Leveling Up – Backyard Additions

By sethmsparks

This post was written on July 29, but went unpublished as I’d hoped that it could be edited in favor of our situation. It has not, so the original post is being published, along with a more recent update.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Hampton. Our new dog, as of May 2016.


Yes, he’s adorable, and fluffy, and a living creature that needs access to the outdoors, for.. well, his business. Naturally, that meant that we needed a fence to contain the little guy. We’d always talked down putting in a fence, but since 2 of 3 sides of our yard was already enclosed by neighbors fences, we decided it would be for the best to finish off the enclosure.

What we had forgotten to consider, was that if we were putting a fence in, we needed to move quickly on installing a concrete patio. It was something that we’d both wanted to put in eventually, but getting a fence for a dog would now speed that up. The space outside our walkout basement is ideal for hosting and lounging in the evenings. But as far as new construction goes, we didn’t have a lot to work with in it’s original state.

So, we reached out a few local contractors around Ankeny and Central Iowa to get bids for 396 sq ft of concrete patio, laid out in the design below:












The  bids varied, with the minimum being $3,500 (Fox Concrete) and the highest being $7,500 (Tom’s Concrete). We’re incredibly frugal, and after having read many positive reviews on our communities Facebook group about Fox Concrete being really reliable, we pulled the trigger.

The project started out as you’d expect, with Fox very roughly marking the layout of the patio.


We also did some quick landscaping prior to the work as well, since Fox said they would move the rock wherever we wanted. Bonus points for them.


On June 9 we left town on vacation and they began the work. By the end of the day 2, they had everything poured, and it looked really good based on the pictures. There was a lot of debris left at that point, but they had to come back to clean up so we weren’t worried.


On June 21 we returned home from vacation, and were excited to check out our new outdoor living space. We were so excited, and at first it looked great. But as we inspected more closely, we were alarmed at the volume and composition of the remaining debris (concrete bits, wood, nails, rebar chunks, dirt, and rock). It was heaped around the patio and left for us to clean up. Not cool. (And you might notice the cracks in the cement there too, which I’ll get to in a second.)


The mess of course prompted a call to Fox Concrete, and after a bit of complaining and the sending of photos, they were nice enough to come check it out. They hauled away THREE garbage bags of junk that was left from the original work and, honestly, could have taken another couple. But hey, they came back and cleaned up, so I was happy.

But that left us with the biggest problem of our brand new patio: hairline cracks across much of the concrete’s surface. At this point, we were both upset and worried that something was wrong. Was it still structurally sound? Would the cracks get worse over time, after rain or over winter with ice expansion? Even if we went with the cheapest option, even if the problem was purely cosmetic, it was incredibly frustrating to know that our $3,500 project had landed us a patio that we were embarrassed to show off.


This of course led to another call to Fox Concrete, who assured me at that point that they would come back out and remedy the “cosmetic flaws” with a concrete overlay. Our first assurance of a fix was during our conversation on on June 23, and on July 1 Fox provided a picture of this overlay as a recommendation (which is probably the cheapest and easiest option, which I said I was fine with).


I’m hopeful that they return to finish up the job, so that I can call this project complete, but as of now, July 29, I’ve not heard any confirmed day, week, or month that they plan to come back. I’m sitting tight, and hoping for the best out of the little contractor that could, but I’ll be honest, it seems like we’re getting strung along by Fox, which is sad since I live two blocks away from the owners house.


** Update – August 1, 2016 – We’ve been told that the work is scheduled to be completed at the end of the month. 



** Update – August 31, 2016: End of the month, with no word. Follow-up eluded to calling us on Friday September 2 to schedule completion.



** Update – Monday, September 19, 2016: Another follow-up, and blown off again. Now stretching the delivery window to sometime within 1 year “for warranty work”. It was, albeit, the nicest let down I’ve had from a contractor.


** Update – Wednesday, September 21, 2016: Two days later and nothing…


** Update – October 8: Still nothing from Fox, and I haven’t sent any more reminders.

Ok, so here’s a Spring ’17 update. 


March 31 – Texted Brant to ask about the fix. Response was that once it dried up and warmed up they’d be out.

May 12 – I followed up again. Brant responded that they would be back the first week of June.

June 13 – Another follow up. Reply was that “once a crew opens up” they’d be over.

June 19 – Brant texted me a request for my address.

June 20 – Crew showed up for work, and rather than being able to do an overlay (as he’d said last fall) they were going to have to rip out the cracked patio and install new in 3 of the six sections. He said they would return later to use a tint-able seal to make the concrete match old to new.


Here’s how the concrete replacement went:

Now, I’ll give them credit. The new slab looks a ton better than the old one. The guys that did the work did great work. I’m writing this on Aug 21, and two months later the new replaced portion has held up as expected.

July 25 – Inquired about the staining to match the grays.


August 21 – But as you may have expected since I’m writing this, we’re STILL not completely done. That bit about coming back to stain to match the old and new, still hasn’t happened. As you tell from the picture above of the dry patio, there’s some ugliness from with work. but when it rains like it has much of today, it looks like this:



So, we’re closer. But in a different predicament now waiting on another fix. But at least the patio should be stable right? 🙂 At this point, I’m not sure if they’d even be able to stain the patio without damaging the landscaping.

I guess we’ll find out if they ever call me back…