We were recently hired to replace a front stoop in Cohoes. This particular stoop was in need of replacement because it was beyond repair. The top cracked, then the owner parged the top of it and accidentally pitched the landing towards the building, allowing water to get in. This caused the sill plate (which was made from regular wood, not pressure treated) to completely rot away, compromising the support of the entire structure. Needless to say, we had to replace the sill plate.
Rather than pouring new concrete steps, we sold the customer a set of precast stairs. These stairs have a better finish and are less expensive than a poured in place stoop. With the proper conditions, this is a great alternative to a stoop and will save customers thousands of dollars. to support the precast steps, we poured concrete into sono tubes, four feet into the ground. We then installed a concrete slab in front of the stairs for a landing as well as a concrete landing on top of the stairs. To finish the project, we installed new metal handrails on the top landing and stairs as well as a new pressure treated wooden handrail on the adjoining front side walk.
The result was beautiful, and better yet, will last the customers for years to come.
We recently finished this retaining wall at one of our customer’s homes in Troy. The customer chose a chestnut brown Baltimore wall by Techo-Bloc that highlights her home beautifully. Our customers can choose from a variety of colors, textures and patterns for their design and we work with each client individually to find what suits their needs best. We love how this one came out!
In early spring, we installed a patio around this customer’s pool and they recently opened up the pool for the season. They were kind enough to let us come back and grab some pictures – and we’re glad we did because look at how beautiful it looks! We hope they spend the summer lounging on a patio chair and soaking up some rays.
As landscapers, we install mulch regularly. Most of our landscaping clients want new mulch every spring to freshen up their flower beds and enjoy a beautiful yard all summer long. However, there are more benefits to mulching your gardens than just aesthetics.
We are often asked which color mulch is best. While this is a preference, there are other factors in selecting a color. The three basic mulch colors are red, black and premium brown. Red and black are dyed mulches; they are essentially pallet boards sent through a grinder and blasted with dye. After about a year, the dye washes off and the mulch fades considerably. Also, the dyed mulches tend to take longer to break down and amend the soil because they are such large pieces. Oftentimes we find ourselves removing these mulches after a couple years because they don’t break down. For these reasons, we recommend premium brown mulch. This is a natural product and has not been dyed so it breaks down quicker and amends the soil. You do need to lightly apply more mulch since it breaks down; however, you will have more nutrient rich soil as a result. Premium brown mulch also remains consistent throughout the year and will not fade.
Clients also ask us often about weed paper. We do not recommend installing weed paper since the initial benefits do not outweigh the initial costs, future costs and trouble. Typically, if you install weed paper, you will enjoy a weed-free garden that first year. Then spring comes and you find exposed weed paper due to frost heaving. Since this doesn’t look appealing, you rip out the exposed portions. Dust in the air will also eventually settle on your mulch, allowing for weeds to germinate on top and grow through the weed paper. So, you will be weeding anyway. Additionally, weed paper prevents moisture from permeating through to your plants, preventing the nutrients from mulch breaking down and amending your soil. It might seem great to have no/low maintenance option but in the end, it will cost you later.
We recently completed a beautiful backyard paver patio at a customer’s house. These clients unfortunately hired a bad contractor this spring and ended up with a misshapen and awkward concrete patio. Not only that, but the concrete was poured at different times, resulting in an uneven and discolored appearance.
The customers hired us to fix the problem. Rather than jackhammering the entire patio and redoing it, we decided to lay patio pavers on top. This solution was cheaper than starting from scratch, and it was an upgrade to the actual patio. To start, we needed to jackhammer out a section and install another in order to round out the corners.
Once the concrete was ready, we glued the edge pavers, laid the rest on a bed of sand to even out the base and swept in the polymeric sand. The clients chose a gray patio paver and used marble stones around the edges. The result was beautiful and the clients have been enjoying their backyard ever since!
We started our first landscaping project a few weeks ago and ever since, have been in full-fledged spring mode. This is a surprise to even us, since we generally don’t start these types of projects until April. We welcome the spring weather since that means we can get back to work outside. We couldn’t be happier – this is why we are in this line of work.
Last week we began a project creating a walkway for a customer using flagstones. We love this style since the stones are natural and each is unique. This particular customer already had the majority of the stones we would need prior to the project and we started almost immediately. We dug out 8 inches of soil from the pathway and laid down geosynthetic fabric to stabilize the soil. Then we installed 5 inches of crusher run as a base. These methods prevent the walkway from settling and shifting over the years with freezing and thawing. We finally added an inch of concrete sand as a leveler.
Then we began laying the stones. This part takes a little extra effort and artistic vision since each stone should fit seamlessly in the design. With a paver application, we typically use polymeric sand in the joints; but since these joints were so large, we installed pea stones throughout the yard. We loved the finished product!
This year’s unseasonably warm winter has been a surprise to us all. Fortunately, we have been able to keep busy with our renovation in South Troy. After purchasing the house in November – and seeing it for the first time right before Thanksgiving – we immediately set out to redo the roof. After we finished, we gutted the inside of the house and began work on the foundation. The back of the house included an addition that previous homeowners added on at some point; unfortunately, they never built a foundation for it. In order to address the issue, we lifted the addition roughly six inches and supported the floor joists with beams. We set to work digging out a new foundation and once completed, set the addition back down. Tough work but worth it in the end for a structurally sound house!
We also received the final floor plans from our architect. This is a step required from the City of Troy (since we purchased from the foreclosure list) that is helpful in ensuring the building is up to code and the structure is correct. Since, we have been focusing on running electrical and framing out bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and living spaces. Still no walls up but least we can envision the space!
I think we can all agree that this winter, so far, has been a bit unexpected. For everyone who dreads the cold and frigid temperatures, this winter has been a welcomed surprise. For others, the snow couldn’t come sooner. But either way, we are looking at the forecast for the last week of January without the first real snowstorm of the season in sight.
So, we decided to take the opportunity to explain how we handle our contracts. We offer both seasonal and per-push contracts to our clients. Seasonal contracts cover the customer for as much (or as little) snow as we get all winter. The set rates are based on a number of different metrics, including when and how often you want us to plow, averages from previous years and the difficulty of your driveway. We need to first understand your expectations and then we will write a contract specific to your needs.
For a seasonal contract, you are paying for peace of mind – you will never need to wonder when your driveway will be taken care of, never need to call a contractor last minute and never worry that you under-budgeted for snow clearing this year. The rate is determined ahead of time and you can sit back and relax. Your contract covers the cost of our technicians to stake out your driveway prior to the season starting and that our team would take excellent care of your property all season long. Our Operations Manager designs a map for each property, outlining the driveway, pathways and any potential hazards.
In the middle of a snowstorm, the last phone call you want to get is that your snow plow contractor’s truck broke down and cannot service your account, so it is imperative we keep our trucks ready and in excellent condition. Every season, we ensure that we are properly prepared to handle whatever comes our way, as well as backup plans for the unexpected. Your seasonal contract promises that our trucks have been serviced, we have a supply of salt ready and we have the necessary insurance to cover any potential damages from a commercial plow truck. Additionally, we have a full staff of employees on standby 24/7 when there is a possibility of snowfall.
Per-push contracts are handled differently. We determine ahead of time your expectations and write a contract to determine when we would come to plow. For instance, if your trigger is 3”, we would come after any snow storm that accumulates 3 or more inches of snow. However these contracts are different because clients who choose this method pay each time we come. If we are expecting two feet of snow – and your contract states you need to get out of your driveway at any point – we may have to plow your driveway multiple times throughout the storm. If we get ten, twelve, fifteen, etc. snowstorms for that winter, you will be billed accordingly. These terms are determined in your contract but since we can never predict what we will get, the burden of a heavy year of snow falls on the customer.
We service over 85 plow accounts, ranging from apartment complexes to city driveways and we cater each contract to fit their needs. Both types of contracts have merit and depend on the expectations of the client. Since we cannot control the weather, we strive to offer the best options ahead of time for our clients.
At Lewis Lawn Care, we run a fairly seasonal business. In the winter, we would all be sitting by our windows waiting for a good snow storm to come if we didn’t have a solution. We currently have 7 employees, plus Brad and Lauren Lewis, whom all have families of their own to support. And about four winters ago, Brad realized he better come up with a solution or he would be putting every employee on unemployment for 4-5 months.
So, to keep our employees busy, we bid on a house off the foreclosure list in the city of Troy. In November, we closed on our fifth two-family house and had our first walk-through the next day. Going into it, we expect that we will be tearing the house down to the studs, running new electric and heating systems, gutting all the kitchens and bathrooms, and sometimes even adding additional support to the house. Even though we plan to update everything, the condition of the house is always a little shocking. Below are a few pictures of our first walk-through in November.
After we finished up our fall clean-ups, the Lewis Lawn Care team jumped into this project the first week of December. They suited up in hazmat suits and masks (you can never be too careful) and gutted the inside. We disposed of 30,000 lbs of trash over the course of six weeks.
Currently, we are waiting for our architect to draw up plans (since we will be reconfiguring both apartments) as well as focusing on some brick and foundation work. Since we have yet to have a snow storm, we have been able to focus almost entirely on the house. Although we are hoping for a few good snow storms (last February and March were brutal so maybe we will get hit in the next few weeks!), at least we can keep our employees busy in the meantime.
Despite the fact that the last few months have been uncharacteristically warm, we all know the inevitable snow will come. On average, the Troy and Albany area gets 64″ of snow per year. Our record low was 13.8″ of snow in the winter of 1912-13, which was over 100 years ago. So suffice it to say, we are expecting a few good snow storms in our future. Before it hits, take a few pointers from the Lewis Lawn Care & Masonry team to prepare.