Saturday, May 31, 2008

Define: Stone Mason

There are lots of pitfalls and hidden risks when hiring someone that has a business card which portrays the image of a professional Stone Mason or Landscape Contractor. A Stone Mason is a professional that knows stone material and is an artist at working with Natural Stone.

Just yesterday I was on my way to an appointment with a client and I had to stop my car, back it up and take this picture! Wow! Yikes! I'm willing to guess that this home is probably valued at about $700 000 to $900 000 in Toronto's current real estate market.

Yet the masonry work done on these front steps is scary! I hope it was a family member that sets tiles for a living who built the steps and did not ask for any money. I think it would be highway robbery to pay a contractor calling themselves a stone mason and you end up with a job like this.

When you interview a potential stone mason to do the masonry work around your home, it is an investment! Always make sure you ask to see past projects to avoid mistakes like the picture above!

A proper masonry job should look like the picture below. Solid 2 inch or thicker tread edges that are professionally finished with a rock-faced edge. Straight and level lines are also a plus to keep the steps looking neat.

This picture displays a work in progress as the Stone Mason is building the new set of steps into the walkway. This particular job is something I designed for one of my clients and I highly recommended the stone mason for this work because of the quality he puts into his craft. Even the unfinished work done by a professional mason looks better then the finished work seen in the photos at the beginning and middle of the article.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Hidden Aspects of Landscape Architecture

One of the most important things to learn when dealing with a landscape design is to learn to check what the mature heights and sizes of your chosen plant material is.

More often then not, I run into cases such as the above photo. The plants seen there are what I would consider to have been planted in the wrong spot. Yes they may be small and cute looking when you see them on sale at the nursery... but remember this important lesson! Always check the I.D. tag for the plant's specifications.

How big will it get? How tall and wide will it grow? Does it need full sun or part shade? The spot you are thinking to plant it in... does it have the space needed for the mature size of this plant? Will you constantly be pruning it back so it does not block pathways and hide crucial things like a view to your front door?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Natural stone used in the landscape

The picture below is an example of stone installation that lacks imagination and scale. I drive by this on a daily basis and wanted to take a picture of it to show you another example of how not to use natural stone.

The idea that inspired this was simple... what is the quickest way to make a raised planting bed with the least amount of skill.... maximum profit on the contractor's part and the least amount of cost on the client's part. There are several raised beds on this particular property and I have to painfully say that this one is the more attractive of them!

What makes things worse is the use of the two or three different stone types placed by the sidewalk edge (The most visible side!) You have weathered limestone used all around the raised bed and then you have un-weathered limestone sitting in the front where everyone can see it.

I think that for the amount of stone used in this display and the others on the property, they could have played with the levels of the planting areas, creating high and low beds and actually featuring the rocks for focal points in and amongst some inspired plant material choices.

For just a few dollars more investment in plants and some careful design consideration in stone placement... the grounds could have look very stunning.