Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lessons Learned from the Aftermath

This may not be true for you, but it’s true for me: no home improvement project is ever as easy as it should be.  It doesn’t matter if it’s putting in a ceiling fan, fixing a broken doorbell, or replacing the screen in a window.  It’s either going to be an extremely frustrating task or the completion of the task will lead to a need for a new project.

“Hey, let’s get new closet doors!” sounds like a great idea.  And then you figure out that it means repainting the molding around the closet or tearing out carpet for a bottom runner, or some other unforeseeable alteration.

So when I’m out of my league on something I’m not embarrassed to call in the professionals for help.  Such was the case with the removal of two large trees last week.  But truth is truth and the removal of my trees has, predictably, led to more work than I could have imagined.

One of the main reasons I removed the mulberry tree was the aggressiveness of the roots.  Twice in recent years the roots had grown enough to actually crush the PVC pipes of my in-ground irrigation system.  Although I knew it was a possibility that the arborists would hit the sprinkler line while grinding away the stump and surface roots, I guess part of me was hoping that they would miraculously miss them.

The night they left I turned on the sprinklers to find out.  No miracles here.  In fact, all three of the buried lines had damage. 

Long story short: I went to Home Depot six times this weekend, I have sore “muscles” (such as they are), my yard looks like it was the site of an errant drone strike, and I have a renewed appreciation for anyone that is skilled at putting in sprinklers. 

I continue to learn from my mistakes though.  Here are a few of the lessons I learned:
  • If you are going to deprive shade plants of their only source of shade, the wise thing to do is to move them before cutting down the tree rather than a week after – sorry about that, Hostas!
  • Just because you have 30 feet of 1-inch PVC pipe in your garage doesn’t mean that the PVC pipe under your grass is 1-inch PVC pipe.  (That would explain one of the trips to Home Depot.)
  • If you think you might need four 90 degree connectors, you might as well get eight.  Or 12 just to be safe.  (That would explain two of the trips to Home Depot.) 
  • Never say: “This part should only take 45 minutes.”  Start with 2 hours and anything faster than that just makes you look more efficient. 
  • Never turn down an offer to help, even if it’s from a toddler.  Having someone hand you a tool that’s just out of reach is actually pretty nice even if it means you have to field a constant barrage of questions you can’t answer.   


  1. Chad, Oh, we've been there, done that, unfortunately! Remember a 'little' project we started five years ago? (Castle Aaargh?) Gardening can sort of be like that children's book, 'If You Give A Mouse A Cookie'. One thing leads to another and another. And amen to the help from anyone, especially toddlers, for they grow up to be your best helpers.

    Ah, home improvement stores, what would we do without them?

  2. Chad, I especially like the tip about overestimating, rather than underestimating, the time required to do a job. About ten years ago, I had a conversation with a contractor who was putting in a sliding glass door on the back of my house in December in the snow (the job was supposed to be completed by the end of October). "I suppose, when you're planning your schedule," I said, "you imagine that each job will go just as planned -- only they never do." "Yes," he replied glumly, "Mr. Murphy and I are well acquainted." -Jean

  3. A Mulberry should NOT be near a structure. Sad to see such a fine tree felled but they are really destructive trees to homes in so many ways. The acidity alone ruins roofs, the berries stain concrete, and the roots actually destroy foundations. I don't have to be a designer to know this, a mulberry behind my garage has done all three.

  4. Ouch. Lesson learned. I had a mulberry at one time, and cut it down as soon as I could. It dropped its berries on the path -- and that began to smell like fermenting juices, and that brought flies. I hope your next project goes a bit more smoothly.