In March of 2014, we hired Classic Nursery to help us create a functional and enjoyable outdoor space, as our home is situated on a very small lot in Seattle. Our lot dictated the use of retaining walls and we also desired to bump out a sloped front yard in order to increase our usable space. We decided to hire Mr. Burke based on reviews that we found on multiple websites, and our personal meetings and multiple e-mail communications with him. We were impressed by his high level of customer service and his prompt attention to our multiple e-mails with many questions. He was very personable, likable and was enjoyable to work with. However, towards the end of the project and throughout the course of this past year in dealing with all of the multiple problems, our opinion changed drastically.
It was apparent to us during the course of our project that there was serious communication breakdown between the project manager (Mr. Burke) and his crew. We felt that there was a lack of quality control. We discovered that his crew was extremely inexperienced, unqualified, and from our standpoint, improperly supervised. Mr. Burke's design ideas were not drawn on paper for him to share with his crew. But rather, he communicated his ideas to his crew by using spray paint on the ground as to the location of the walls, paths and beds. It was an extremely frustrating experience and we are highly disappointed in this company.
The major problems we encountered while working with Classic were the lack of a complete and properly installed drainage system, the incorrect type of paver sand on our newly installed patio resulting in an extremely messy and dirty patio surface, improperly amended garden beds, using dirty soil to create garden beds (which the bid called for the disposal of this dirt), damaging and severing a low voltage lighting wire and hiding it from us, and building the largest retaining wall and then needing to rebuild it due to it being built incorrectly. There were many other problems that we encountered with this company, but due to space limitations, we are unable to expand upon them.
After we did the final walk through with Mr. Burke, we dug down and found there was no drainage tubing connecting the drainage tubing in the back retaining walls to the front walls. We then discovered the black perforated tubing in the back retaining wall was buried 2 feet down with drainage rock and gravel packed in one of the openings that was supposed to be above ground for clean out access. We immediately brought this to the attention of Mr. Burke. He attended to the matter right away. The crew had to dig up our beautiful flagstone pathway on one of the heaviest rain days of the year. As a result, we have had significant soil compaction problems where the soil was concrete-like throughout the path and front yard, increased drainage problems with our newly sodded lawn (needing to be replaced in the Fall of 2014 AND reseeded and aerated in Spring of 2015), and a drainage system that needed to be corrected 4 times over the course of a year, before it was finally done correctly. We felt that Mr. Burke and his crew covered up this blatant omission of a complete and proper drainage system.
Yes, the “excellent” customer service was there and all problems were attended to within a reasonable time frame. Compensations were offered and we did take advantage of several. But each time Classic came out to “make things better” with either freshly spread mulch or re-amending the soil, things became worse and another big problem cropped up. Uneven beds with berms created on top of existing shrub root zones, sub earth dirt on the topsoil layer with so much debris and rocks in the soil that we had to remove a lot of the dirt and debris in order to start our garden with healthy soil (it’s still not healthy and will take years to correct). The soil still becomes extremely compact with rain, something it didn't do prior to the project start. Every time we attempt to plant, we dig down ever so slightly and there is drainage rock and gravel in most of the beds. Our yard was dug up multiple times and the drainage rock that should have been 18 inches to 24 inches in the earth is now only 3-4 inches down. It is not easy planting anything and we have to plant all of our edible landscape in containers. Water saturates our lawn and pools on the grass after watering it or when our daughter wants to run through the sprinkler. During one of their attempts at re-amending the soil, one of their laborers cut the low voltage lighting wire, tied the ends in a knot and buried it in the soil. We understand that mistakes happen during construction, but to intentionally cover up a mistake is not OK. It is dishonest. No mention of this to his foreman, project manager, or us, the client. Mr. Burke made a comment during this discovery of multiple problems that we, the client, were “over-reacting”. This spring, we attempted to clean out the drainage system and found that water was pooling at the very end of the system, saturating our grass and surrounding soil. We dug down and found that the drainage tubing Classic installed was not connected properly. Again, Mr. Burke attended to this matter promptly and sent out a new worker and the same routine ensued: multiple compensations were offered. We took a chance and decided to only take advantage of 2 (a load of mulch and some play chips for our backyard). We regret now taking advantage of this offer. They dug out and moved 5/8 minus gravel from the non-patio part of our backyard. A lot of the gravel was left behind and the laborer mixed that gravel with the pre-existing soil in the beds. The beds were severely compacted with gravel, not much soil in the beds, and incapable of receiving plant life. It was like digging into concrete when we began to correct the problem. We have removed all of the gravel and are replacing the area with new topsoil.
Offering a client multiple “comps” does not fix a problem. Doing the project correctly prevents problems and compensations should not need to be offered. Doing it right the first time is something that definitely did not happen with our project. We paid $40,000 for this project and expected better quality. It appears that all of the Classic crews are not created equally. We hired a contractor so that we didn’t have to do a lot of the labor ourselves, as we have a small child. We haven’t been able to enjoy our space fully yet, a year later, because we have been preparing and properly amending the compacted rocky soil ourselves.
We write this review not as disgruntled customers, but as honest consumers who wish to share our experience with this company. The project was very stressful to live through with all of the problems we encountered as a result of inexperienced and dishonest crew members. Although this project was a major disappointment, not once did we become verbally angry with Mr. Burke and his crew. Instead, the constant and continuous buffoonery of Mr. Burke and his staff became almost comical. So we write this review to respectfully provide a warning to the kind reader and to look past the “excellent” customer service and the superficial front of Mr. Burke. If the kind reader still chooses to hire Mr. Burke and Classic Nursery as their landscaping contractor, even after reading this review, please investigate as to what lies beneath your beautiful outdoor space during the process. It may not be what you are expecting.