the entire lot is cleared! There comes a point in conversations like this where you find yourself thinking “he’s already here, what’s one more tree”. As we marked the extra trees I again consoled myself with the thought that we can always plant more trees, besides, then I can choose better – still native – varieties.
The Tree Clearing Begins!
The price came in within our budget and the schedule worked well for us so we gave him the go-ahead! We set about removing the gate for easier machine access and it sold quickly with a listing on the local swap site.
Brian wanted to be there when TJB Tree Services were working – more for curiosity than anything else – so he decided to go up and do some work near the driveway entrance.
The very same day that the trees were being cleared, I got word from our site contractor that he had some fill available from another job and he asked if we would like it. We’re going to need a LOT of fill to create a nice grade around the house so we wanted to take advantage of the offer if we could. I quickly contacted Thomas to let him know I’d like to bring in some fill and asked him if we could do that without getting in his way too much. He was obviously NOT pleased and I held the trucks off for the day. Little did I know that the tree clearing would take 2 days instead of one. I really wanted that fill in and reluctantly Thomas gave in and agreed to let the trucks come in if they could dump the fill away from his main work zone.
And that’s when things got a little nuts!
The first load came in and we discovered that the driveway wasn’t as solid as we thought! Then the second load came in and nearly didn’t make it out! The driveway was destroyed! No more loads would be coming in until the driveway was fixed, not at any price. I feel so badly that Thomas and his team had to finish up by navigating his machinery around those horrible ruts after they were already put out by their arrival in the first place.
On the up-side, we were the proud new owners of a giant mountain of mulch and a great stack of logs 🙂
Rebuilding the Driveway & Clearing the Lot
We knew the driveway would have to be widened and probably built up some, we just didn’t realize it would be so immediately needed. Thankfully Underwood Construction was able to respond quickly, shuffled some work around, and got it fixed. And since they had all the trucks and the right machines there they kept working by pulling tree stumps and clearing the topsoil to see how much we had to work with before hitting bedrock.
As we suspected, there wasn’t much topsoil there, there was no more than 12 – 18 inches no matter where the bucket landed. They cleared it all and pushed it into a couple piles for re-use later. I’m glad it stayed on site because it looked like lovely humus-rich soil but my goodness there are a lot of rocks in the piles too. Within a few days we had a new driveway and a clean slate ready for construction!
Assessing Our Cleared Building Lot
The next day, after work we drove up to assess the progress and come up with a plan for our next steps. Getting back up to the lot after all of this brought a bouquet of emotions:
- Heartbreak – the place looked devastated
- Excitement – things were happening
- Overwhelm – there is still so much to be done! How will this ever work out?
- Excitement – there was much more excitement than any of the other emotions, especially after accepting that even in nature, there’s usually chaos before the beauty reveals itself.
What did we learn from all of this?
- Not all of the people who will work on your project will be a joy to work with. While Thomas at TJB Tree Services is really, I mean REALLY good at his craft, he’s not always great at communication or customer relations. I’d still work with them again and recommend them – so that’s something.
- Not everything will go according to plan, try to stay calm, flexible and open minded.
- You’ll want to have funds available earlier than you expect just in case timelines get shuffled or if unexpected conditions pop up.
- If machines are on site, get them to do as much as possible. This will ease the scheduling pressure later and it will be more cost effective than floating machines in and out multiple times.
- If you know you’re going to need a lot of fill and clean fill comes available, take it if you can. Just make sure it’s clean and local so you’re not importing contaminated material or invasive species (of plants or pests).
- Things can get emotional – I think I’ll write another post about this one!
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