Rural Driveway Options

As you may have read in a previous post, we’ve been forced to research driveway options beyond our existing driveway. We share the driveway with two other homes, which means if those two homes want to put in another driveway surface besides our gravel driveway then that’s basically what we have to do whether we like it or not.

Having had this sprung upon us a few weeks ago, there hasn’t been much time to react. The neighbors were nice enough to give me a few days to research all of our options before we just knee jerk go and put in an asphalt driveway. So in addition to my day job and in lieu of spending excessive time with my kids I spent a week researching options and gathering estimates.

So now I’m sort of involuntarily a driveway expert, or at least as expert as I can be in a week and one PowerPoint presentation later.

Here’s what I found out…

Our Driveway – Existing Gravel

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Current driveway is an almost cement like finish, despite technically being a gravel driveway. It is prone to pot holes.

Our property came with a gravel driveway already leading to it from the road. For the purposes of the neighbors intent, we’re just looking at changing the driveway material along the first 1,700 feet (about 17,000 square feet for a 10′ wide driveway). There’s a shared utility easement that the driveway resides upon. Neighbors are each responsible for 1/3 the maintenance and upkeep, while maintaining the existing material (gravel).

The biggest complaints are dust, pot holes and gravel being pushed into the grass.

Personally I think it’s congruent with the rural atmosphere of the property and our country setting.

To maintain it we got quotes from a gentleman who has an apparatus on the back of his Jeep that “rakes” the driveway to get help prevent pot holes. Driving slow on the driveway helps prevent pot holes as well.

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The knives aren’t on the rig in this shot, but the bar lowers down with metal posts on the end and rakes the gravel driveway

My recommendation is that we try maintaining the driveway properly and professionally. In addition to the raking, we could hire a landscaper to cut the grass in the utility area, as well as put a definitive edge on the drive; possibly even a hardscape paver edging. Raking is $300-$500 per year. Not sure how much a landscaper charges to cut and trim during the growing season. A hardscape edge would be a couple grand I suspect.

Pros:

  • rural look
  • low cost to maintain
  • indefinite lifetime

Cons:

  • prone to pot holes
  • compacted surface is impervious can lead to flooding or erosion
  • difficult DIY maintenance

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Asphalt – This is the preferred method of our neighbors. Asphalt is made from oil and crushed limestone. It’s put down in two layers, #57 stone makes up a base coat of about 2.5″ and at top coat made from smaller stone creates a smooth ~1.5″ driving surface. The driveway has to be sealed ever year or two at a cost of about $1,500. Installation cost for our driveway is around $30K-$37K, or around $2 per square foot.

Another option is just to install the 2.5″ basecoat, which is only $25K. This saves money but results in a rougher surface because it’s just the #57 stones. And it’s not recommended for drives that will get truck traffic such as from UPS or FedEx trucks.

Asphalt can be salted in winter (which is bad for the environment) and it’s dark texture radiates heat year round – melting snow in the winter, and making it unbearable to walk on in the summer.

It’s important to know what kind of sealant the contractor puts down. Coal Tar is a highly toxic chemical that causes cancer in children and adults, as well hurt wildlife and contaminate water supplies. Click here for more info on sealants.

Pros:

  • relatively inexpensive
  • fairly low maintenance
  • 20 year lifespan

Cons:

  • oil based product
  • looks urban
  • impervious so it can lead to flooding and erosion

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Cement

Cement driveways are pretty ubiquitous in America. They last a long time and are virtually maintenance free. The down side is they’re expensive to install and repair.

We got two quotes from $50K up to $95K for our driveway, or about $3 per square foot.

With all the water on the surface of our land, we want to make sure that the cement is reinforced with mesh and possibly rebar. Thickness quoted was 4″ total.

Pros:

  • estate look and feel
  • no maintanence
  • 30 year lifespan

Cons:

  • expense
  • can’t drive on it for 7 days after install
  • impervious material prone to causing flooding and erosion

Chart from Angie’s List weighing pros and cons of asphalt and concrete:

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Pervious Cement and Asphalt

These are identical to their non-pervious counterparts, but they leave out some of the stones in the mix to create voids that water can pass through. This makes the surfaces better for the environment by allowing water to pass through and not run off and cause flooding. The surface also acts as a filter to clean oil and auto residue through the material, filtering it before it gets to the ground water supply.

I could not readily find any local contractors for the materials though. And the biggest down side is you have to pressure wash it regularly to keep the voids open, otherwise they clog up.

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Grass Pavers

I love the look of these cast cement pavers. They have large voids that can be filled with pea gravel, and even allow grass to grow through. The biggest challenge here is the cost of $10 per square foot installed. Although for smaller areas they could be perfect, and even be a DIY project. Belgard Turfstone is the brand name we checked out.

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Pea Gravel

The one landscaper I talked to didn’t recommend cement or asphalt because we have so much surface water – which would but their lifespans in half potentially. His recommendation was edging the entire driveway and laying down pea gravel. Cost would be $7,000 year one, and then $7,000 a year to refresh. The cost seemed a little off but there’s no doubt the look is great. This would have to be investigated further. And there’s the potential that snow plows would trash it in the winter.

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Chip and Seal

This is when they just lay down the base coat of asphalt then finish it off with decorative stones. I love the look of this. The challenge is finding a contractor in northeast Ohio that will do it. Also there are concerns with the amount of surface water we get as to how well it would hold up. I think there’s a lot of stigma at play here. If it were up to me, it’s definitely an option I would consider versus ugly black asphalt. Cost was around $27K or $1.60 per square foot.

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Permeable Pavers

Just like grass pavers, but no voids for grass. Can be anything from stones, to bricks and cement blocks. Cost is probably around $10 per square foot. Looks super high end though.

Here’s an article from This Old House that walks you through the DIY install process for permeable pavers.

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image from NDS website of their grid product for stabilizing driveways while allowing water to flow through.

Permeable Driveway

Companies like CORE Driveway and NDS make these plastic grids from recycled plastic that interlock and create a substrate upon which you can place pea gravel or even let grass grow through. Cities often use this for parking areas or emergency response centers where there isn’t alway vehicle traffic, but it can support traffic if necessary.

This is the most environmentally responsible driveway in my opinion, because it allows water to pass through, grass to grow through it as well. Plastic lasts indefinitely so it shouldn’t really need replacing if maintained properly.

One installer recommended against it for anywhere where cars will turn around, as that might damage the grid over time.

It’s expensive at $44K in material alone, $2.60 per square foot. Though installation could be DIY, plus the cost of preparing the base and topping it off with gravel.

This is definitely what I would put on my driveway, and even the parking areas around the homestead.

My Recommendation

After I researched everything, my proposal was to implement a maintenance program on the driveway, including landscaping. Also we could explore the pea gravel solution, with possibly some hardscape edging. This is a very nice look and would cut down on dust.

Ultimately a gravel driveway is congruent with the rural look and feel of the properties. And it’s the material we all knew we were dealing with when we bought our various parcels. I believe it can be maintained economically and effectively with a comprehensive, competitively bid program.

If money was no object I’d go the permeable pavers or driveway grid solutions, which are the most environmentally responsible solutions.

Lastly hard surface wise, if we had to, my preference is cement because it would eliminate maintenance altogether and it would last 30+ years, longer than I’m likely to be alive. It can also be budgeted for long term repairs and will increase property values quite a bit.

Would be interesting to explore chip and seal some more too.

Asphalt just doesn’t seem to make much sense to me environmentally, economically or aesthetically. It still requires cost to maintain, looks ugly and cheap, and is resource intense with the possibly of poisoning the environment. I think it’s just a typical suburban “this is how everyone else does it” response to a problem, which lacks elegance or thoughtfulness. But in this day and age it’s not surprising at all.

Here are some additional links for your reference:

Why Should You Consider a Stormwater Friendly Driveway?

https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/sites/default/files/DPW/Stormwater/Driveways/SW%20Friendly%20Driveways_web_v2.pdf

Permeable Pavement

http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DEP/water/permeable-pavement.html

Pros and Cons Asphalt vs. Concrete – Angie’s List

https://www.angieslist.com/articles/pros-and-cons-asphalt-vs-concrete-driveway.htm

Coal-tar sealcoats pollute nearby soil and water

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/newscience/coal-tar-sealcoats-release-pahs

University of Maryland Permeable Pavement Fact Sheet

https://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_docs/programs/master-gardeners/Howardcounty/Baywise/PermeablePavingHowardCountyMasterGardeners10_5_11%20Final.pdf

Rainfall as a Resource – Connecticut Guide to Pervious Pavement

http://www.ct.gov/deep/lib/deep/water/watershed_management/wm_plans/lid/what_is_permeable_pavement.pdf

California Pervious Pavement Design Guidance

http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/oppd/stormwtr/bmp/DG-Pervious-Pvm_082114.pdf

Could Your Driveway be Poisoning Your Kids?

http://ww2.kqed.org/quest/2014/01/23/could-your-driveway-be-poisoning-your-kids/

Coal Tar Free America

http://coaltarfreeamerica.blogspot.com

Alternative Asphalt Sealants Getting Mixed Reviews (4/11 – Columbus Dispatch)

http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/home_and_garden/2011/04/10/alternative-asphalt-sealants-getting-mixed-reviews.html

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Cherry Tree

For Earth Day this year we selected cherry as our tree of choice to plant. This will add a third type of fruit tree to our little makeshift orchard; joining peaches and apples.

We went out and selected two trees, one for each boy. Variety wise, one tree is a Bing, and the other is a self-fertilizing Stella. At the end of the season when they are on sale or in a future year we’ll add a third tree. These semi-dwarf trees shouldn’t get too large, about 6′ tall and wide.

They make for a nice balance, opposite the peach trees along the path leading to the vegetable garden.

Finally working in the yard this weekend has been a wonderful experience for me. I forget how great it is to get earth between my hands and fingers. To be on my knees close to the ground amongst the plants and insects. To hear the birds and the hum of spring.

This year has been extremely stressful for me. And the added burden of this whole driveway thing and it’s potential cost has stressed me past what is probably healthy. The pinnacle was the one night where I had a nightmare in which my driveway literally swallowed me up. I was falling, at first I thought only a few feet, then realizing I was falling further, ten, twenty feet below ground in a sink hole, looking up at the blue sky, waiting for the ground to collapse in upon me.

At a time when I should be focusing on my family….and making ends meet, here is yet another random roadblock.

Seemingly every time we have a glimmer of getting ahead, life finds a way to kick us back a few paces. I guess it’s like that for all of us. And the worst part is, the whole driveway thing isn’t even important to us. I’ve even said, if we had twelve thousand dollars, putting in an asphalt driveway wouldn’t even be on our list of what to do with the money.

On the way to church school I was driving my oldest son to the store and I guess he had overheard us talking about the driveway cost and some things that would be nice to be able to pay for instead of a driveway, such as school, our car, maybe a family vacation that we paid for…hell even a swimming pool, house maintenance or landscaping.

He said “Dad, you know how you were saying about how if we had money we could get a pool…what if we could get a basketball hoop?

A pretty simple request.

But it got me thinking more deeply about the things I’ve been thinking about since our lives changed so much over the last four years. This time period has really been testing my mettle.

What’s important? What are my priorities? What are my real obligations in life? Who am I ultimately trying to please around here?

Don’t get me wrong, we’re obviously well off – we have a beautiful home, food on the table, don’t live in a war torn country, etcetera, etcetera. And I’m not looking for sympathy here at all (I deserve none, am asking for none). What I’m trying to do here is steer all of my life stress (most of it self created and self imposed) into some higher study of self priorities.

As such I’m running numbers in my head all the time.

We built this home so our children (and so we, because we’re along for the ride) would have a nurturing physical environment to live, work and play. Ultimately our main priority is our children. Their happiness. Their education. Setting them up to be so much better than we ever could be.

So every day I wake up with the same questions, running the same numbers. Do we hang onto our dreams, scuttle them, or transform them? Right now with challenge after challenge I have no idea how much longer I’ll personally survive quite frankly.  We need to stop getting surprises, and we need more mundane consistency so we can catch our breath.

Ultimately, you know what? The wife and I want to spend time with our kids, travel the country with them, discover new things. Because when you see wonder in your child’s eyes it’s like a drug for parents. We see it all the time in our yard, or in our home when we’re creating something or just enjoying life. We want to keep doing that as much as we can while they’re growing up. Seems like a good plan.

So circling back, and from my perspective quite frankly I couldn’t give a rat’s butt about a “new” driveway. I moved out to the country for the experience, not to bring with me some quest to conquer and assimilate everything to what made me comfortable in another life. And like I said, I’ve got a list of things I’d rather put the money towards.

I don’t know what will happen as far as this driveway thing goes. Right now our choices are to acquiesce to their demands and pay up like a good neighbor should. Or we can politely tell them to go pound salt (we actually have every legal right to do that), but you do have to deal with people long term so…. So hopefully there’s still a middle ground where everyone can win. We initially proposed a maintenance program, but that was declined. Then we proposed waiting til next year but that was reduced to waiting til the fall. Now we’re getting the vibe that they want to pour asphalt as soon as possible for summer party season when apparently people in Rolls will be rolling up the drive.

We shall see.

It could play out based on what mood I’m in. Because slowly, but surely, I’m finally starting to stand up for myself. Or maybe I’m getting old enough where I won’t be bullied by people. Or maybe I simply just don’t give a f*ck anymore what anyone thinks.

I pray it’s the last one, cause that’s really the secret of a fulfilling life.

And maybe they’ll catch us on a day like today.

A day where we took two little wild eyed boys to the store to pick out cherry trees for Earth Day. Each boy choosing their own small tree. Reading tags, learning what type of tree they are. Our oldest standing tall, noting “…this one is the same height as me!“…Driving home listening to a favorite song on the radio, sun shining bright through car windows. Exchanging observations and antidotes as only a little family can; the boys talking about what we’ll do with all those cherries! Arriving at home and planting those two little trees (dad deftly digging two wide holes, just off the garden path, so he can see them from a morning window). Then afterward dad watches as, on a whim, they plant a makeshift veggie garden and grass farm in the yard, from some old seeds discovered in the garage. Cause that’s what you do when you’re young, and you have a huge yard that has no rules (or at least not too many rules). It’s the kind of day you remember for the rest of your life. It’s the kind of day you don’t even need pictures of, cause it’s indelibly marked in your soul.

Maybe they’ll catch me on a day like that…And I tell them to go pound salt because there are more important things in life than asphalt driveways.

By the way, my list of what I’d really like to do with $12K…pick one

  • pay my taxes this year (Uncle Sam is greedy bugger)
  • educate my kids (grade school is more important that college in my opinion)
  • pay off my car
  • fix my Jeep
  • finish the basement
  • get a natural swimming pool
  • get a basketball hoop for my kid
  • get a hot tub
  • finish the landscaping
  • put it towards a Cricket trailer
  • take our Cricket trailer and show the boys all our National Parks
  • buy frames for my wife’s art business
  • get guinea fowl, two goats and three sheep
  • build a pond
  • take my wife on an African safari (take photos for her art)
  • go to Italy
  • build an outdoor pavilion and have a pig roast
  • build a cool tree house in the woods for the kids
  • take my dad fishing (he always took me)
  • not have to worry about money for a while
  • be able to spend time with my kids

Earth Day 2016

Today is Earth Day! For our household it’s a holiday or at least a reason to celebrate. It’s also the anniversary of when we moved in to our new home, four year ago. A happy coincidence if you ask me.

I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed this morning – planning on writing then getting to work on my regular day job work. But of course here I sit, an hour and one cup of coffee later, and I’m already way behind schedule. I got off on a tangent finding a source for what tree we want to buy this year to celebrate earth day. This year I’d like to order some hazelnut shrubs from the Arbor Day Society. And later today I’m thinking we’ll go out to to pick up a small cherry tree or three.

We try to plant a tree on our property every Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (last Friday in April). I’d have to look at our landscape plan to see if I’ve been keeping track. I know we keep track of the Christmas trees we plant every December (we’re up to four). On the other hand I think I’ve been keeping track on the blog every Earth Day so I can go back and look that way.

I need to get to work, so I’ll leave you with these five tips for living a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle:

5 Earth Day Tips for Better Living:

  1. Be an informed and responsible consumer – I freaking love shopping, that’ll never change. But I, and you can be a responsible consumers. Ask your self: do I need this? If so, what are my options – like who can I buy it from and how do they manufacture it? Is the price a fair price or is it too low to cover the actual cost of social, economic and environmental implications of me buying this thing (think fairness)? What will happen to this stuff when I don’t want it anymore? Be conscious and informed; vote with your dollar to support goods and services that are fair to our planet, people and economy. Yes it requires research, thinking and weighing pros and cons, but it’s no different than shopping for the best price, which you probably do already.
  2. Plant native trees, shrubs and plants – As I said, we’ve gotten into a routine where we plant major trees on holidays and life events like anniversaries or birthdays; trees make great gifts by the way. Search the internet to find out what plants are native to your area. Native plants require virtually no maintenance which frees up your time and money. And it’s something the whole family can get involved in.
  3. Recycle paper and cardboard – 99% of the paper and cardboard we consume in our household gets recycled. We gather it up and about every other week I drive it all over to one of those green and yellow collection dumpsters at our local school. Many communities’ curb side recycling will accept paper and cardboard as well. Recycling paper is easy to get into your routine, and it cuts the amount of trash we throw out significantly – some weeks we don’t even bother taking the trash down to the curb.
  4. Switch to LED light bulbs – the cost of LED’s has finally come down to where they are affordable for ANY household. LED’s last a lot longer (20 years+), so you won’t be storing and changing light bulbs anymore, which saves you hassle. Also they will reduce your electricity consumption which saves you more money in the long run than the bulbs cost.
  5. Spread the word – if you find something that works for you and our environment, share the info with friends, family, strangers…anyone, even if it’s just one thing to one person. Energy efficiency, electric cars, LED light bulbs, honey bees, recycling….they were all things “crazy hippies do” years ago, and they’re all mainstream stuff people from all walks of life do regularly to help our planet. It is all really common sense stuff. The system has just been set up the wrong way until now, but now we’re recognizing that as people, we have the power to do things the right way.

 

Happy Earth Day everyone! Hoping you get out there and do something good for the planet, but really it’s about doing something good for you. Be selfish about it, and most importantly, have fun.

Peach Blossom

Our peach trees are blossoming, but they don’t look that encouraging. There aren’t many blossoms across our three young trees. One of the trees looks dead basically, with just two random shoots growing from the bottom of the trunk. A few blossoms decorate each shoot, and a couple branches that look to still be alive. If the bees pollenate the peach trees, we might get one or two peaches before summer’s over.

It’s hopefully too early to tell but honestly not many of the plants and trees that we’ve planted look very good, across the entire yard. I’m hoping things shape up soon.

The apple trees have all leafed and look pretty good. In fact this year I think I’ll actually have to figure out (guess) how to prune them. I do this in the fall I believe. It’s too early to tell if we’ll have any apple blossoms.

Here are today’s pics. Fingers crossed we get lucky with spring – weather wise and bounty wise. Or just luck wise in general.

-c

P.S. I forgot, the one redbud tree has a giant ant hill at its base, just like the other redbud tree had in years past. None of the redbud’s look that great. I’m going to go around and spread fertilizer at the base of all my plants and trees this weekend. Don’t know if it’ll help but it’ll make me feel useful, which is all that matters really. Anyway, the ants..I sprayed them with two mixtures: one was vinegar and essential oils, and the other was warm water with Dawn dish soap. In theory one or the other or both will either kill or deter the ants from living at the base of my redbud tree. I’ll keep spraying, dousing for several days and see if it helps any.

Spring Weekend

This weekend was fantastic. The perfect weekend where we got to enjoy the warm temperatures and sunshine. I purposefully avoiding anything remotely close to work: regular work or house work. I’m consciously trying to enjoy a little bit of life and give some rationale as to why I work constantly.

We had a great time grilling out, and practicing golf with the boys. On Saturday hitting  balls in the front yard, and Sunday we went to the golf range. Golf is a fantastic game, probably the best game ever invented, and it’s nice to see our kids enjoying it. Hopefully we can all go golfing regularly in the future. Food wise we had two good meals this weekend. For about the last two months the wife’s been cooking pretty much a new meal every night to break of the rut we’d gotten into of pasta and chicken every night. Nothing too exotic, but we’ve been going through our Food Network magazines finding new recipes.

There are a lot of things I, we, want to do, so there is a method to my madness of working all the time. It’s nice to consciously take a weekend to not work. We won’t be entirely destitute if I take a day or two off, right?

In the yard we took the wraps off of hive No. 1 and checked the bees. The hive is extremely strong. And we survived without incident. We put an extra box on top, as well as sugar water to help supplement their feed for early spring. There are eggs and capped brood, so there’s a queen in there somewhere. We also set out our yellow jacket traps in hopes of killing a yellow jacket queen to minimize the chances that we’ll have any problems with them later in the year.

Yesterday we had our fist tick, so that’s started up again this year. In a few weeks we should be getting the ~17 year cicadas as well – create a ruckus of sound in the yard for a month.

The apples, serviceberries and gum trees are leafing. The peach trees are blossoming but they look horrible. One peach has two long branches sprouting from the ground with blossoms, and not much more. In time we’ll see what is surviving and what isn’t.

Earth Day on April 22 will mark our 4th anniversary since we moved in. Our plan is to buy and plant a nut tree to mark the occasion to encourage squirrels to come visit us more often.

-c

 

 

 

Rain and Drain – Pop-Up Overflow Day

This week’s theme is water, sort of. Saturday we had what I hope is our last snow storm of the year. We woke up to about four inches of snow, which is a very depressing thing to wake up to in April when you’re hoping to see leaves and blossoms.

The snow quickly gave way to rains to day, which did a great job of flooding the front meadow and parts of our yard. Basically our land is all wetlands, so when it rains, it gets wet out there. It’s actually interesting to watch the water flow across the land. It feeds off of adjacent properties, channels its way across our land,comes together in the east meadow and it all ends up in a wet weather creek, heading to a pond on a neighbor’s parcel of land. Eventually it all flows into the Cuyahoga River, then to Lake Erie. Generally speaking its all very interesting to watch, and doesn’t cause any great concern to the house or our landscape.

Inside we’re having a tougher time managing where the water is going.

There’s a leak, or leaks rather, coming from beneath the kitchen sink. No idea what’s wrong but it’s leaking from the top of the garbage disposal. With a big PVC drain pipe leading out of the disposal, I have zero desire to try and fix it myself, so the plumber is coming out tomorrow to see what’s going on and hopefully fix it. Also hopefully, we will not have to replace the garbage disposal. Knowing my luck though, we will and I’m sure it won’t be cheap. I’m past the point of thinking I’ll ever catch a break or get ahead money-wise. Life is playing a cruel trick on me for the last five years I believe.

In the master bath we are now on our third set of drains for the sinks. Originally our $800 Kohler faucets both broke: the stop pulls on both, constructed of cheap nylon snapped in half. The only reason I mention the price is because I don’t feel like something that expensive should break or be so poorly designed. Kohler told us to go pound salt basically, from what I recall, as there was no fix or remedy for their poor design. I don’t recall if there was even a replacement part, but now I look on their site and there are replacement parts (see picture below). Presumably they are of the same crappy material and design.

Well my fix to the problem was to replace the drain with a pop-up drain like we have in our vessel sink in the half bath. A pop-up drain is activated by pushing down on the drain head to engage and disengage it, blocking or allowing water to go through the drain. No need to pull on a stopper attached to the faucet like regular sink and faucet set-ups. Pop-ups are primarily for vessel sinks that don’t have overflows and usually have fancy faucets without lever or pull stops attached to them.

Here was our first attempt – which resulted in giant pop-up drains that were more appropriate for a tub, and the second attempt which looked a lot better.

Turns out the second attempt was wrong too. I ordered drains that didn’t have an overflow. At the time I didn’t know I needed to, but apparently they come two ways. For vessel sinks you don’t need an overflow. It’s just a vessel, if you leave the faucet on the sink overflows onto the floor and just like in the cartoons, comedic hilarity ensues as your house is flooded. The other kind of drain has a rectangle cut into it to accept the overflow water, which comes from sinks that have an overflow hole; that little hole below the faucet in the sink that you always wondered what it was for when you were a kid. We were wondering why water was pooling in our overflow holes. After three years we finally decided to ask the plumber when he was our installing something else. That’s when I learned about the rectangular overflow hole and the need to order the right part for the job.

So I ordered new drains for the master bathroom for the….fourth time technically. $16 apiece on Amazon.com. Which is cheaper than the $80 I spent last round on the Moen units. At least my mistakes are getting cheaper, right?

We’ll get the new ones installed tomorrow. And hopefully at least that one annoyance will be fixed. One less monkey on my back.

Below are images of the new drain, the exploded view of the faucet (I guess I could keep ordering replacement nylon rods for $3 apiece, and keep breaking them) and a diagram that came with the new chrome pop-up overflow drain assembly.

I’ll have a driveway update later this week as I wrap up my research. Until then, stay dry and well drained my readers.

-c

Country Lane

It’s 2am and I can’t sleep because I’m stressed out. I’m stressed out because I can’t seem to get ahead. I can’t get ahead because life keeps throwing bullshit obstacles at us. Nothing the average person would care about or hand out any sympathy for. After all, we’re very well off considering all the poverty, war and injustice there is in the world. But it’s my blog so I get to do the ranting. You get to decide if you want to do the reading.

I work four jobs (the wife works two) trying to make ends meet. Anytime we get close to seeing any light at the end of the tunnel, it always turns out to be another train barreling down the line. Do we stay or do we go? Getting tired of asking myself that question every day. At some point we get to relax right? This keeps up and I’ll be dead before I’m fifty.

I can remember the conversation we had when we first walked our land, where our house sits now. My wife referred to it as “happy friendly land“. What we saw was a quaint meadow and brush with a slight rise in the middle perfect for a home. All the plants, bugs, sunshine, water and wildlife…you just got a happy friendly vibe.

One of the primary things I told our architects when we were planning our impact on the land was that I wanted them to think about the entire experience of driving up to our home, all the way back to the street, across property we don’t own. Our driveway is over a quarter mile long. It’s all gravel, with rises, twists and turns. Driving along at 12-15 miles per hour, there’s a lot of time to decompress and transition from the hectic world “out there” to the meditative calm of where our home sits.

Ours is the last house; we share it with two other homes. As you come over a rise, and past the second house you get that sense of a country lane. You’re almost surprised it keeps going, it sort of beckons you to explore. Fifty feet further you start to see our home, in summer, earlier in winter because of leaves or rather the lack thereof, …our home emerges around a bend in the lane.

That’s the effect I wanted.

A country lane, subtly revealing a gem in the middle of nowhere. No one ever knows what’s “back here” unless they’re specifically coming to our home. I would argue it’s one of the most beautiful homes in the area; masterfully designed to fit its site, a sculpture nuanced to bring a sense of internal familiarity from all who see it. There is a scale about the structure…it looks both small and large at the same time. It’s a building that makes you think about your place in this world. Coming around that corner you get what you’ve been waiting for throughout that long drive up a country lane.

It’s an experience.

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First glimpse you get of the house in early spring. Look at the diagonals…the length and angle of the lines. The horizon, the drive, the main house…the colors…tan on the house, tan in the dried brush. The charcoal of the trees, and the main house body.

 

 

Maintenance on a gravel drive isn’t that bad. Over four years the worst we get are some pot holes. Last year we had an excavator come out and straighten things up in terms of improving water runoff and roughing up the pot holes. We were going to get a cinder driveway but he said the surface we had was fantastic, and just needed some grading. And regular “roughing up” would help too. This is something we’d never done before (or since).

For whatever reason our mild winter still resulted in some rough patches on the driveway. I was thinking for a grand per household we could get the drive fixed up again this spring. At the very least I was going to fix my portion of the drive, but the cost at $750 was more expensive than I had budgeted for what would have been a simple gravel drop.

Eventually the neighbors got in touch and their plan is to asphalt from the street to the second house. Cost would be $12,000 per each of the three households. I had to laugh a little inside as I heard the news on the phone today. I just can’t catch a break. With tax season requiring me to write a check the equivalent of a decent new car, here I have the potential for a driveway bill, conjured on a whim, that will cost me twelve large. With only one house, I have little to no power in this situation, the other two houses are related so they dictate everything basically – something we knew going into it, but you know…how can you deny happy friendly land when it speaks to you. We felt it was worth the risk. Fast forward five years and I lie awake at night stressed out about life…getting out of bed to write because it’s the only thing I can think of to detox my mental system.

It’s not only the money, but I have a real problem with the material, asphalt, as well. Ethically and aesthetically I just don’t think it’s an appropriate solution for our situation. I checked with my real estate agent, and yes, a hard surface would improve home values but she recommended cement not asphalt. Asphalt is cheap looking and higher maintenance than cement.

Personally I think it ruins that charm of living in the country, and destroys that country lane experience we get now. No more walks to the mailbox kicking stones, or listening to the gravel under foot or tire on a hot summer evening.

Environmentally, the type of asphalt likely to be installed would be impervious to water, creating a greater water runoff issue than is already present. Asphalt can also be salted in the winter which means that there will be salt runoff from our driveway into the ponds and creeks that surround our property. In the summertime asphalt retains heat and creates a hot spot that leads to higher air temperatures. Not to mention the chemicals in the actual material. I just think it’s nasty stuff that does nothing to enhance our quality of life. From my perspective, asphalt is just a typical knee jerk reaction to a problem. Everybody does it. It’s cheap. Why are you fighting it?

The whole thing really ruined what was supposed to be a good day, week and month.

So here I am stressed out, contemplating my options…moving, going bankrupt, offing myself…the dread of having to pay money I don’t have for a solution I don’t condone…losing sleep I desperately need.

Who knows what we’ll ultimately end up doing. But in the meantime I suppose I need to become an expert in pervious and porous driveway solutions which are basically the most environmentally and aesthetically pleasing options. These are in addition to the current gravel driveway option, which I think is perfectly fine if maintained properly.

I’ve started finding some really awesome options online, I just need to start figuring out the costs. If it were up to me, I’d research all of the options, assign a cost to each and then make the decision. My challenge is buying enough time to make this happen. As far as I can tell we’re dealing with one quote from a contractor who’s ready to start laying down black tar and stone, and neighbors who are fine with the cost and asphalt solution.

At the very least I don’t think it’s unreasonable to put it a decision off for a year. Try the gravel maintenance program idea.

Do I have time to do this? No. Why am I doing this? Because I have no other choice. I need to do everything I can to salvage the current experience that is “happy friendly land” (and maybe not go bankrupt in the process).

And I need to be able to sleep at night.

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Asphalt would end at the driveway on the left on continue towards the horizon. Foreground would stay gravel.

A few random links and images I found on the internet when I searched for “earth friendly driveways”. I’m not saying any of these will be cheaper, but I feel like I’d rather save up for one of these solutions than throw down my hard earned money this year on unaesthetic and environmentally damaging asphalt. I also feel like some of these solutions could even be installed by ourselves potentially saving money…the biggest challenge will be changing people’s mindsets. We’ve grown up in a cookie cutter suburban world where these types of common sense, nurturing solutions are foreign and scary to the average consumer.

NOTE: From the http://www.BuildLLC.com website, this interesting note on gravel…it’s impervious, so not as eco friendly as I was thinking.

It’s worth noting that gravel is considered an impervious surface by many jurisdictions and its inclusion on a project will count against the impervious surface calculations. From the King County website:

“Packed gravel prevents or impedes the entry of water into the soil as compared to natural conditions. Scientific studies show that once gravel is compacted (from cars or heavy equipment, for example), the gravel acts like paved surfaces and surface water runs off it in greater quantities than compared to natural conditions. In addition, if cars or heavy equipment are traveling on these gravel surfaces, pollution such as dissolved minerals or residual petroleum are washed off into our waterways.”

 

Permeable Paving – The Environmentally Friendly Driveway

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Image of a permeable paved drive from:  www.scgh.com

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Image from TerraForce.com

Permeable Surfaces 

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Image of open cell pavers from http://www.buildllc.com

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Image of porous asphalt from http://www.buildllc.com

A project to install 4×4 tracks that reduce erosion 

Core Driveway – permeable plastic honeycomb system that can be used with gravel

Article on porous driveways from The Chic Ecologist

Green Driveway articles from Franke James blog

Invisible Structures grass driveway sub-straight 

Some info on porous asphalt and porous pavers from BuildLLC.com:

Porous Asphalt:

“Think of it like Rice-Krispies treats with a higher compressive strength and not quite as tasty.

Effective permeability range: 16-25%
Compressive strength: up to 4,000 psi
Required thickness: 4″ – 8”
Technology: The deletion of fine aggregate allows for connected voids while the coarse aggregate is coated with enough cementitious paste to hold it all together
Application: Areas with light traffic, driveways, pedestrian walkways, bike paths
Cost: $3 – $10 per square foot (extremely dependent on size of job)
Other considerations: Typically requires additional layers of sub-base material or filter fabric”

Porous pavers:

Because the technology here is ceramic-based, these systems are typically proprietary. We like the Aroura Klorostone product for its clean aesthetic, simple color options and versatility.

Permeability: The Klorostone is capable of infiltrating up to 2 inches of stormwater per minute without relying on mortar gaps. The exact permeability is difficult to determine with these products because each company has its own protected recipe.
Compressive strength: 6,000 psi
Thickness: 2-3/8″
Technology: Each individual paving unit is porous (as opposed to interlocking concrete that relies on aggregate gaps for infiltration)
Application: Driveways, sidewalks, courtyards, patios
Cost: $7 – $10/sf delivered
Available colors: 4
Other considerations: The joints around paving units will provide an additional 5-15% of permeable area”