Tag Archive | construction

Tree Protection Gone Wrong

I work for a design / build landscape construction company. Part of my job is to pull permits for the installations of the hardscapes (patios, driveways, walks, pergolas, lighting, etc) along with tree permits. For me, the tree permits are the ones I’m most involved with. Sometimes, I am the arborist that visits the property before construction to determine the condition, size* and type of trees on the lot. I look at what the architect has designed for the property and determine how it will effect the trees around the site. I then produce what is called a tree survey. These surveys determine which trees stay and which trees go. My tree survey then goes to the city to determine how many inches of trees will have to be removed from the property. *Size is determined by measuring the width of the trunk at breast height or ‘Diameter at Breast Height’ (DBH), which has been determined to be 4′ 5″ (1.38m).

The city forester will look at the survey and calculate how many trees were in decent condition, of good quality or of decent size were removed. This number will translate into an inch amount the client will need to replace on their property or pay the tree inch fees. Many times, the return amount could be in upwards of 100″. Not only do the clients need to return 100″ to the property, every municipality has a different list to follow for the trees that actually count towards tree return inches. Many of these trees are native; oaks, hackberry, sycamore, tupelo, tulip trees and spruce are commonly on the approved list. However, many of my clients request chanticleer pear lined driveways and screening arborvitae are not on the list.

The trees on the survey that are marked to stay must be maintained to be able to survive construction. ‘Tree Fencing’ must be installed around the trees that are to remain. Placement of this fencing is usually 1′ foot away from the tree for each inch of DBH. As you can see in the photos below, this fencing is clearly not as far away from the trunk as it should be..  my guess these trees are about 18″ DBH requiring 18′ around the them. Let’s ice this cake with a bunch of construction waste leaning up against the trunk. The last photo shows a large amount of soil piled up on a nearby tree.

Usually, the city forester has to visit the site and approve the location of the tree fencing. I can’t imagine this was the original location (I did not do this survey). As you can see, there are many ruts from construction equipment all around the fencing. This traffic compacts the soil and suffocates the roots of the trees. It’s a slow death for the tree. A few years after the home is built, these trees will start declining and most likely will need to be removed. As these are very close to the foundation of the new home, along with being fairly large, it will be a costly removal.

Hopefully, this information will be helpful to anyone having any construction done and want to keep their trees!


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Bathroom Renovations Part 2 – Construction

imageSo, I left you, my dear readers, with me still using the freezing basement pooper, mad because I had to buy another can of paint, apply said paint and was running a bit late in the scheduling department. ( Part 1 ) Thank goodness I did not build in a time frame into my contract. I guess as long as it was done before March, I was golden. 😉

By now, my vanity had arrived. I am not afraid to order from Amazon.com, you just need to be a bit open-minded sometimes. Color is the worst thing to deal with. I have had shit luck buying formal dresses, however other clothes have been fine. It arrived well packaged and looked great for the price. These sinks usually go for 3X what I paid (due to the labor) and this one has it’s quirks, hence the lesser price. We’re happy with it, though!

Back on the color matching issue, until the vanity was delivered, I couldn’t shop for any shelves or accessories until I saw the vanity color in person. I knew my hubby could match anything in color via stain, so I was safe buying anything ‘raw’ for him to stain. I had already ordered the raw shelf that would eventually go above the tile. Now for a mirror. We had to go to the Big Depot to buy some grout and ended up finding a matching mirror and medicine cabinet for good prices! Couldn’t pass ’em up and off they went home with us.

So, I’m armed with most of my bathroom ingredients, all staged to go in my garage. It should (did) all flow well now. It was time to tackle the third coat of paint… Since the second can of paint could have been +/-3% off in color from the first, I decided to save some time and tape the ceiling off & not hit it with the third coat. It was white originally and two coats looked great.

I was now ready to apply my faux painting. I have done many faux finishes before: ragging, sponging, linen effect, and faux Venetian plaster. I’m not afraid to try things! Since the Venetian plaster was out, I just perused the paint store for ideas. They had opalescent paint that could be colored in any color I wanted. Perfect. Since there is no window in there, I guessed the opalescence would give the illusion the room is lighter than it is. I picked a color called ‘Cool Avocado’ and bought scrap T-shirt material to apply it, called ‘ragging’. In short, I soaked the rag in the paint and smooshed it on the walls with different angles and pressures. If you really want to know the details, go to You Tube!

wp-1454296245058.jpg The opalescent paint is so beautiful, IMO. I love how it moves in the light. It seems to disappear in places the light hits, giving the illusion that I missed a huge spot on the wall! However, if you shift positions, you can see the shimmery green return to the area. This worked great for my application, however I don’t think this would look good as a stand alone, solid color.

I was able to finish the faux in about 6 hours on a Friday. This was perfect timing, as it dries very fast and we could at least get the toilet set before sundown. Whew! Indoor plumbing 😉

So this is how it all fell together, start to finish, Cliff’s Notes Style!

  • Remove old vanity.
  • Add matching tile where missing under vanity.
  • Unset toilet and remove everything from walls.
  • Center off-center electrical box for vanity light.
  • Drywall, fix holes and sand, and sand, and sand…..
  • Paint 3 coats of expensive, moisture resistant bathroom paint.
  • Faux ‘ragging’ paint in opalescent green.
  • Toilet set.
  • Hang & grout the green glass tile for our ‘back splash’.
  • Hang both the fan light and the vanity light.
  • Install the vanity, sink and faucet. Ah, it’s good to know a plumber!
  • Hang the mirror – we chose to use two screws, not liquid nail to hang our mirror (gesh, overkill!)
  • Hang medicine cabinet, shelf, hooks, towel rod, TP holder, and shower curtain.
  • Lay cute stone cobble rug.
  • Cue dogs for photo bomb of finished product!
  • Done? To Be Continued….

Here’s a picture gallery of the progress:

Yes, the 1970’s called, they want their bathroom back! Not entirely horrible, real oak vanity, large med cabinet… The shower curtain was an experiment. It looked like a Jarabe Tapatío (Mexican Hat Dance) dress! Yes, that was cut from the re-deux.

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First to go was the vanity. We had electrical, dry-walling and painting to do. There were at least 6 coats of paint to deal with around he vanity and old medicine cabinet. Along with the damage where the mirror was glued to the wall. I felt like Karate Kid… SAND THE FENCE! Well, really SAND THE FLOOR, as it was circular motions.

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After all the dry-walling and sanding, it was time to paint. My husband hates painting, however helped cut in the corners. I did write a love note to my husband on the wall behind the vanity. Like a time capsule!

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I painted the whole room. All 5 of the subsequent paint jobs, after the first one (while being built) never painted behind the toilet. If someone really wants to change these fixtures, they could potentially keep this paint job.

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Coming right along! The cute picture in the middle is of my husband’s and Breck’s plumber butt!

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And we’re done!! I’m sure I’ll add some trinkets and perhaps a shelf for junk in the future though.

So, when it came down to schedule, I was about a week over or 1/3 over the originally projected time frame. Eh, that’s pretty par for the course.

And now the big question… How did I do on my budget. Well, as I said in Part 1, a 20% – 30% additional is about right. I have not added these up yet until now, writing this post & after the project was complete. I don’t have enough OCD to know to the dollar what I spent, but let’s see where I ended-up, roughly:

Budget was for $1,700.00 + 30% ($510.00) Gives me $2,310.00 for realsies. I’m not counting labor here.

  • Vanity & associated products – $845.00
  • Mirror – $57.00
  • Faucet – $36.00
  • Medicine cabinet  – $37.00
  • Wood Shelf & stain – $30.00
  • Floor tile & associated products – $80.00
  • Drywall & associated products – $70.00
  • Glass wall tile & associated products -$85.00
  • Paint & associated products – $190.00
  • New vanity light, wall plates + rewiring – $75.00
  • Hooks, towel rack & TP holder – $80.00
  • Shower curtain & rod – $70.00
  • Rug – $25.00
  • Dye for towels – $3.00 (saved me $150 in towels!!)

Aaaaand the total is: $1,683.00!! Uh oh. UNDER budget? Let’s see here… 20, carry the 4, then add the 6… Yup. Technically, spot on budget! I could argue the fact that I still need a soap dispenser (eyeballing one @ $20.00) and I would really like a ‘bath sheet’ (another $20.00). A new bath mat would be nice also ($12.00). Lastly a trinket shelf (about $40.00). That would add $92.00 to the tab. New total – $1,775.00.

What really happened in my head when I came up with the $1,700.00 budget in the first place, was that I really wanted to only spend $1,500.00, but added the extra $200.00 for ‘uh oh’s’ that came up. I didn’t expect to have to buy a mirror, however I didn’t expect to not have to buy towels, either. I expected the vanity light rewiring to be more work and material than it was and didn’t expect to pay an extra $60.00 in the paint department. I think I was just pretty lucky this renovation!!

All in all, I am ECSTATIC about my new pooper!

Next project? The kitchen! =-O

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Bathroom Renovations Part 1 – Budgets & Scheduling


This is how Alaskans do it!!

On the first day of my winter break, I got a wild hair in my ass to renovate my main bathroom. I have been wanting to do something to the house since we became a bit more stable in the financial department. . However, every time I chose a construction project (kitchen countertops, new windows, patio…) the “construction dominos” would start falling and I quickly lost interest as my budget was blown.

What is a construction domino? It’s when you stack all the things you need to do for a project in a line then try to fill in other dominos (problems) that crop-up during the project without them all falling. When you plan to do any construction, there is ALWAYS an unknown factor that can’t be factored in at the beginning. Or even when you do factor it in, it can be the maker or breaker of a project.

EXAMPLE – You may think you are doing a quick change out of a new toilet for about $250, however after you’ve bought your new toilet (thinking you’ll save money by buying it yourself at the Big Depot instead of from the plumber), it’s the wrong size and you now need to pay the plumber to pick-up the right model… Or, the toilet collar turns out to be rusted away and needs to be replaced… Clack, clack, clack. The dominos start falling, just like the dough you’re dropping into the project.

I am a landscape construction estimator. Believe me, I know about construction costs! Basically, add a healthy 20% – 30% to any budget and that is where it will really fall after all is said and done. One more time, be sure the initial estimate is 30% LOWER than what you want to spend.  Believe me! Small things not anticipated can add up quickly! Even for a seasoned professional like myself.

My budget for my bathroom project was $1,700*, with a completion schedule of 2 weeks. The project will encompass a new vanity/sink/faucet, new mirror, tile backsplash, shelves and a faux paint finish. All of the work will be done by my husband and me, no other contractors needed. Big bucks can be saved every time you can do something yourself. This project would easily be $5,000 had I hired a contractor and not done as fast, because they would need multiple visits to complete.

Here’s just a few of the construction dominos that fell (so far) during my bathroom renovation:

  • There was no tile under existing vanity – as I had bought a vanity with legs this time, I needed to match the tile & lay 4.5 tiles.
  • I had planned on reusing the mirror, however I damaged it on removal – need new.
  • The light above the vanity was wired incorrectly and not centered.
  • Toilet seat broke when someone stood on it to reach the light. .. (not me!)
  • I originally wanted to go with a Venetian plaster finish to cover the poor drywall job. Turns out the color choices are very limited in Venetian plaster and I didn’t like any of them, so I needed to do A LOT of drywall repair to be able to use regular paint.
  • Even after 2 coats of expensive, primer included paint, it did not cover the dark green paint & I need to buy another $57 gallon for a 3rd coat.

Right now, 3 weeks after my winter break, I’m only to the point of painting my 3rd coat today. Remember ‘construction schedule’ are two words that go together like military intelligence or politically correct. IE, they don’t!! So, just like the budget estimate, add 30% more time to your project. I thought I’d be done last weekend… Well, as of today, it looks like the bathroom will be functional next weekend, however not fully complete with shelves and a mirror.

Thank goodness, I have a basement washroom to shit, shave and shower in. I don’t know anyone’s basement that’s cozy warm, and mine is no different. Allow me to reference the Styrofoam photo above. .. I love watching the “Buying Alaska” series. In Alaska, there are many homes with no indoor plumbing. How they combat the shock of sitting on a frozen, outhouse toilet seat is to create a seat of Styrofoam that is kept warm in the house. When needed, the warm seat is brought to the outhouse and your butt won’t freeze to the seat! This seat now resides at the top of the stairs, warm and at the ready when I have to use the freezing cold, basement loo! 😉

Watch for Bathroom Renovations Part II – The Construction Project coming up soon (When I finish it!!)

*$1,700 –  This number was to also include towels, rug, shower curtain/rod and wall plates. Stop laughing at me… 😉

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl