Monday, October 31, 2011

The Tale of the Brick Planter

I must admit that I had naively believed that if I ignored it, everyone else would too and so I kept putting off what I had should have done ahead of time. What you see above was someone's idea of making lemonade out of lemons. The builders of our house, back when I was just three years old and had no concept of home ownership, poured the foundation of the house too close to the property line and thus had to shift it all uphill a couple feet to get it within specification. So with a slab protruding from the east side of the house, someone along the line had a brick planter built and installed several rose bushes in it. The photo above shows what this planter looked shortly after we bought this place.

What the previous planter builders/owners didn't do however was install any sort of drainage system into that planter and as it turned out, it was basically a fishbowl. A few years back the water did it's thing and caused the bricks to crack on each end. Suddenly this planter had a date with destruction but the crack never got any wider and my procrastination got stronger. Then this year hit where we have only gotten enough rain since June to just retain the knowledge of rain in our memories. I'm guessing since June we have only had around an inch and a half of rain. This caused huge cracks to form in the lawn that still remain and for some reason the crack in the brick planter went from a crack to a gaping six inch gash at about the mulch line in the picture above causing the top edge of the planter to lean out over the lawn.

This happened in June and all summer I procrastinated hoping the thing would fall over on itself and I would then just pick up the pieces. Then summer turned into fall and we decided to sell our house. Knowing the mess it would create (according to the side of my brain in charge of procrastinating) I thought I would just sell the house and it would become someone else's problem. Worst case, if someone brought up the subject, I would just downplay it saying that I was going to haul it off before possession switched hands and then the new owners could redecorate it as they saw fit. Everyone that walked around the house noticed it and would shake their heads disapprovingly and whisper. I'm not sure if that is why I got nary an offer from my initial advertising blitz but it certainly didn't help. So one day after mulching up the leaves with the lawnmower, I grabbed a hammer on the spur of the moment and whacked a few bricks. They came off pretty easily. Within minutes I had broke enough off around the downspout that it wasn't going to be damaged in anyway and I walked to the middle of the wall. I put one hand on the edge and with just a minimal amount of effort, pulled the whole wall down. Like the pig for breakfast, I was wholly committed at that point.

After getting all the bricks carried out of the way and the dirt removed, some of it still muddy due to lack of drainage, I found that beneath that planter was the ugly mess seen above. Not only was the concrete stained, but there wasn't a slab per say underneath as I had heard from the previous owners. Instead there was a footer with a shoddy slab poured beneath it and the new footer that had to be put in and whoever poured it didn't even bother to clean the forming sand from the inside edge of the original footer. So with time, the sand filtered down underneath of the slab, again due to the fishbowl effect, and what remained was a rather large rough looking slot that to most people would look like a giant crack. It certainly wasn't the impression I wanted to leave with a prospective home buyer.

So I started thinking of options that A) weren't going to cost be a lot of money that I wasn't going to get back out of the house, B) wasn't going to take me a month's worth of weekend's to complete, C) would make it look somewhat planned and D) cover up that horrid 'crack' to keep a prospective home buyer's mind at ease.

The right way to fix it would be to rent a concrete saw and cut the offending concrete off from the house, dig it all up and dispose of it along with some serious re-landscaping efforts. The cheap way would be to rebuild another planter in it's place without solving the drainage issue or anchoring it in a better way to the house's foundation. In the end, my wife came up with the above idea which I thought turned out decent. I cleaned up the foundation wall and gave it a fresh coat of paint to cover the stains. They I laid down a row of paving blocks and back filled with some landscaping gravel. That was what I was in charge of doing. Phase two which my wife is in charge of doing is to buy a few large landscaping pots/half barrels/etc to put on top of the rock and create the effect of a urban garden or flower bed. It was cheap only setting me back around $180 in materials and a quarter bottle of Advil for the sore muscles. It also took only three days of effort to do, two to deconstruct and one to repaint and reconstruct. Not to bad. So now phase two of our home sell effort is going into effect with a 'For Sale by Owner' sign in the front yard with perhaps a much cheaper classified add in a couple of the local papers and (thanks to Kymber) perhaps an open house slated for later this year when my wife can be home for moral support. I may get this house sold yet.


R. Sherman said...

Your initial fix doesn't look bad. Be careful about "minimizing" things to prospective purchasers. I've seen too many lawsuits result from that. Better to let the buyers do any inspection they want and you make to representations, one way or the other.


Anonymous said...

Back in the day when I was landscape designing. I would never ever ever put a planter against the house. It's just asking for trouble. And when the client would insist they wanted plants I would suggest humungous pots. If they insisted further I would say goodbye.
By the way is that slab really a yard or more of solid concrete above ground. If so, have you seen the original plans for what they were planning to top it with.

Ed said...

R. Sherman - Excellent advice!

Vince - I haven't seen any original plans but from what I heard, a house was supposed to be built above it but due to it being too close to the property line, it couldn't.

kymber said...

Ed - great job and i think your wife's idea of putting some landscaping pots is a good idea. get some plants that are tall and bushy and include plants in the same post that will hang over the pots as well.

you'll get the place sold - no worries. and we did the For Sale By Owner route and then posted on the sign when the Open Houses would be held.

we wish you all the best!

your friend,

sage said...

Good work... a case for a condo! :)

Eutychus2 said...

Looks decent to me .... but then I'm not planning on buying your house, or any house for that matter. I think your wife is quite the genius.