We hired Ampac after receiving a ridiculously competitive quote for a very large retaining wall in our backyard. We were told that they would be able to complete it in a day and could come in a week. We were excited by the idea of such a quick turn around but, also very sceptical because we were told by other landscapers that this would take 1-2 weeks weather permitting and they couldn't book us in until spring. We jumped at the prospect of having a huge chunk of the backyard re-landscaping done before winter so we would be ready to plant in the spring. We wanted a simple, tiered wall with steps up the middle. We didn't want anything fancy, just something strong enough to hold back the large slope from our back neighbours and somewhere we could add some perennial bushes and maintenance free plants to add foliage. Drainage was an issue which we made absolutely clear was the driving force behind this landscaping. We are at the bottom of a sizeable slope and re-grading and ensuring run-off was properly dealt with was a must. We were told we would get large armour stone, grey to match our house and that these stones would be more than enough to hold back the ground behind it. To save money, we indicated we would do the planting and re-sodding ourselves, we just needed it to be ready to go once it got warm.
They arrived with a very large crew and lots of equipment so we were a little more at ease with the timeline they quoted. At the end of the day (this was late November) it was completed and they were hightailing it out of there. It was already dark and snow was starting to fall so it was difficult to assess the job but, it looked like a retaining wall of sorts however, my stomach started to sink because it was not at all what I had envisioned, nor did it fit the description I had given to their salesman. I mentioned this and he told me that if there were any issues they would come back in the spring and fix whatever wasn't right. It started to snow that night and the wall sat covered in snow all winter until spring.
Once the snow melted it was pretty apparent that this was a disaster. The backyard was in a complete shambles. There were large pools of water which birds and ducks decided was something of a pond. The rocks had shifted greatly over the winter due to the fact that they were placed directly on the ground and not on top of any sort of compacted gravel base. There were enormous gaps between the large armour stones that were unsightly and dangerous. Our 50lb dog managed to tip one up in the air when she jumped onto it and I thought it was going to fall to the ground. They back-filled with the dirt they had dug out from the hill rendering the landscape felt completely redundant so, it was completely riddled with weeds and grass. The landscape felt they used was low quality and sticking out in a number of places and draped haphazardly over some of the stones. Some stones were placed so precariously it was dangerous to even walk along what should have been a solid wall. The backyard wasn't graded as we had anticipated and they actually made our water pooling and drainage issues worse. The O Pipe that was supposed to address drainage from our back neighbour hadn't even been buried in most places and was just laying there on the ground. Looking at it in the spring, I didn't even have a clue as to where I would start to try to make it look decent. We were absolutely devastated. Look at the photos to see what I mean.
We called right away to express our concerns and disappointment but it took months to get Giles or Mike to even come and look at it. Giles came one day. I mentioned that I couldn't do anything with the grading the way it was and some of the stones were dangerously tippy. A month later 1 guy came, shoved some broken off pieces of stone under the tippy stones to level them and left. I continued to leave messages constantly with a promise that they would be by but, they never came. I worked from home so timing wasn't an issue. Finally, in mid June Mike came by to take a look. He tried to proclaim that there was nothing wrong with it, that maybe if I "weeded a little" it would look decent. I was flabbergasted and suggested that perhaps he would like to showcase their handy work on the front page of their website. At that, we negotiated a refund which was only a fraction of what was paid and frankly, given how shady this company seemed, I felt lucky to get it. We ended up hiring another company who did a fantastic job fixing this mess. It ended up costing us more money to haul off the mismatched and damaged stones they used that couldn't be salvaged in the re-build of the wall than the refund we received. To top it all off, they damaged a chunk of my driveway and didn't even offer to repair it, which was shocking given that is their supposed speciality. I still haven't fixed the driveway and every time I leave my house, it serves as a reminder on why cheap is usually a bad choice when it comes to renovations.
My advice to anyone considering this company for an upcoming job; shop around. We went with them because we were anxious to have it done before winter so we could start the soft-scaping in the spring. All we needed was a solid retaining wall as a foundation and to have our grading and drainage issues addressed. Their price seemed to good to be true and it clearly was. They over promised and under delivered. In hindsight it is apparent that they were hoping to get in one more job to pad their revenue for the current year and use up some shoddy left overs from other jobs so it wouldn't be laying around their yard. They had no intention of making sure what they did was what we wanted. They literally slapped in some stones and drove away. When I pointed out I had asked for steps so accessing the garden area would be easier they dropped a medium sized stone in the middle of one of the tiers and pretended like that was good enough and tried to make me feel silly for even wanting steps. In the pictures I've included, you can see the condition they left the yard in and insisted they had done what we asked, you can see the mismatched and irregular sized stones. You can see that they didn't lay down a speck of gravel to ensure the stones didn't shift (which they did, greatly, over just one winter). You can see the absolutely disregard for any aesthetic appeal. It was a rush job and it shows and it caused me a lot of headache, heartache stress and money. We had to wait 6 months for them to come by just so we could determine if they would actually fix it or not and then we lived in a mud bath for almost the entire summer until someone else could come and fix it. We had to spend even more money to have it done a second time. Every landscaper we had quote the repair was absolutely shocked and frankly, embarrassed for us that someone calling themselves professionals could install something so unsightly and something so poorly executed with little to no regard for even basic technical aptitude. We were also grateful our neighbours were so patient and understanding with the veritable river of water and mud flowing between our houses for almost 9 months.
Like a lot of people, we have worked very hard over the years to upgrade and renovate our home, doing the majority of the work ourselves. When we decide to spend our money on hiring a trade its because the work is beyond our expertise, skills or resources. You take a big risk hiring a company and giving them such large amounts of money to do work that has a large impact on the functionality and . It's money you won't get back should the whole thing go south so choose wisely. Don't just rely on websites like this to give you an idea of the quality of a company's work and reliability. Get lots of quotes and ultimately go with your gut and listen to that little voice in your head. Don't let price alone guide your decision because, that age old saying 'you get what you pay for' really rings true when it comes to home renovations. Anyone other than a trusted friend or family member offering to do a job for thousands less than a respected professional should be ruled out right away. We were duped and it felt bad, it felt real bad.
In fairness, this happened a few years ago. I didn't research them at the time but took the recommendation of an acquaintance. They had a number of unfavourable reviews on a number of sites when I looked into them further after they 'completed' their work for us. I hadn't bothered to post a review at the time because in all honesty, I just couldn't revisit it and wanted to move on. I came across the pictures that I had taken of the aftermath at random on my computer today and it made my blood boil all over so I decided to look them up and see if they were still in the business of horrible service. I was shocked to see such glowing reviews, so perhaps they have learned a thing or two and have hired some decent trades people that know how to actually landscape. Maybe I was just unlucky, maybe I was naive but, looking back on these pictures and recalling the experience I felt compelled to share this to warn others that good reviews aren't the whole picture. Don't be afraid to ask around. Go and see work they have done, talk to the homeowner and ask what they liked and didn't like about their experience. If at all possible, be onsite the day the work is being done and question every step. I had confidence they knew what they were doing and that at the end of the day it would look how I imagined. I'm not a landscaper so standing over them and questioning everything they were doing seemed silly, it doesn't seem silly to me now.