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View Full Version : Roots, roots and more roots!


Chris J
11-24-2007, 08:15 PM
Have any of you ever actually turned down a job because the site was too difficult? I went to an estimate the other day, and the job was pretty much closed within 30 seconds of my getting out of the truck. The client and his wife had been wanting a quality landscape lighting system, and told me that they had decided to buy it for themselves for Christmas. As far as sales calls go, it just doesn't get any better than this! The problem after evaluating the work site, however, is that the entire property was riddled with huge roots systems growing across the entire surface of the yard. I'm not talking about the occasional root either. Almost every square inch of this yard, both front and back, was covered with roots so bad that I wanted to just leave and tell them that I could not be of service to them.
Instead of turning it down, I thought I would just cover myself and make it worth my time in the event that I made the sale. I gave them my estimate which was about double what I would normally charge, and hoped (in the back of my mind) that they would just turn me down. I get the feeling they are going to call me back, and I really don't want to take on this job.
Have any of you ever encountered a situation like this? I know James has mentioned difficult installs on forrest floors and in sheer rock beds, but these root systems are in their front yard and the lot is very small. To add to this dilemma, there are three drive-ways that will need to be encountered. One circular drive, and then another going straight into the front entrance garage.
I could actually see large roots growing through the expansion joints, so laying the wire here is not an option.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
11-24-2007, 09:14 PM
I think you have handled this right so far Chris. If and when I come across a particularly difficult installation, I ensure that the installation time for each component is increased to reflect the difficulty. That is only fair.

As far as turning down a job because it is too difficult.... I haven't done that yet. I sort of thrive on the challenge. If you are just too busy with other work, and the client seems unwilling to pay the premium for a difficult installation, then that would help make up your mind about skipping the job.

You could always refer them away to your competition.

Pro-Scapes
11-25-2007, 08:59 AM
You did the right thing... this is where guys charging per fixture will get bit and bit hard. I probably wouldnt turn down a job but it does need to be priced acordingly.

Did you also consider what these roots will do to your wire in a few years ?

Lite4
11-25-2007, 01:33 PM
Your right on Chris, If you take the job and have to trench through roots make sure you get the homeowners to sign a damage release on the trees. If you root prune too much and the tree dies you want to make sure you are covered. A very thorough conversation with the homeowner needs to happen before you dig, and they need to be fully aware of the risks and sign off to hold you faultless of any damage to the trees. After that go for it.

irrig8r
11-26-2007, 10:26 AM
You didn't happen to take any photos you could share did you?

I think everyone has made some valid points so far.
But I guess I'm thinking "outside the ground".

So, it sounds like these are big trees and close together (from small yard and many roots). How dense are the canopies? Is there any way to inconspicuously run cable between trees overhead? I've never done this, but if they can do it with line voltage, why not low voltage?

I'm just kind of thinking out loud here, maybe use a braided steel cable to take the shock of trees swaying in the wind, etc and attach lighting cable with zip ties and then run down the back of the trunk for uplighting, or up for downlighting?

All the cable I come across and use is rated UV resistant. But as far as height above ground or any code issues I have no idea.

The reason I've been thinking about this lately is I have a client with a long curving rural driveway, no power along it, lots of roots, various mounds and swales that would make trenching difficult, and just a few spots where downlighting along curves in the drive would be a good thing. (The main job is multi-trunked oaks and deck areas surrounding the house.)

NightScenes
11-26-2007, 10:52 AM
NEC Does not permit running any wires above ground, into trees!! I know we have all seen this from time to time but it is not permitted by code. Just letting you know.

Mike M
11-26-2007, 11:53 AM
I'm curious if an irrigation trencher would work, or better yet, why not ask the irrigation guys on the forum? I'm sure they run into this. Just cover with seed or sod.

Lite4
11-26-2007, 12:45 PM
Trenchers will go through those big roots. You just have to cover your backside on tree damage. See my previous post.

Chris J
11-26-2007, 02:58 PM
Thanks for the input so far guys. No pictures, unfortunately, but a trencher would be a must for this project. Also mulitple transformers with a UPB system so I don't have to attempt boring the driveways. I'll definitly get a release for potential harm to the trees, but there are so many roots I don't see how cutting a few of them would harm any one of these trees. We will see how it goes from here.
Thanks again.

irrig8r
11-26-2007, 08:18 PM
NEC Does not permit running any wires above ground, into trees!! I know we have all seen this from time to time but it is not permitted by code. Just letting you know.

Thanks. I don't doubt what I think you're saying one bit Paul.

But just to cover a matter of semantics, you aren't saying that we can't run wires "above ground" as in up a tree trunk or (as some even do in a roof gutter, etc.) right? You just mean it the way I was thinking about, as in running the wire "through the air" more or less parallel to the ground, correct?

So, do you have any idea where to find this part of the code? And do you mean that as long as it's not "into trees" then it's ok? Like pole to pole?

Landscape Illuminating
11-26-2007, 08:33 PM
# 225.26 (Services) Vegetation as Support. “Vegetation such as trees shall not be used for support of overhead conductor spans.”

# 230.10 (Services) Vegetation as Support. “Vegetation such as trees shall not be used for support of overhead service conductors.”

# 410.16(H) (Means of Support) Trees. “Outdoor luminaries (lighting fixtures) and associated equipment shall be permitted to be supported by trees.

-Chad

Chris J
11-26-2007, 08:38 PM
nevermind. Chad answered the question.

Landscape Illuminating
11-26-2007, 09:04 PM
I noticed you "ruled out the expansion joints". How exactly do you guys go about using these expansion joints...."legally"?

-Chad

irrig8r
11-26-2007, 09:09 PM
One thing I guess I don't understand is how come a service drop up to 600 volts can be run through the air but LV cable can't. or is it just attaching to trees that's the issue?


2008 NEC
230.24 Clearances.
(B) Vertical Clearance for Service-drop Conductors.

Service-drop conductors, where not in excess of 600 volts, nominal, shall have the following minimum clearance from final grade:

(1) 3.0 m (10 ft) – at the electric service entrance to buildings, also at the lowest point of the drip loop of the building electric entrance, and above areas or sidewalks accessible only to pedestrians, measured from final grade or other accessible surface only for service-drop cables supported on and cabled together with a grounded bare messenger where the voltage does not exceed 150 volts to ground

(2) 3.7 m (12 ft) – over residential property and driveways, and those commercial areas not subject to truck traffic where the voltage does not exceed 300 volts to ground

(3) 4.5 m (15 ft) – for those areas listed in the 3.7-m (12 ft) classification where the voltage exceeds 300 volts to ground

(4) 5.5 m (18 ft) – over public streets, alleys, roads, parking areas subject to truck traffic, driveways on other than residential property, and other land such as cultivated, grazing, forest, and orchard

Chris J
11-26-2007, 09:14 PM
Legally? I never heard about any law, but sometimes I will lay a cable through an expansion joint only if it is up near the entranceway and only if the joint is all the way through the concrete allowing me to dig it out at least 6" below grade. I will also never lay cable in any joint that ends into a grass area where edging occurs. This would just be stupid.

Landscape Illuminating
11-26-2007, 09:14 PM
The issue at hand isn't with running conductors overhead, but using trees as a means of support. Conductors can be run overhead all day long, as long as all conditions are met and codes are followed. The main concerns of course are proper support and height clearances.

-Chad

Chris J
11-26-2007, 09:18 PM
Gregg,
I don't understand the NEC manual myself sometimes. Sometimes it helps to have a stiff drink before you let the NEC make you chase your tail for hours and hours through its pages.

Chris J
11-26-2007, 09:20 PM
This safety measure is probably due to the swaying effect of trees, thereby stretching or breaking the cable.

irrig8r
11-26-2007, 09:32 PM
Yep. Which is why I proposed using a braided steel cable to absorb that shock a little... the other issue with trees is that they can die, split or break.

And well intentioned people with chainsaws and other tools climb into them and hack away from time to time.

Less predictable than poles that way, and poles don't generally grow or require pruning.

Chris J
11-26-2007, 09:58 PM
Thanks for all the responses Gregg. I really appreciate the help with this difficult situation.

Pro-Scapes
11-26-2007, 10:28 PM
# 225.26 (Services) Vegetation as Support. “Vegetation such as trees shall not be used for support of overhead conductor spans.”

# 230.10 (Services) Vegetation as Support. “Vegetation such as trees shall not be used for support of overhead service conductors.”

# 410.16(H) (Means of Support) Trees. “Outdoor luminaries (lighting fixtures) and associated equipment shall be permitted to be supported by trees.

-Chad

Does this mean some guy installing in my area is ok by screwing a kichler tranny to a tree ?

Pro-Scapes
11-26-2007, 10:33 PM
i think its safe to say running the cable thru the trees is a bad idea.

Its a liability... its wrong... its a maint nightmare... its downright tacky.

Chris... if you MUST go thru an expansion joint that leads to grass digg a little deeper if you can and slip a piece of metal pipe just under the end of the concrete extending out into the grass... Stick edger vs metal pipe... Pipe wins. I have done it with 4 inches of metal pipe under the concrete and about 4 inches into the grass. No issues. My edger will ony cut about 3 inches below anyways so if you get it deep you should be fine.

Landscape Illuminating
11-26-2007, 10:39 PM
Does this mean some guy installing in my area is ok by screwing a kichler tranny to a tree ?


Haha.....I'm going to say that would be up to local jurisdiction. Check with your local inspectors interpretation of associated equipment.

I'd find a better means of support for your kichler transformers Billy! :laugh: j/k

-Chad

Chris J
11-26-2007, 10:42 PM
Billy,
I know your challenged, so read my lips: The expansion joints are filled with roots! :laugh:

Man, God is going to strike me down for that, but I had to do it! You know I love you though, right?

Landscape Illuminating
11-26-2007, 10:49 PM
i think its safe to say running the cable thru the trees is a bad idea.

Its a liability... its wrong... its a maint nightmare... its downright tacky.

Chris... if you MUST go thru an expansion joint that leads to grass digg a little deeper if you can and slip a piece of metal pipe just under the end of the concrete extending out into the grass... Stick edger vs metal pipe... Pipe wins. I have done it with 4 inches of metal pipe under the concrete and about 4 inches into the grass. No issues. My edger will ony cut about 3 inches below anyways so if you get it deep you should be fine.


I guess I'm asking about the expansion joints because I've never had the opportunity to use one. Maybe someone could give me a better understanding of the process. I'm picturing a very small joint (~3/4") filled with some sort of compound. This compound is removed, and the very dense compacted dirt/rock mixture below is somehow dug/scraped out in order to place the wire? Also, are we talking about pathways, driveways or both?

Thanks,
Chad

irrig8r
11-26-2007, 11:02 PM
I guess I'm asking about the expansion joints because I've never had the opportunity to use one. Maybe someone could give me a better understanding of the process. I'm picturing a very small joint (~3/4") filled with some sort of compound. This compound is removed, and the very dense compacted dirt/rock mixture below is somehow dug/scraped out in order to place the wire? Also, are we talking about pathways, driveways or both?

Thanks,
Chad

The expansion joints used around here in residential walkways can be anything from redwood 2 x 4s set on edge to a row of bricks.

Redwood rots over time, and it's not hard to pop out an old one (and cut off the leftover nails), put in 3/4" PVC pipe or conduit and use that for running everything from low voltage lighting cable to sprinkler control cable to drip irrigation tubing, and then backfill a little with sand and replace the joint with a wood or composite 2 x 2.

One customer recently with 3" wide spaces asked us to backfill over the pipes and cable with gravel. Another left 4" gaps for bricks when replacing his driveway and we used a couple of those and he put in bricks and sand over it to finish.

Anyway, it's a pretty common practice here.

irrig8r
11-26-2007, 11:19 PM
Thanks for all the responses Gregg. I really appreciate the help with this difficult situation.

I was thinking about it this evening when I stopped at my bank and saw some Southern Magnolia trees next to the parking lot that must be only about 35 years old with massive roots all over the surface of the ground all the way out to the dripline.

Pro-Scapes
11-27-2007, 12:06 AM
Billy,
I know your challenged, so read my lips: The expansion joints are filled with roots! :laugh:

Man, God is going to strike me down for that, but I had to do it! You know I love you though, right?


Chris... if you MUST go thru an expansion joint that leads to grass digg a little deeper if you can and slip a piece of metal pipe just under the end of the concrete extending out into the grass... Stick edger vs metal pipe... Pipe wins. I have done it with 4 inches of metal pipe under the concrete and about 4 inches into the grass. No issues. My edger will ony cut about 3 inches below anyways so if you get it deep you should be fine.


I was speaking about other projects... you stated you never go from an expansion crack to grass. Im not challenged when you think about it seeing as how my brainpower more than compensates for my hearing loss :):laugh::laugh::laugh:

fred333
11-27-2007, 12:13 PM
lol... That is a good one. I will have to use that one with the kids.

jimmyburg
11-27-2007, 12:50 PM
I'm curious if an irrigation trencher would work, or better yet, why not ask the irrigation guys on the forum? I'm sure they run into this. Just cover with seed or sod.

Yes, a trencher will work, just becareful when you start cutting into the bigger roots, use a rep saw or chainsaw. just make sure there is no sprinkler system in the ground and call for line locates first and get a confirmation number before starting to dig.

if you are in a rocky area, get a trencher with rock teeth, to help cut into hard clay and rock.

Chris J
11-27-2007, 03:04 PM
I was speaking about other projects... you stated you never go from an expansion crack to grass. Im not challenged when you think about it seeing as how my brainpower more than compensates for my hearing loss :):laugh::laugh::laugh:

OH! My bad Billy. Glad you have a sense of humor :drinkup:

Pro-Scapes
11-27-2007, 10:49 PM
actually you hurt my feelings :laugh: That means AOLP trip is on you to help cheer me up right ?:waving: