Eco Home Solutions for Your Yard
Homeowners today often consider exterior spaces as another room of their home. To meet this growing trend, professional designers, builders and remodelers have applied their talents to implement creative designs that integrate attractive, durable solutions to a homes’ exterior. In general, the goal is to create beautiful spaces that enhance outdoor enjoyment while meeting durability needs and requirements with minimum maintenance. The goal is achieved with thoughtful design, coupled with quality workmanship and materials.
A homes exterior includes everything from the foundation, siding, roofing and gutters to decks, porches, patios, gazebos, pergolas, trellis, retaining walls, water features, landscaping, outdoor fireplaces, pools and spas, drainage and fencing. Exterior lighting, garden benches & accessories fit the category as well.
This article will describe one home’s exterior challenges and the solutions, which were designed and installed to remedy the conditions. The homes’ rear yard had water drainage problems, an insufficient walkway, overgrown shrubs, disintegrating front brick step and steps from rear yard to detached garage, garage foundation wall water leakage, no space to put trash and recyclable container bins and several other deferred maintenance type conditions. The rear yard sloped from right to leave. Water runoff from the gutters and yard caused a muddy bog at the walkway to the garage and silt run off deposited onto the neighbors nicely landscaped rear patio and garden. The fence was falling down and rotted in several locations.
Drainage related water problems are a major cause of leaky basements, erosion under concrete steps, stoops and sidewalks, insect infestations and can even lead to mold related problems. There are building code requirements that apply to site water management, run off and the durability and waterproofing of foundations but there is very limited enforcement of many of these best practices for most residential additions and remodeling projects.
My firm completed a rear addition on the home this past winter and as is our standard practice we make sure the grading is correct and everything is been put back as best as possible. (Walkway, pavers, etc.) We had observed the poor drainage of this yard during the construction process and recommended new side and rear yard walkways with a French drain system constructed underneath. The French drain allowed for downspout water and excess surface water to be piped to the rear property line. A catch basin with surface drain piped to daylight was added to collect water when there is a torrential rain (which occurs more and more frequently) or in the event the French drain is clogged or overwhelmed. This was installed at the low point of the yard to ensure that run off onto the neighbor yard was kept to a minimum.
The catch basin drain is under the large stones, which protect it from being blocked by yard debris. The new drain was tested during the heavy rains of spring 2014 and performed as designed!
The French drain utilizes solid 4” PVC pipes with perforations on half of the circumference. It is embedded in gravel and wrapped in filter fabric to prevent clogging. It is sloped to drain. Corrugated black PVC drainpipe is not recommended for this purpose.
This picture shows the finished walkway from rear deck to detached garage with the catch basin at the end..
The new trash storage pad tucks neatly to the side of the garage. Custom brick steps and gate were designed and constructed which created the space to store the trash bins securely and inconspicuously. Reclaiming the side yard freed up enough space for the owner to use the garage for a vehicle. A car changing circuit was installed to provide the infrastructure for an electric vehicle.
New brick steps replaced the failing wall and allow for access to the alley.
The brick steps were deteriorating from erosion due to the poor drainage conditions (top left picture) and were completely rebuilt. The walls were raised, allowing for a narrow dry well along the garage foundation to remove earth from laying on it and eliminating the cause of the leaking foundation walls.
The front step was falling apart due to erosion from a downspout that discharged roof run off right next to the step. It was also unsafe due to the irregular heights of the step risers.
The downspout was connected to a solid 4” PVC drain pipe which discharges to a yard “bubbler” towards the front yard, approximately 12’ away from the house. The new brick and slate step provides an attractive, safe and solid entry to the home, which will last for many years. A new handrail completed the upgrade.
Before – View of Garage from rear deck
After – View of Garage from New Second Floor. The garage roof and siding were replaced to match the home addition. A new fiberglass door was also installed.
The new side walkway and planting beds are pleasant and inviting and allow for easy access from the front. A drip irrigation system with water sensors ensures efficient watering and ease of maintenance.
Downspouts are piped under the walkway to daylight at the rear.
The rear yard transformation provides a peaceful garden in the middle of the city, designed and built for maximum enjoyment, durability and functionality, as well as minimum maintenance.
Who said you couldn’t have it all?
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