What's the Hold-Up?

Written By: Laura Ball

The bid is in, the initial check has cleared, and it is time for your backyard project to commence!

     Crew members start filing onto your property to start work on a blueprint that will soon be your own personal sanctuary. Materials and equipment start appearing like magic. A few days go by, and development doesn’t look to be progressing as fast as Home and Garden TV portrayed it. That planned family barbeque is coming up sooner than expected. You start to fret, “Why aren’t they finished yet?” “What happened?” “Why is mine taking longer than hoped?” “Why are we behind the estimated completion date?”

     Unfortunately, outdoor construction is not always a predictable field of work. Working side-by-side Mother Nature and other businesses that assist us in providing our services subjects us, and other companies alike, to many unforeseeable circumstances beyond our control. This is a discussion we try to have openly with our clients. Believe us when we say that we want your job completed on schedule, if not before. Being in the industry since 1996 has helped us understand that, as much as we want to, we cannot control every gear in the machine that is Garden Sanctuaries Landscaping & Design, LLC.

     We will like to share and give insight on some reasons why things might sometimes drag on beyond a desired time frame:



This one is any outdoor activity’s BIGGEST competitor. Landscape construction is extremely subject to weather conditions for many reasons –

1 .  We are required, by OSHA standards, to keep our employees safe. By fault, that thundercloud that ended up doing nothing all day, can be the compelling reason why we had to send our crews off a site. We must assume threatening clouds will send fire from the sky as well as several feet of flood waters. Just as a lifeguard requires kids and families to leave the premises when a thundercloud mumbles, we are required to err on the side of caution.

2. It rules the same when the temperatures are at an extreme. Hardscaping and landscaping are heavy labor. As temperatures creep upwards into the 90s, we advise our crews to take frequent breaks to cool off and hydrate. When it is very cold, the battle begins with preventing frostbite. If the temperatures reach extremes that result in safety hazards against humans being outside for extended periods of time, we will call our crews off a job for their safety.

3. Returning to the topic of rain: We would love to be able to continue work in the rain. The issue comes when preparation for hardscape features such as patios, walls, and/or fireplaces is halted per ICPI and NCMA standards. What throws most people is the understanding that when the sun comes back out, the ground is still considered saturated! We use specific compaction standards to assure hardscapes will not eventually fail or sink. This cannot be achieved when the ground is soaked, so we must wait until some evaporation has taken effect.

The industry standard is that for each day of rain, your project may be delayed for approximately three days. Doing so differently isn’t doing the work to industry specifications. Quality work takes time.

4. When preforming hardscape projects, Garden Sanctuaries Landscaping & Design, LLC. crews handle machinery on site to assure that designs are compacted, leveled, squared, and angled correctly. Through time we have concluded that:

Electronics + H20 = (Expensive machinery that needs to be replaced)

     The spring and summer of 2018 were extremely frustrating for the entire outdoor construction industry. We received an uncanny amount of precipitation that broke records. It seemed as if the rain would never stop. Consequently, everybody’s projects were put on hold, and none of us received paychecks. When we attempt to explain that the weather is affecting completion dates, there are justified reasons behind this that concerns the quality of our work. If we could control the weather, we would. Alas, we are all at its mercy.  


     With all the safety and maintenance precautions in place, our equipment still goes through moments of ‘out-of-order’. Issues arise with snapped plate compactor pull cords, block saw repairs, debris clogging machinery engines, or even broken shovel/rake/pick/etc. handles. We try to minimize these incidents, but often they occur at the most inconvenient times—and it takes a moment to get the gears grinding again when the unexpected happens.


     As a business that depends on other businesses to contribute in running a tight ship, there are times when we are at the mercy of someone else’s bad day. Sometimes, a block delivery gets called in and information gets relayed incorrectly resulting in an order to be shipped to the wrong address (imagine the surprise of the receiver). At times we have even received the wrong order, or a delivery truck breaks down on the side of the highway. All which end up delaying the shipment by a day or two.


Our employees are the gems of our company. To us, they are like family, and we treat them as such. Without them, nothing runs.

     We have a zero tolerance policy for ‘no call-no show’ employees. That being said, it is not reasonable to ask an employee to do heavy construction when sick, injured, or experiencing an unexpected family emergency. As we increase in business, we try to equally increase in employees, but the system does not always work perfectly.

     Then there is the topic of ‘new’ vs ‘experienced’ employees – Newer employees are still learning the ropes and don’t yet have the practice to work as fast or efficiently as their experienced site supervisors. We prefer that the job be done right, even if it takes a little more time to get there.


     It doesn’t happen every time, but every so often a client decides to include an addition to a project that wasn’t originally discussed at the signing of the contract. Even as materials are being laid, a client may not anticipate it to look a way it does and resultingly decide to request an alteration. When requests are made in the middle of a project, completion dates are inclined to extend—especially if new deliveries and exchanges need to be made.

(When a change order is particularly large, an entirely new contract must be written up. If this happens, projects go back into rotation to be restarted after other signed clients waiting in line have been served.)

HOA ISSUES (mid-job halt, neighbor complaint)

     Ah, HOAs – They are both the best and worst thing to ever happen to home ownership. Properties under HOA management often mandatorily go through a lengthy project approval process. Even after a job is approved, it is incumbent on the HOA to assure the project is staying within agreed specifications. Occasionally, there is a misunderstanding or miscommunication that occurs in this, and a project will be halted by an HOA for re-examination. The timeline on these processes depend on the HOA itself and places the finishing of a design at a standstill till further notice with little to be done to push it forward.


To keep it relatively brief, we encounter “acts of God” on occasion that nobody can possibly anticipate.

     Something that happens more often than we’d like is Miss Utility will forget to mark a FIOS or cable line, and an employee will find it the hard way—resulting in lost time and understandably frustrated clients. Cable fractures are a very common occurrence in our industry, unfortunately. We always make sure to get this fixed as quickly as possible, but, even when it is marked, there is a 2’ range from the marking in which the cable might lay. Please be patient while we negotiate the unpredictable nature of the soil in which we must dig. And, please forgive the unfortunate employee that accidentally severs a cable line.

     On other occasions, enormous rocks have been found in the soil that require large machinery to remove. Irrigation lines are never marked, so, while we do the best we can to anticipate where these are, it is impossible to avoid them every time. There have additionally been times we have come across strange, buried items that require further examination by county engineers. Have you ever seen an old septic tank or unmarked mine shaft? They make for an interesting story and a sight to see, but not a hasty finish time.

***Thank you for understanding that we do the best we can when it comes to time-predicting a project and we apologize ahead of time for altered start and completed project dates. We are adapting to these conflicts to the best of our ability and if there are any questions or concerns our office is available for calls at (804) 690-5516. Our office is closed on weekends and after 4:30pm on weekdays. Occasionally we are out of the office and will respond to voicemails as soon as possible.***