Tuesday, December 7, 2010

DIY Disaster

Recently, I visited a potential Client’s home.  What I observed, my First Impression, was a menagerie of materials:  beige block, raised retaining wall (without finish cap), tan rough-finish stucco wall, orange/gray/tan interlocking pavers, and ‘tossed salad’ (an affectionate term used to describe a collection of overwhelming colors, textures, and obtrusive placement of plants)…Again, this was the first impression.  Upon closer view of the recently-completed installation, the Owner pointed out (rather proudly) a sprinkler head, centered in the middle of an anteroom, just inside the wall opening of this courtyard.  I couldn’t help but wonder about the amount of time invested to accommodate this ‘central feature’ by drilling a hole, setting the pavers, and adjusting the irrigation coverage (what, exactly, are we watering here?).  The systematic problems continued with mulch adjacent to the home’s stucco finish, the height of the mulch (with respect to final grade), and final placement of plants next to the stucco.  All of which, combined, will make a nice ‘red carpet’ for a future termite invasion.  Sarcasm aside, the Owner has opened himself up for a few liabilities – moisture intrusion into the home, a potential trip hazard (on the sprinkler head), and insect damage (termites are not the only potential invaders). 
The liabilities expand to include the Local Code which states, “…all [irrigation] systems shall be designed to eliminate the application of water to impervious areas…” and open the door to problems at the time of home resale.  To more fully explain the problem, I should add this courtyard is on the North side of the home, within 20’, and offer the perfect conditions to further the problems.  Unfortunately, weekend design workshops do not involve overall liability, as a result of inadequate slopes, shade/exposure to sunlight, irrigation coverage, nor the washout that will occur from the adjacent retaining wall fill.
I continued on to what I do in any initial meeting – gauge the Owner’s design input for a “program,” while observing a degree of skepticism for what a designer does (via indirect comments).  We talked about plant palette, Visioning image origin, and touched upon simple, budget-conscious enhancements.  I produced a Proposal, e-mailed it, and never heard back – could the fee have been that high?  Indeed, higher than an increase in home value, protection of value (via liability amelioration), or offset the difference in three Contractors’ estimates?  The answer is no, to these questions, and more.  While, big-box hardware stores empower you to Do-It-Yourself – with vast selections of materials (some of these are not commercial-grade products) – Or you could find yourself DIY’ing a demolition (home inspector) or lawsuit (liability attorney)…where’s the true value then?

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