Category Archives: landscaping

We will Rock you

Today we went to Frank Brother’s in Lodi to pick out rocks for our new fire pit.
The easy way to do this would be to buy a kit and call it good. There are plenty on the market, and some even in the size we’re looking for, but concrete retaining wall blocks look like concrete, and you basically pay a premium for the convenience of having something that looks like concrete.
Hand chiseling stone takes more skill than we possess right now, but stacking stone and using mortar doesn’t.
We will leave a 44″ diameter circular hole in the concrete underlayment for the lower patio. This is so that the fire will not rest on top of the concrete, exploding concrete is bad. The concrete will ¬†however provide a solid foundation for the fire pit walls and the stone of the walls will be lined with firebrick, to protect them from excess heat, and hopefully keep any rocks from exploding. Less explosions is good.
So, we needed pretty rocks!

The idea was to rent a trailer and go get a full pallet of wall stone, in a variety called ‘gray chocolate’. But alas the ball on our truck hitch is too beefy for rental trailers. We decided to go anyway and instead pick out a variety of stones and load the truck bed by hand with as many as we could comfortably and safely fit.


That turns out to look like this, 1250 lbs of rock.



Here they are unloaded on the sandstone steps that lead from the driveway down to the back yard.

We won’t know how much more we need until we get started ūüėČ


Wet sand – Backyard mirage

We went over to American Natural Stone for our 3rd visit this week, and ordered the patio pavers and polymeric sand today!
Decision phase over, and now that it’s settled I can drop fretting about whether or not it’s the best option. It will be OK.swhpss_saharachestnutlite_lgChestnut/Sahara Lite it is, a desert themed patio, with an Onyx soldier course. Cambridge Ledgestone XL and we’re getting 3 different sizes:¬†15 3/4 x 23 5/8
15 3/4 x 15 3/4 and 7 7/8 x 15 3/4, 10 pallets in total to cover approximately 1200 square feet. The Onyx accent pavers will be a regular 4.5×9 sized with the same texture as the bigger pavers. I will run them about 16 inches in from the edges of the patio, with gaps in the dark line where we have stairs leading to and from the patio.


For the main patio areas we’re leaning towards pattern 3, simply because it has the shortest runs of non overlapping joints. I do like the more random feel of number 1 too though.
patterns Or maybe the Random pattern that Cambridge suggests.



That’s it for updates tonight.
The kids have been in the pool 3 times a day for the past three days, summer is great!

Don’t go chasing waterfalls – aka Pool please


A year and a half has passed. We must be missing having building dust everywhere, because after much discussion over the past year we’ve decided that we want a pool.

Our development has a clause that forbids above ground pools, which would have been the easy way out. Both being less permanent and easier to make child and dog safe (and a lot cheaper…). But no, which left us with three options, a vinyl liner, fiberglass or gunite.
Gunite being the classic base behemoth, more labor intensive to install but totally customizable. Fiberglass being more cost for the pool itself,  but a much quicker install. Negatives being that they only come in a set number of shapes and sizes. The fiberglass is coated in an inert gel coat that will not affect water chemistry, unlike gunte.
And a vinyl liner pool, either with metal walls or block/concrete walls. Generally a cheaper construction, less customization than gunite, more than fiberglass.

In the fall of 2016 we had a vinyl pool company come out and give us a quote. It didn’t feel right, and taking into consideration that we have 4 dogs, 3 of whom like water, a liner simply didn’t feel like a good option.
We decided to not go forward with it., however the idea of a pool didn’t go away, despite cold winter months and come March we were talking pools again. In April we contacted about 5 different pool companies, had several come out and in the end settled for one that specialized in fiberglass pools.

An auto cover was something I really felt was a necessity to be able to let the dogs out in the backyard without fearing one of them would launch onto solar film, get entangled and drown. Or what if one of the neighbourhood kids ever feels unhealthily adventurous  enough to brave the fence and enter the well patrolled back yard.

Whenever the pool is not in use we will keep it closed and secured. Less of a death traps.
With 2 acres and an already installed fence we had no restrictions when it came to size and style of pool. We thought we wanted a free form sport pool, with a swim jet system. Turns out if you want an auto cover on a free form pool you will have to install tracks in the decking that look like crap, alternatively do a deck-in-deck solution that also looks like crap.
A rectangular pool can have the track under the coping, less crap to look at, and we found a pool that had the entry point at the right place, with a safety ledge along the perimeter for our not-so-strong swimmer, and plenty of seating for people who not necessarily want to swim. but hang out and cool off.
Trilogy’s Gravity.



We geeked out delving into the well of information that can be found over at the Troublefree pool forum. Lots of real people sharing their knowledge about everything from pool chemistry to pump size and flow rates to filters, salt water generators and automation.

We will have mainly Pentair equipment, a variable speed pump, salt water generator, gas heater, cartridge filter and an automation system for controlling it all remotely. There will be two lighted bubblers on the tanning ledge (aka toddler area, baby cousin splash zone), one skimmer and 3 or 4 returns.

Enough words, photos already.

This is a rough draft of the deck, patio and pool area. There will be a 16 foot diameter fire pit area to the east of the pool, and big sandstone boulders acting as low retaining wall between the deck stairs and the pool wrap.

pool final


Before. With plant pots marking the corners of the pool, and the garden hose showing where the pool wrap and lower patio will be. This is the north side of the house.


Dig Day, June 8th

This is how it looked when I came home after class that Thursday.
Limestone aggregate, will be spread and leveled in the bottom of the hole, making a well compacted and even base for the pool to sit on.
The dump trucks tailgated the gravel and aggregate up by the road, and the pool crew used their little zippy bobcat to move the pile back to the hole. The orange lines on the wall of the pit marks 4 foot intervals where they check the depth of the hole with the laser level that could be seen in the first dig photo. Once the depth was correct they crossed over the marks on the wall.


The pool arrived in the afternoon!


This was the evening on Dig day, the pool was parked in the front yard overnight.




Day 2 was pool placement day.

Panorama of the finished hole.
Crushed limestone aggregate being spread and leveled.
Time to pick up the pool and move it from the front yard.
This part was truly nerve wrecking, but it worked!
Setting the pool
There were some serious measuring going on before they were happy with how the pool was squared up with the existing patio slab. Here the crew is unhooking the lifting straps.
The pool was jacked up under the otherwise unsupported ledge and some cinder block was also put in place for support. One of the workers crawled into the den like area and started packing in crushed limestone under the ledge and bottom stairs.
Digging the trench between the equipment pad and the pool. The equipment will live outside the fence, so another section of the split rail was removed.
While waiting for the late water truck, they started lifting the big sandstone blocks in place. Impressive dexterity with huge backhoe flipping and turning the blocks. The big gap in the fence can be seen here, right next to the fence gate, which was too small to be used.
The water truck arrived… and was shot on hose. Fortunately the dig crew had spare pipe to cover the 30 or so feet needed. The retaining wall rocks can also be seen here on the left side of the photo. The crew back filled outside the pool with limestone gravel keeping the fill consistent with the rising ¬†water level inside the pool


Over the weekend we did the inaugural premiere splashings, and the boys were playing in the half filled pool the evening before Day 3. The water was a pleasant temperature by then, it was really cold coming out of the tank truck.

Day 3, backfill and more water.

A second load of water and more backfill. Here you can see the skimmer  held by Mike. Yes, we have another Mike to add to the list. This one is a virtuoso with bob cats and back hoe =)
The water return nozzles and pool LEDs got mounted and pipes attached, gray conduit for electric and white PVC for water returns from the pump.
Exciting moment when the water level reached the ledge.  The tank truck emptied a couple of minutes after this, so we still need a couple of more inches of water in there, but it should be doable with the garden hose.

And now we wait. The equipment, as in pump, heater, filter and salt water generator should be delivered next Friday. 8 more days with gaps in the fence is doable if not awesome.
The Electrician is scheduled for Monday the 26th, and we will hopefully have the plumber in around then as well.

After that they prep to pour concrete. We will have a 3 foot wrap around the pool itself, and it will be stamped. A second concrete pour will happen after that, sunk down 2 and 3/8 inches from the pool wrap making a concrete base for the pavers that will cover the lower patio. We will finish the upper patio at the same time as the lower one. We have found pavers we really like, it’s just a matter of picking the right colour(S) and blends.

Lampus Grandview in Allegheny (or slate) is Eric’s favourite. I think they’re both too dark for a deck on the north side of the house, partly under a deck. And dark pavers tend to get hotter as well.
I am leaning towards Cambridge Armortec, Sherwood Collection Ledgestone XL, very similar paver to the Grandview, but with more colour blend options.
Maybe Sahara/Chestnut Lite, the border would have to be darker, more like the stone wrap on the house.

Or perhaps Sandstone with a Riverbed blend border.traditional-patio

Cambridge has a ¬†lighter version of the Allegheny, it’s called Toffe/Onyx Lite, but some pictures of it look a lot more saturated than this, so I am not sold on it.


That’s it for now!



O Tannenbaum

This morning was for pointing out¬†where I wanted our complimentary pine trees planted. We figured we would use them as a screen to the neighbour’s basketball court by the dog door corner. That way we would also get more privacy for the rear patio by closing up the only gap in the greenery around the back yard.

The six we were expecting had turned into ten, as by magic.


This is one way to make ten (eleven, since they also planted the oak tree) holes appear without the breaking of backs and gnashing of teeth.
Very cool drill.
I took these photos through the window while standing on the toilet in the master bathroom.


Placing the trees in their holes. Four pines get to live where I had planned that the Oak tree should go.
The oak had been planted offset from the front door and office window just before I arrived. It looked nice so this was way to still get something along that west side of the front yard.


Rinse and repeat in the spot where we were originally hoping to plant pines.

There is one more hole further left, so six in total back here.


Tilling after the trees were put in place, to loosen the dirt form all the heavy trucks that have passed through to the back during construction.


These photos were taken through one of the master bedroom windows.


Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, heading to the front yard for a break.


The rock hound came next, raking the top layer finer and picking up everything bigger than a fist.


Then more oldschool manpower. Lots of raking to smoothen everything out even more before the grass seed was spread.


The birch tree by the garage looks stressed, I hope it makes it.

The front was seeded and done by the time I left. They had a truck with straw and a blower up on the road just waiting for its turn. I believe they were also going to put mulch down before calling it all done.

I watched most of the planting from inside the house. Not nearly as cold and windy in there.

The cabinet maker had delivered the laundry room cabinetry and the office bookcase.
Drew, our trim carpenter, was at work finishing off the fiddly bits to make it fit in just so.

The bookcase looks nice, but at less than half the size of the one we have in our current office, it feels small.
It is scooted in a little awkwardly, showing a gap at the top, not sure who thought that would be a great idea.

I suppose we will put the current favourite books in this bookcase, and the rest in a secondary wall of books in the basement.

We’ve got board game storage though!


Different view of the great room with staged furniture.

A light fabric couch is NOT in our future, we will stick with leather thankyouverymuch. >.<


I watched as the induction cooktop was put into place by Mike-the-Builder and one more man. It was a tight fit, but it slid down to sit flush in its spot.

Also another close up of the handmade backsplash, without mint green and without drywall craters.

IMG_2897 IMG_2896

Master bathroom mirrors were going to get hung today. I guess these are the¬†last ‘before’ photos.IMG_2924

Rubber duckie ledge in the master shower.


Not our bed, but the shield on the wall is way cool.

It and the bar stools can stay =D


The exterior painters were busy painting the white trim, and the shutters have their final colour now.
Next time, the house will be surrounded by a field of straw!

The final countdown

Timeline: Parade of homes deadline minus one week.
The craftsmen at the house today said they will finish in time as long as the builder stays away ūüėČ
Mike-the-Builder has a really good report with them, and they have gone above and beyond when things have cropped up.
Such as instead of grouting the kitchen yesterday like planned they were cutting and installing more backsplash today.


Happy green =)
Also a first peek at the pendant lights over the kitchen island.


That BIG box is the dining table chandelier.

Kitchen cardboard

These even bigger boxes are the fridge and freezer, their trim kit is the long box on the floor. The dishwasher has the cooktop on top.
The right light in the wrong spot can also be seen here.


The laundry room boxes.


Speaking of lights, here is my favourite entry light turned on.

Sparkly and throwing cool shadows on the ceiling and walls.

And once again,¬†I am so happy with how this turned out. I don’t think I will stencil these walls after all, the shadows are really neat.


The great room fireplace has been finished.


The master bedroom tray ceiling light in action.


Master bath has shiny new shower heads and controller thingies. Just missing the hand held.

The tub filler is still in its box, now in front of the tub.

stairs base board

Stained baseboard in place on the stair landing.

It looks so much better, or maybe I should say less ‘huh?’¬†than the white that was there previously.


Doug-The-Painter didn’t just stain the baseboard and continue the finish paint of the house. He also atomize sprayed the front mesh for our surround speakers, no more stark white rectangles on medium gray wall.
They look darker than the wall due to the black speaker behind, I can fix that and I think it looks much better already.

The checklist is now down to a few items.
One lighting fixture is in the wrong spot, and the one that should go where it hangs is still in its box.
The appliances are in cardboard boxes in their respective rooms, but we are waiting on the ovens.
The tub filler is still in its box in the master bathroom.
Mirrors, towel bars and tp holders are yet to be hung and shower doors installed.
Lastly, the built in bookshelf is being finished off site (funny!) but other than that, it looks pretty close to done!


Things look great outdoors as well.


front yard 2 front yard       IMG_2779

Waiting on even more dirt to shallow out the front and west side swale, so that part has not been seeded yet.

Everywhere else the landscaping is in and ready for mulch and rocks. The backyard and east side future lawn areas are covered in a layer of straw, to help the grass seed germinate.

We also had a fence company out to measure and give us a quote for a 3 rail split rail fence.

Something has changed within me

Something is not the same.

The electricians and the painters were working at the house today putting in their finishing touches.
Appliances have been delivered, there are big cardboard boxes in both the kitchen and the laundry room just waiting to be installed. Fridge and freezer are evident, as is the dishwasher, not sure if the ovens have arrived yet. In the laundry room boxes we have washer, dryer, 2 pedestals and we think the 5th box in there might be the laundry sink.

Speaking of kitchen. I was thrilled to see this today:backsplash

Yes, I especially like the damaged drywall areas!

Why? Because yesterday it looked like this:IMG_2719
And I hated it. Those light mint green tiles made the whole backsplash look pixelated and the stark contrasts did not work for me at all. Especially not with the countertops, and those are not going anywhere.

If the light ones had been in a shade in between the dark and the middle colour, with more of a brown tone it would have been much closer to what I had envisioned.

Luckily, our head tile guy was installing the rubberized membrane on the dog tub in the basement. We happened upon him as we were checking out the basement while I was still whining about the kitchen.
We told him how we L-O-V-E how the shower turned out, but that the kitchen backsplash was atrocious (clearly no fault of his, that selection is all on me), and how I had read up on glass paint in different forums and been to craft stores earlier in the day to figure out how to paint the backsplash until we can have it replaced.
He said that since it wasn’t grouted yet, he could ‘just have his apprentice pop some of the light ones out’.
Serious doubletake.
He double checked to make sure he had enough of the other two colours to be able to pull it off, and he was only 1 bullnose tile short.

So instead of having a grouted backsplash today, we have this, and I couldn’t be happier about it!


More changes, we have hardscaping!
The foundation plants are also in. There are 6 trees left to be planted in the front yard, you can glimpse them to the right of the trucks in the photo. Also 6 more trees for the west side, but we are waiting on more dirt before they finish off the front yard and put down grass seed.

Landscaping happened yesterday, and we had them take out one of the apple trees in the back yard that was a little mutilated during septic tank install.
I liked that tree, but it will be easier to get the fence in now.

The new stairs leading down the the backyard, they flipped those huge stone slabs around with a backhoe and scooted them into place after digging out their spots with hand shovels.



And here is the backyard, the disturbed areas here have been seeded. The septic mound in the very back has new grass peeking through the straw!

We will kill off the ground covers in the treed areas and either seed it or plant something that is less likely to be poison ivy.

Heading indoors again:


Lockers, with hangers.


The kids’ fans were all lit up.

So were the can lights.

stairs and the light

Do you see it?
the light

It is THE light. The one I gave up my DIY itch for.
It is right where it should be and I think it looks awesome.

Another happy room.

powder room

Powder room, with electricity.

I think I might not have to stencil these walls after all, those are some really cool shadows cast by the chandelier.

The mirror is the only thing missing in here.

stair landing light

The painters had stained a couple of lengths of baseboard, to replace these white ones on the stair landing. It just looked odd with stained baseboards flanking the actual stairs, then switch to white at the landing and continue with stained for the other half of the stairs.

Also, there is a safety light here for night time stair-strolls.

The LED hand rail lights are yet to be installed.


Rocker switches in the office.


Power and ethernet ports. The desktop powerhouses will be hardwired for speed.

Our cabinet maker is building the built in bookcases off site, but besides that small thing, the office is finished.

The great room looks like this.


Those surround sound speakers make me sad.
We have this beautifully finished, perfectly smooth expanse of wall, and then there are those -things-.
The painter will try to dilute the wall paint down and atomize spray them, but the holes in the mesh are so fine it might not work that well.
What on earth was he (as in the husband) thinking?

Oh well, maybe I should take up tapestry making and cover that whole wall.

On a happier note: fireplace stone is pretty much the only thing left in here.
And blinds.



The rack with the home automation system,  waiting for more tech toys to move in.

master bedroom2

Master bedroom with electrical outlets and TV installed.

The electricians and painters were doing their final work, and the rope light in the tray ceiling was going in as we watched.

This room is done!


The ball over the tub all lit up.
The tub filler and the shower faucets are still in boxes in here.


The sconces that will flank the mirrors over the vanities all work.


Master closet #2 gets to close this post.

Oh, well

Our first meeting today was at Chippewa Stone, to place our kitchen counter templates. Meaning we got to see our slabs and in theory decide which part we wanted placed where.

In reality we asked the stone lady her opinion and went with that.

It was a challenge to take photos of the slabs, as even with the dust layer they reflected the cars in the adjacent parking lot.


See the olive? No? Try squinting, it might help!


We helped place the counter templates on our two slabs, holding the wooden templates in place as they were taped on. There was also white marker being used.

Since I was using my hands for more important things, I forgot to take pictures.
I did snap one of our island countertop though. It’s the whole area above the masking tape. 123 inches long and we were lucky it fit without having to do a seam.
Bonus red car reflection!

Dairy Queen break.

The next meeting was with Kevin-the-Landscaper from¬†¬†Lamphear’s. We met him at the house.


Today’s view ! Another beautiful day and blue September sky.

We have well drilling happening. They just got started with the actually drilling as we arrived.

Taking bets on how deep they will have to go, with us being close to the top of the slope. We are adding an extra  commercial waterpump to amp up the water pressure.
I know this might come off as sacrilege to those in the drought stricken parts of the country, but the Great Lakes area is not known for being arid.

Concrete moulds and prepping was being done by one very sun exposed, hard working man in the 90 degree temperatures around noon.
Half the concrete will go in tomorrow, and half on Friday.

Also, the paint crew was working indoors, in the AC I might add to show the contrast, doing final paint because all the trim is done!


Walkway shots!


Two stair steps at the front door.
And a _huge_ front bed area.

We are leaning toward having a swoopy part of this being lawn , to break up the hard lines of the walkway and to lessen a threatening mulch desert. Maybe some rock pebbles. We will see what Kevin-the-landscaper comes up with, design wise.

We would like some good bones in shrubs and trees, so I can add perennials for colour to create my own cottage garden idea of pretty.

We gave Kevin pretty free reins for the design, with the exception of not overdoing the yellow. We also asked him to spec out sandstone steps from the garage down to the back patio, and a retaining wall for the west side slope.

The majority of our complimentary 6 pine trees will get to live on the dog door side of the house, to screen the neighbour’s basketball court. The only gap in our nature provided privacy screening.

Moving on to more concrete. This is the parking pad outside the garage, the swoop of the¬†walkway, and the 10′ deep garden bed in front of the garage.


Indoors I just took a few photos.


Today’s locker view, white suits them, but also the only ‘hmm’ of the day.
The bottom cubbies here should be for tucking away shoes, but we spotted something on the great room floor that looks an awful lot like a paneled front and side for this.
While the paneling was beautiful, echoing the fireplace and office board and batten, I do hope we get shoe storage. We really need it!

Fireplace. I really like it.


Meanwhile, I think the dining room pillars are a little pretentious. The crown moulding at the top in particular.

I have an itch to square that off.


The office window, taken against the light and really throwing off the wall color. I still took the picture because like how the trim carpenters solved the under window panels.


The view from the deck, looking down on the patio.
Also starring Kevin-the-Landscaper’s feet.


Another view of the patio, as seen from outside the dog room door.



Right as we were leaving a dirt truck arrived. Front yard dirt dumping as seen from the car.
Looks like really nice dirt.
We hope to have the lawn going in early next week, even if the full landscape plan isn’t set in stone by then.