View Full Version : Failed Lawn Renovation Refund?

Darryl G
11-28-2010, 07:36 PM
Hi guys. I've never had this happen before. This is the second season that I've been doing basic lawn maintenance for a customer at their summer home...spring and fall cleanups and mowing. Mowing is bi-weekly except during peak growth. Easy customer to deal with, pay on time, happy with my work but also not a big account...pretty much bare bones maintenance.

The front lawn burned out pretty badly over the summer (full sun and zero irrigation) and they asked if I could repair it for them. I slit seeded the front lawn with a turf-type tall fescue blend. One area near the driveway that they walk on on a regular basis was particularly bad. I did a double pass on it with the seeder but it didn't penetrate really well as the tines were pretty worn on the rental unit I had (Bluebird). A couple of weeks later I went to check on germination and that area had little to no germination. I had my Grass Stitcher (www.grassstitcher.com) handheld tool with me so I spend an hour running the tool over it and re-seeding. It was a bit late to do so (October 14th - our first frost was Oct 31st) but I thought I'd give it a try.

Well I recently did the fall cleanup and that area looks like crap. Really no germination. I didn't charge this customer a lot for this renovation to begin with and already have an extra hour in, but I feel that it's ultimately my fault for showing up with a crappy rental unit with worn out tines. It worked fine on the other 3 lawns I did that day but this was the last one and the area was pretty compacted and had a dense mat of dead grass that's still there in fact. I'm pretty sure that if I give it another try in the spring it's not going to make it through the summer because I know they won't water it.

So what would you guys do? Try again in the spring? Give the customer a credit? Or just say hey, I tried...if you want me to try again it's extra. I feel they got their money's worth ($166.75 for overseeding and fertilizing the front yard) but I'm really not satistfied with that bare/dead area. BTW, the extreme foreground in the second picture is the stone driveway, not lawn.

Here's some pics of the lawn.

Thanks in advance.

11-28-2010, 08:10 PM
Hey Darryl do you know if they even watered the lawn after your seeding.I'm in Maryland and seeded around that same time and the seed popped up nicely even with some frosts.I always give the cust. instructions in writing about watering before leaving the install that day.If they don't follow through after giving them instructions, the fault is theres no redo .If they did water then I would reseed it next year while your doing your other seeding's .Its to late for this year.My .02

11-28-2010, 08:55 PM
I applaud you for wanting to "do the right thing"

Is the customer driving this" or are you driving this.

I consider a spring seeding with some rye for summer green...

try to sell a fall aeration/overseed next year..

Darryl G
11-28-2010, 09:12 PM
I'm sure they didn't water. I've never even seen a hose there and the spigot is buried somewhere in that mess of Rhodies, lol. These customers are elderly...and I don't just mean senior citizens. The woman is in her mid 80s and the husband is in his 90s. I probably should have put down some straw too but it wasn't really a planned thing. I was there for routine mowing. Some straw and water probably would have helped but I was in a hurry trying to get to the rest of my mowing route...it was kind of half assed repair but I thought it would take.

I'm the one driving this. I talked to the woman when I attempted the repair and told her I wasn't satisfied with that spot and was going to try to fix it. The first seeding was Sept. 26th BTW, right before essentially a week of rain. I did 4 lawns that weekend and they all came in nicely...except this one spot and a little spot on another that I entirely missed with the seeder.

Hmmmm...I just realized they won't even see this until probably June of next year since they're down in Florida for the winter. I think I'll just hit it again in the spring and try to do it right this time.

11-28-2010, 09:18 PM
maybe just jet them a note with you plans for the spring.... they'll appreciate you honesty.

Darryl G
11-28-2010, 10:01 PM
Good advice Marc. I just invoiced them for the fall cleanup and put a note on the invoice saying that the front lawn area I attempted to fix didn't come in very well and I'll give it another try in the spring.

BTW guys it's cut a bit short....2.5 inches I believe. Usually i'm up in the 3 to 3.5 range on that lawn but I like to leave them shorter for winter so they don't get snow mold (not a huge problem around here), any leaves tend to blow clear and it bags leaves better too.

Barefoot James
11-28-2010, 10:21 PM
Slit seed or stich it in, again in Feb. Look at the dormant seed thread. This is perfect for folks who don't water.

Maybe even (I would) cover this bad area with a thin layers or compost - should not need more than a yard to cover the area plus any other bad spots - do this when you dormant seed and this will help with the germination, protection of the seed, nutrients and maybe they will see the compost and not want to stop on it and go around it. Also consider selling them a stepping stone path if it is a high traffic area.

I ALWAYS set up hoses timers and sprinklers for fall seedings this insures it will come up.

Barefoot James
11-28-2010, 10:34 PM
duplicate - sorry

Darryl G
11-28-2010, 10:48 PM
Yeah they have a path (front walk) but don't use it, lol...it's quicker to cut across the lawn. I couldn't even get them to let me weed the beds and trim the shrubs so I'm not going to try to upsell too much. But thanks for the advice on the dormant seeding etc. I have a nice fine compost I make from ground up leaves and grass clippings. I think the key is to try to break through that mat of dead grass/thatch.

12-01-2010, 02:53 PM
Why is there dead grass there? I thought it was burned out completely. Or is it really zoysia grass? Maybe that "dead grass" will come back from the roots. If not, yes you need to get the seed down into the soil for a good take. Warm soil temp works best. Wait until about the date of your first mowing. Maybe aeration will loosen it up.

Darryl G
12-01-2010, 04:52 PM
Dead due to drought and foot traffic I believe. Yes I'm sure it's dead. The whole front lawn gets full sun and never gets watered but the spot they walk on got "hurt" the worst. I'm sure it's not Zoysia.

I'm sure aeration wouldn't hurt but not about to rent an areator for that one spot....maybe if I have a machine for another job I could stop by and "hit" it but I don't tend to aerate in the spring.

12-01-2010, 04:52 PM
I dont like to guarantee any lawns that get seeded if they dont have an irrigation system, too much of a gamble hoping for rain. Im like you though, I always feel if it doesnt come in I have to make it right.

12-03-2010, 11:56 AM
We do not warrant seeding and tell the client that, because it is a "crop"
That gets the homeowner involved in making it work by watering etc.

We do leave them extra seed and instruction on spot seeding.

It is great that you care about the out come of the project but, you must set realistic expectations.

From experience I can tell you that many a seed job has been ruined because the homeowner wasn't;t told that turf needs two years to mature and that watering the next season is critical.

Get a 50% deposit
Give written watering/care instruction.
Set realistic expectations.(there will be thin spots)

12-03-2010, 10:34 PM
I always figure on a little extra $ to come back and fix those spots. I always tell them there is no guarantee but i to have to make it right. As best as i can.

Charles Cue

12-03-2010, 10:48 PM
I do the same as garydale and charles do. I also get a soil test on every renovation. I tell the customer I need to do xxx, xxx, and xxx or I dont want to do it at all. I also give them realistic expectations. "everything with the lawn is a slow process" "let us renovate and fert for 2-3 years to get a nice thick lawn" Its a tough business

12-03-2010, 10:50 PM
Also, I have had dead spots with an incredibly thick thatch layer that grass would not grow through. It grew threw some of the slices, but would not spread. Maybe dig up the dead spots?

Darryl G
12-03-2010, 11:37 PM
This was just a quick and dirty repair I tacked onto ones I was already doing. I guess I have a soft spot for the elderly. They're really nice and good to...always pleasant and happy to see me. My expectations are probably greater than theirs. If it was in a different part of the lawn it probably wouldn't bother me, be it's right where you can't help but notice it walking up to the house.

Like I said, I think it's ultimately my fault because the seeder I was using had worn out tines that just didn't penetrate enough. I don't guarantee lawns either but if I were the customer i'd expect that spot to look better after paying to have it repaired. Besides, I like the lawns I maintain to look good and will give customers pretty good deals to repair/renovate them. I don't get much satisfaction maintaining crappy lawns.

Water wasn't a problem with the original seeding but possibly was with my second attempt. After thinking about it, they left to go back to Florida a day or 2 after I did that. This isn't a high end lawn by any means.

12-04-2010, 07:53 PM
you're a good guy. keep up the good work

12-07-2010, 12:17 AM
I think you need to correct the soil compaction in that area. Someone mentioned aerating and that is the first thing to do. When the soil is wet! Trying the same thing multiple times will probably get you the same results. Even if you just took a hand held soil probe you could punch a number of holes to get the air and moisture into the soil.