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Well, the job is officially done and we could not be happier with the job. We were very happy with the work our contractors performed: The Gillette Brothers, Unique Concrete, Tom Daniel and Plymouth Nursery. The Gillette Brothers subcontractors were excellent also, especially Great Lakes Gunite. These hard-working folks turned our little backyard into a retreat only comparable to resorts. My wife and I have always dreamed of having a backyard like this and they truly shoehorned an oasis onto our small plot of land in Downtown Plymouth. You can see the transformation below. Well, there is pretty much only one thing that needs to be said now…Life is Good!!!


We got a couple of quotes on landscape and decided to go with Plymouth Nursery. They were so great to deal with from beginning to end. Their designer, Keith, was very helpful throughout the entire process. He first came to the house and we discussed what we were looking for so he took some measurements and said he’d contact us in a few days when he had our plan designed. We then met with him the following week and he presented us his design. It was awesome! He used all different sorts of plants, bushes, trees and grasses. He even integrated a little bit of hardscaping. He not only showed the layout, but had information regarding each plant, bush and tree. He then took us out into the nursery where we could see the selected items with out own eyes. We really liked that aspect because we could see the quality of all of the items. The price was very reasonable and over 1/3 less the other quote we received. They also offer a 1 year warranty on all of the plants, shrubs and trees.

As expected, they are a popular landscaping company so we needed to wait about a month for them to start, but it was well worth it. They showed up right on time with around 6 workers and had the entire job done in about 6 hours. Keith stopped by in the beginning of the job and at the end to ensure all of our concerns were addressed. They cleaned everything up afterward also. We could not be any happier with the job they did. It is exactly what we envisioned. They are definitely pros and we would strongly recommend Plymouth Nursery to anyone. We will likely hire them next spring to do the front yard. See some of the photos below.


Well, we filled the pool and Gillette Brothers started it up with no problem. We are just blown away with how good everything looks! Other than the final inspection, the Gillette Brothers job is done. They do include one month of maintenance so we will likely see them over the next month, but the big work is done and the final balance has been paid. I can honestly say that I have never had a better experience with a contractor before and being an engineer, I’ve worked with several. These guys were a pleasure to work with and their work ethic was second to none. Every part of construction and communication went without a hitch, which is amazing considering the sheer size of this project and the tight space they were working in. I’d recommend The Gillette Brothers to anyone and the proof is this blog. As they say in football, the tape doesn’t lie and neither do the photos in this blog. These guys are pros!

Well, we finally got some relatively warm weather. It was warm enough for Gillette to come back, install the water feature and surface the pool. The copper pot looks awesome and is even beginning to patina with all of the rain.

As mentioned earlier, we thought we were going to use the WetEdge Luna Quartz to surface the pool, but when we heard what it would cost, we just decided to go all the way to a pebble surface. We were a bit lucky because Katie is getting married and my wife happens to be a Graphic Designer so we were able to get the price of the pebble knocked down a few bucks for some help with wedding invites. It works out great for everyone! After seeing what the surface looked like when they were done, we were so glad we chose to go with pebble. We chose the Tahoe Blue Pebble. The big advantage of the pebble other than the beauty is how durable it is. From my research and what I’ve been told, these surfaces can last a good 20 years without being replaced. The guys did an excellent job. The surfacing crew was as good as all of the others. They were very professional, hard working and cleaned up everything when they were done. The photos below show some of the work and the almost final product. The crew came back the following day to acid wash off some of the remaining surface paste. The next post will be of it filled!

Water feature arrived…

Our water feature arrived late in the fall.  It is a fire/water feature fabricated by Bobe Water & Fire Features.  It will be placed at the edge of the pool as shown in the photo below.  It is copper plated with two basins.  The bottom basin will be hooked to a water line and allowed to overflow in the pool.  The smaller, upper basin will be attached to a gas line allowing a flame to be lit.  You can see a better illustration at their website at the following link:

Gillette will be installing it in the spring when they finish up the remainder of the work.  They cut a pretty good deal on it for us.  They have really been wanting to install one of these on one of their jobs.  However, it was slightly over our budget so they are providing the labor and gas line to hook it up for free.  We are really excited to see what it looks like installed with new landscaping.

Now we wait until spring…

We will now wait through the long winter for The Gillette Brothers to come back in the spring to finish the job.  That’s ok, because we need to save a few bucks for the stuff we want to buy for it so it works out well.  In the spring, we have a few things left that need to be finished or installed:  the quartz surface of the pool, the water feature and all of the landscaping.  Have a nice winter, all!

With the exception of a couple of small details, the fence is done and looks great.  Tom did an awesome job on it.  Tom frustrated me a bit during the project because he was a perfectionist to a fault.  He’s a finish carpenter by trade and definitely takes pride in his work.  However, I did need to sort of remind him that we are dealing with a fence and not the Sistine Chapel.  He wanted to make everything perfect, which did take extra time.  So at the end of the day, we are very happy that we stayed patient. 

This is a custom, decorative fence by every definition of the term.  He fabricated all of the decorative pieces on his own.  He fabricated the gate all on his own.  Nothing on this fence was premade other than the panels, which he also modified with the channels on the top and bottom.  He didn’t even buy prefabbed caps for the posts.  He routered every single one of them separately.  He created the arches by himself which turned out wonderfully.  He really put a lot of thought and work into our job, which he did not need to do.  He really wanted the fence to compliment the house and pool.  It definitely goes with the historic theme of the house. 

I would recommend Tom Daniel to anyone, but they need to understand that Tom tends to be a perfectionist with his work so it will take longer than what it would take most.  However, the question is do you want it done right the first time so it will last or do you want it done fast and need to replace it in a couple of years.  We made the right choice to hire Tom.

The Gillette Brothers installed the pool equipment in October, but I’ve been swamped with other stuff so I haven’t had a chance to upload the photos.  I was pretty stunned at all of the stuff.  It looks like something out of Sea World.  I was joking around with Katie that we should bump the salinity up and throw a couple of sharks in there.  You can see in the photos the heater and filter.  The green unit is the heater and the other large unit is the filter.  The pool will be saltwater so I’m not sure if that makes things more elaborate or not in the setup.  They installed various ball valves as you can see.  These give us the ability to turn on and off the water feature and the jets at the benches.  I’m looking forward to playing around with them in the spring. 

Unique Concrete came back the next day to wash the surface cement off to expose the aggregate.  They then came back the following day to sawcut the control joints.  Again, you need control joints to control cracking.  Concrete will crack…period.  You just want to control where it cracks.  We had rain this week and everything seemed to drain well including the deck drain they needed to install.  Knock on wood we don’t have a drainage problems that pop up in the future.  Overall, we were pretty blown away how well the pool deck went with the coping and tile.  We are very pleased with the result.  Unique also poured a new driveway with brushed concrete, which also turned out well.

The Gillette Brothers came back today to trench out an area for the gas line that you can see in the photos.  We are adding a fire/water feature from Bobe.  The fire/water feature will be round and copper plated to allow for patina to develop.  They will come back this week to install the filter, heater and likely the fire/water feature.

Tom continued to work on the fence.  It is nice to have another honest contractor on the job.  Tom is such a perfectionist when it comes to his carpentry that he has had to pull and reset a couple of the posts when they got dinged by Unique’s equipment.  Tom wants the fence to be perfect and is definitely going that extra mile to ensure this.  I’d definitely recommend him for any carpentry work.   

They’re pouring!

Wes had subcontracted Unique Concrete out of Clarkston, owned by Gary Que.  They are pouring as I write and similar to Great Lakes Gunite and Tom, they seem like absolute pros.  Concrete is something I am very familiar with and asked Gary a few basic questions about the mix design.  Basically, the exposed aggregate concrete is made of a pea gravel mix.  Pea gravel is round so it will not be rough on the feet.  I was hesitant about exposed agg because my folks have an exposed agg patio and was very painful to walk on without shoes.  However, that was poured over 20 years ago and contains very large, jagged aggregate.  I took a look at what they were pouring and this agg is very small and round so there should be no issues.  I also asked him about air entraining and water/cement ratio.  These are important.  Air entraining allows for freeze-thaw and is a must in any outdoor concrete poured in michigan.  Without hesitation, Gary answered 6% air, which is perfect.  You want it between 5% and 8%.  He said the water/cement ratio was 0.5.  This is normal also.  Typically, you are looking from 0.4 to 0.6.  The more water in the mix, the weaker the concrete will be.  0.5 is perfect.  He was a bit surprised by the questions as he doesn’t typically get questions about the mix design.  However, a lot can go wrong with concrete and I wanted to make sure we were on the same page.  He had no problems answering.  

They also needed to install an extra drain because they could not get the patio to drain the right direction at one spot.  You want the slab pitched away from the house, but sometimes it is not possible at every location so they installed a drain. 

They will finish pouring and rough finishing today then they will come back tomorrow and spray the surface cement off to expose the aggregate tomorrow.  They will then come back the day after to sawcut the concrete.  You need to sawcut after pouring to control cracking.  All concrete will crack.  You want to install joints to ensure it cracks at controlled locations or the slab will look terrible with cracks popping up everywhere.  There are lots of ways to cut corners on concrete placement and finishing and these guys don’t appear to be cutting any.  Another big thumbs up for The Gillette Brothers subcontractor, Unique Concrete!