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Old 06-07-2011, 04:25 AM
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Mow-N-Maniac Mow-N-Maniac is offline
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Sod Installation Nightmare

Hi there. I have a huge dilemma concerning sod that was installed at my home.

I had 11.5k sq ft of zoysiagrass sod installed nearly a month ago (5-12-11). My landscaper knew that my mowing preferences were at 1".

He texted me at 10:30 the night before that he was coming the next day to begin the prep-work and then install the sod the following day. I was excited and didn't even think about looking at the weather forecast for the next few days.

They arrived the next morning and scraped the dead stuff off and he then tilled my yard to a depth of about 6". He told me he had 21 pallets of sod on the way for the next morning. The dirt was a gorgeous fluffy black loam (I live in 7b) that was ankle deep. His crew did preliminary digging around curbs, sidewalk, etc, for the grading. They left for the day. Since I had done research about soil prep before sod is put down, I kind of had a general idea of how that phase is supposed to take place. Especially if the mowing tolerances are so low.

The nightmare begins. At 1:00am the following morning (the day the sod is to arrive), a torrential rain comes through our area and turns my yard into a tractor pull. I am absolutely livid, because I can see the handwriting on the wall. When he and his crew arrived at the same time as the sod delivery at 7:00am the next morning; I had choice words for him...to say the least. He assured me that he could grade the yard just fine with front end loading bucket on his skid steer and his crew could rake it out. They were sinking ankle deep in the stuff. He assured me that after he rolled it that it would be smooth. I was still skeptical.

The sod they were putting down didn't look right from the get go. Very thin. Different colors. It just didn't look right. He called the sod guys so they would be aware of the problem.

We ended up being 2 pallets of sod short and he called and ordered 2 more to be delivered the next day.

Those 2 pallets of grass were beautiful. They were 1000% better looking than the 21 pallets delivered the day before.

As the month since installation has progressed, the second day's sod is doing fantastic! Exactly what my entire yard should have looked like from the beginning. The sod rep even came out and acknowledged that there was something wrong with the sod.

The pictures don't tell the story of how bad the grading is. It is like walking on a water bed. He assured me that when rolled; it would smooth out. I was very skeptical. When I asked him if he rolled his soil after raking, prior to sod installation, he told me that in the 15 years he had been in the business neither he nor anyone he knows in the business has ever rolled the soil before sod installation. So it wouldn't have made a difference if it hadn't rained. He was going to lay that sod on that raked out fluffy loam (it was a mud pit instead)

He had one of his crew come out just over 3 weeks after installation to roll the yard. The poor fella spent 2.5 hours pushing a roller around my yard with the drum full of water. It looked like he hadn't done a thing. When he told me that one of his men was coming by to roll it he said that he would drop by the next day on Saturday to leave me the owner's manual for the irrigation clock and to check the battery because it didn't keep the correct time when we had a power outage. He also assured me that he wasn't going to leave me hanging. I'm assuming that his man told him the rolling didn't work is the reason he didn't drop by or has yet to call. That was last Wednesday. Today is Monday.

I called the sod rep again to tell him that there hadn't been much improvement in the color, the dead stuff was still dead and weeds were getting thicker where the sod was dead or weak. He notified the president of the company. The president came out today. He spread some different fertilizer. He has arranged for a one ton roller to come here later in the week and he wants to replace some of the bad areas. He said he wanted to try those remedies first and that if they didn't work, we would get with the landscaper and attempt to find a solution. He seemed like , if it came to it, that he would do a complete reinstall of the 21 pallets of defective sod. They didn't have an answer as to why it is performing so poorly. But do realize that it is not right.

This whole ordeal is making me want to throw up. The vast majority of my yard is an inferior product, installed on an inferior surface. I don't know why my landscaper wants to keep trying to blow smoke up my butt. Anyone with any common sense knows that if you don't pack down fluffy dirt, it's going to be full of air. And when you install sod on it and water it, the water takes the air's place and it's like a water bed. Once it dries out the sod is going to sink unevenly. He assured me that he has installed sod on mud many times and it was just fine. To me, I think he should get on his knees and thank God that the sod is inferior, because had it been that beautiful second day sod all over; the sod company wouldn't be responsible for anything.

Anyway. Enough of the rambling. My questions to you professionals:
> What have you done in situations where it rained like hell on your bare dirt with sod coming the next morning?
> Do I have a leg to stand on as far as the landscaper being responsible for rectifying the situation?
> I know it was an act of God and all, but should he have not scheduled my job when there was no chance of rain in the forecast?
> Should I hold off on the sod company replacing areas until after the yard is rolled wit the one ton roller? My thinking is that I'm almost 80-90% sure that I want the entire first day's sod replaced; therefore I would lose leverage with the sod company. They could say "Hey, we replaced the bad areas."
What I'm wanting to do is cut my grass down to the 1" as planned all along, and if it is still massively uneven, I will insist that the lawn be replaced. Plus it would save the sod company from wasting time, money, and sod; throwing the good after the bad.
> Is that a good strategy?
> In your experiences, what, if any, leverage do I have with the landscaper?
The contract reads, "We will spread dirt out (no fill dirt was needed) and smooth yard out."
Also, the vague statement: "All material is guaranteed to be as specified, and the above referenced work to be performed in accordance with the drawings and specifications submitted to us (if any) for the above referenced work, and completed in a substantial workmanlike manner for the sum of:..."
Also, "Owner to carry fire and natural disaster and other renter's or homeowner's insurance on the above referenced work as necessary, and Contractor to carry Liability and Worker's Compensation Insurance as/if required."
> Is this considered a natural disaster? And thus something he would say that we would need to file a homeowner's claim on?
Also, "All plant material is guaranteed for (with proper irrigation only) for one year."
> Does this include the sod, which is performing poorly?

If you've gotten this far, I certainly appreciate you taking the time to read it and would more than welcome any input, ideas, comments, and/or strategies.

Notes about pics:
The first two are the next morning after the storm and just after sod delivery.

One is the front yard about one week after installation. The sod had some green to it when it went down, but after a day or two it went into shock and has been painfully slow to recover; some not recovering at all.

The last two pix along the fence are of the contrast in the first and second days sod. Night and day.

Thanks!
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Old 06-07-2011, 06:43 AM
shovelracer shovelracer is offline
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I'm not going to pretend to know anything about zoysia grass, but I do know that there is no way my customers would tolerate that, nor would I let them. Hard to tell the ground moisture levels, but it looks wet and we would have held off as well. My only guess without actually seeing it is to water the heck out of it. Sounds like everyone is just postponing and hoping something great happens. There are warranty claims as they are written, and then there is just the right thing to do. Part of that is supplying you with a material that is free and clear of problems, disease, pests, etc. I would try to reach the contractor, if that fails then I would continue to document your actions and reach out to your states division of consumer affairs or attorney general. Regardless of what is stated in the contract there likely is some sort of state mandated minimum for performance of supplied services.
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Old 06-07-2011, 07:04 AM
topsites topsites is offline
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I see things different, what did you expect, a customer who doesn't know what they are doing but obviously still wants to control
everything calls around day after day until they find... A company whose employees also don't know what they are doing but takes
on your project because they badly need the work!

I knew almost right off the bat, two sentences into it I knew how this would turn out, or at least that's when I got my first big red flag,
which is usually enough to tell me this one's headed south... Granted things could have still turned out different but sure enough, I was right.
That is called experience.

And you should have called some accredited professionals but then again they may not have wanted to help you, which all of this
doesn't quite make it right and you may not have had to call around much at all, but it sounds to me like a match made in heaven.

One other thing...
Here on this forum, there are no professionals.
Not entirely true, there might exist one, maybe two.
But the vast majority here are no pros, they might say they are, but they're not.

Last edited by topsites; 06-07-2011 at 07:12 AM.
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:21 AM
Darryl G Darryl G is offline
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I think the key is "completed in a substantial workmanlike manner". Clearly it wasn't. He never should have installed without it being properly graded.
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Old 06-07-2011, 08:56 AM
Oakleaf landscape Oakleaf landscape is offline
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I'm guessing he got a great deal on those 21 pallets of sod cause they were getting a few days old (5-6). That's why he was so last minute on scheduling everything. Sod must have aged a little too much or was not kept moist. Then when he realized he was short 2 pallets he had to get new stuff cut. Hence the night and day in the appearance of the sod. If this is true, then I wouldn't blame the sod company unless they sold it to him as freshly cut.
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Old 06-07-2011, 09:17 AM
lukemelo216 lukemelo216 is offline
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that yard wasnt graded good in the first place. I was working with a grading crew last year on a large commercial project and we were grading hundreds of acres of lawn at this place. Yes when it rains like hell you get some areas of issue here and there where water runs more heavily in an area and you get some erosion, but the dirt should still look nice and level and not all torn up. Think about when you seed a lawn (bare dirt) and it rains a lot, it doesnt get all bumpy and un level. I mean you can still see where the loader sank into areas. Along the driveway the sod isnt sitting flush with the curb line.

If we were doing that job, we would have certainly waited until it dried out a little more, maybe started to work in the afternoon or something and finish getting everything all prepped again. Its not hard to call the sod company and ask for it to be delayed because of the rain. Certainly the work was not completed in a professional manner utilizing sound horticulture practices.

Like others said just continue to water the lawn and document it. IF your having problems with your irrigation system, contact an irrigation contractor right away and have them come get the system running properly. Having everything getting watered in the early morning hours (last zone finishing up by about 7am) and then again in the later afternoon (between 3 and 4), each one for about 20-30 minutes. Im sure you understand to just keep the sod nice and moist, but dont water over night because your prone to diseases and fungi. Hang on to that invoice and stuff, so that you can use that if needed.

The sod company probably wont replace the whole yard, but just the bad areas. Im sure you could contract them to do the entire yard for a price (maybe even reduced price) and you could go after the contractor then. Also the plant material that is supplied should be free of insect disease, and any other problems. Also if he is saying its guaranteed for 1 year with proper irrigation, he should be providing you with a written copy of the watering instructions. We supply our customer with adequate care/watering instructions. We also make periodic "suprise visits" to monitor the care take and document it, leaving the customer with a copy.

I would also contact the sod company and just have them provide you with a written copy of what they believe is the issue with it. Why the sod is in the condition its in and what was the issue when it was supplied.

I would not consider this a natural disaster simply becasue the sod wasnt in good condition when it was installed, and you have the proof of that with the photos you took. As long as you go by what the contract states and document all your doings, you should be able to have the contractor remidy this issue, at no further cost to you.

I dont like seeing other contractors gone after and stuff, but youre in every right to do so if the issues are not resolved.
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:29 AM
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Mow-N-Maniac Mow-N-Maniac is offline
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Oakleaf, you definitely may be on to something as far as the age of the sod. I can't imagine the sod company or the landscaper ever divulging that fact however.

Shovel, the ground was absolutely saturated when the sod was installed. It had probably rained a good 2-3 inches the previous night, all in about a 2 hour time frame. I mean we had like 60-70mph straight line winds! You can even see leaves a stuff in the drive and on the mud in one of the pix. The sod in the front is still like walking on a water bed it is so saturated. And because the grading is so poor there are low areas where water is pooling and basically rotting the sod.

Luke, I never received any written watering schedule. The contractor set the system initially to run every night at midnight with 30 minutes on the rotor zones and 15 on the misting zone. (I have 6 rotor zones, 1 misting zone, and 1 drip zone) I thought that was a little excessive and at the wrong time. My next door neighbor, who lives down grade from me thought that I had a leak in my irrigation because he was getting to much run off.

When the first sod rep came out 2 weeks after installation, he said to cut the watering back to 3 times a week with the same zone time and I have it starting at 5:00am. And then I cut the time in half and water it again at 5:00pm to cool the grass off (per the sod rep). Heck, like I mentioned in my initial post, the contractor didn't even supply me with a copy of the owner's manual, much less, show me how to operate the system. I found the manual online in a PDF file and saved it and basically taught myself.

Thanks for the tips on getting what the sod company president feels the issues are (and were) in writing. I think I'm going to email the sod co. prez and tell him to go ahead and send the 1 ton roller, but to hold off on the replacing of any bad areas right now. I don't want to lose any leverage with them. The 2 major things I want to see after rolling that will determine whether or not I will push for a total replacement are:
1. After rolling, will I be able to mow my lawn at the 1" desired level that my contractor knew that I wanted? (they are scheduled to roll it on Fri and I'm sure it will need to be fairly wet; therefore I won't cut it until Mon to give it a chance to dry out a bit)
2. Will the yard require top dressing after it is rolled?

Invariably, I'm betting the answer to 1 will be no and the answer to 2 will be yes.

If those criteria can be satisfied, then they can repair the defective areas. The other problem of weeds can be dealt with later.

The contractor is the irrigation contractor. He is licensed in our state and has 15 years of experience in the industry. The irrigation system is brand new and working fine. This was all part of one big job. Irrigation, lighting, and sod installation. All references were checked. The BBB was checked. Angie's List was checked.

The contractor didn't have the option of waiting until the ground dried out. He had the stuff ordered the day before and it was delivered just hours after the rains came. I knew I was screwed when it started storming at 1:00 that morning. He even mentioned to me that he was laying in bed and could not believe that it was storming like it was. But again, had it not even rained, my soil would not have been rolled and compacted like it should have been. I even asked him about rolling prior to installation as a standard practice and he said he has never done it nor knew anyone that has. I find that very hard to believe.

When they laid the sod, he did his best to grade the muck with his front end bucket on his skid steer and his crew raked it out to the best of their ability. (see pix). It was far from smooth, but it wasn't all torn up in appearance either. The biggest thing was the ground was totally saturated and it's like the sod was installed on top of a water bed. A month later and it's still squishy.
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Old 06-07-2011, 11:01 AM
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Patriot Services Patriot Services is online now
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You guys that think sod work is green side up and kick read this thread well. Sod has a huge learning curve and a long list of do's and dont's. The installer was in over his head, he couldn't even measure correctly. Unfortunately the HO will probably be out of pocket. Even if it can be revived it will never be smooth. That 6" of tilled soil will continue to move and settle for years.
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Old 06-07-2011, 11:37 AM
lukemelo216 lukemelo216 is offline
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I will tell you mowin that I have never heard of rolling the soil prior to installing sod, so he is right there. But this whole concept that people have of tilling the soil really deep, or taking out 3 inches and resupplying it with another 3 inches just baffels me. I would have simply taken the skid loader with a harley rake and just losened up that top layer of soil to make a nice seed bed, cut the high areas, and fill in the low areas. Then put on a rock hound to get all the big debris and rocks out of the seed bed. After that apply freshly screened top soil to all the areas that it needs.

After seeing more pictures, I defenitally wouldnt have done anything until late in the day. He could ave soaked the sod somehow and covered it all up and waited to lay it until the next day (we have done that before) Just let the hose run on it and then put a mesh tarp over it all so it doesnt dry out and isnt exposed to the sun all day.



This way the ground is still firm, by tilling up 6 inches thats alot of lose soil, thats the biggest reason that it is shifting. Now when that roller comes out there, dont be suprised if your entire lawn sinks a few inches and it really low. You have really compact soil far down below 6inches, then lose soil above that, its all going to get compressed together. You ever notice if you dig a hole, and fill the dirt back in and compact it as you back fill, you generally need more dirt than you actually took out. This is going to be the same effect.

continue to follow the recomendations of the sod company for water, but him watering at midnight is a big no. you want to soak the soil a good 4-6 inches down, becasue that will allow the roots to continue to grow deeper. Never water during the day time because the water on the grass will act like a magnifying glass and just bake the grass and cause it to use the water up below the surface quicker. You want to usually stop watering between like 7 and 730 in the mornign. This allows the water to dry off the grass by about 10 1030 right when it starts to really heat up during the day.

With sod your not conserned about top growth really, you want root growth, so those misters really werent doing very much but probably causing problems since its getting the actual leafs wet and not soaking the soil, thus creating that magnifying effect.
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Old 06-07-2011, 12:08 PM
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Mow-N-Maniac Mow-N-Maniac is offline
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Gosh Luke, to me if you've tilled up 6' deep and you put all of that air in the soil, it HAS to be rolled in order to get the air out. Otherwise it will be that space will alternately be taken up by water and then air again; causing soft, mushy areas and uneven settling as Patriot mentioned. Even on the sod company's website, it calls for rolling the soil if need be...and I can't think of a greater need to than after creating a fluffy loam.

He originally had 2 loads of dirt scheduled to be delivered, but after he tilled, he canceled the order saying that I had plenty of dirt and any dirt that he brought in wouldn't be near as good as what I had there. In hindsight, he was basing his estimation on seeing hugely fluffy dirt, which will seem to disappear once that one ton roller hits it. Oh boy.

About the HO being SOL Patriot? I sure hope you're wrong.
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