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Week Two: Quote, Quote – Gravel Driveway

February 22, 2010

Chers Amis,

Slowly but surely we are working on our project list. Lentement. Tres lentement and last Friday’s snow did not help, although it was gorgeous!  You can see that our long drive has developed ruts and when it rains – or snows – those ruts send water running towards the house carrying with it fine stone dust sediment which forms a delta by my beloved Japanese Maple by the front walk.  Driveway is #1 on my exterior improvement “TO DO” list (or #2 depending on how well the garage door is working that day).

If there were official  words of the week they would have been ‘quote‘ and ‘gravel‘. Dh and I are not pros. We are not avid DIY’ers with no children. We are crazy busy and not too talented with blow torches, plumbing, live electricity, window installation, or large compression machines. So I have had to call in the experts for estimates on:

putting water and electricity in the basement for the W/D move, installation of new windows that do not have fungi fuzz growing on the sashes, garage doors that actually go up and down without the use of a rubber mallet (I kid you not), stone mason/grading folks for our long DEgraded drive, and painters with REALLY long ladders. (Last time dh got on our third story roof to cut back the trees all the phone and electric lines as well as our I-beam came crashing down!)

Part of me regrets that we can’t do these things ourselves and then I remember that I still home-school Pippin, dh works extreme hours, and we are not exactly up to speed on local building code.  We will be doing ALOT of the interior work ourselves such as all the interior trim and painting and dh’s weekend project is to reroute the dryer vent to the new downstairs location. I get to remove and pack up all the ‘stuff’ which is currently housed in that little niche. My job is also to interview, vet, and research all the contractors.  This can be confusing as I have found of late  – especially with driveways.

First of all, it is not easy to find someone who specializes in gravel driveways.  Most homes in suburban America have short, conventional concrete drives. Some very ritzy homes have pavers, cobblestones, or bricks.  We have a long, slightly bending, gravel drive and I love it. (The above picture is not our drive :-)but the picture of my ‘hobbits’ shows the drive in all the glory of autumn.  The drive was one of the first things I loved about this property.  Dh and I were out killing time wandering around town and saw a “For Sale” sign in front of this home The problem was that you could not see the house very well at all because it is set so far off the road in the trees and it was mid April which means our view was blocked with flowering dogwoods and azaleas (gorgeous!!!). Dh had no qualms about driving down the gravel path for a better view, but I was mortified and slunk as far down in my seat as my very pregnant belly would allow. I did love how the house appeared around the bend and how the moss lent a soft patina to the grey stone.  It was very country and very gentle. After the September flooding and 14 years of erosion, it needs some TLC and between 5-11 tons of gravel.  We also have a HUGE hole/excavated area at the end of the cement that either needs to be filled in or turned into a swimming pool. A pool is not in the budget (NITB).

I have had three different contractors come out to look at the drive, give me their ideas and their cost statements.  #1 was a landscape design/contractor who was very knowledgeable about plants and had a great photo book of past designs.  He was the low bid and suggested grading to correct the slope, and top dressing with ‘crush and run’ very fine stone gravel often used as a base. He charged hourly for labor. #2 was the most professional. He suggested a heavier gravel and installing a drain that would allow the excess water to drain into the yard instead of down the dive.  He also used 2x as much stone and charged labor not by the hour but by the # of tons of gravel.  His price was over $3,000 more than #1!  #3 was a stone mason who actually advertised that he works on gravel drives. His estimate was the least defined but did include a drain and he was only a few hundred dollars more than #1. What to do? #2 is just WAY out of the budget.  Dh wants to know why I don’t just go with #1.  I am unsure as he estimated so much less material than the other two and did not mention the idea of a drain. None of them have any history with the BBB.  Next step – ask for references and give them a call and ask #3 to give a bit more detail on materials.  Telling me what he would do is great, but I have to see it in writing.  I’m all about the data. Take care!

–Marjorie

PS – The dh of a friend of mine gave me another name to check out.  On verra. . . .


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