Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Project: Water-wise Landscaping

My husband and I bought our first home in January. It is a bi-level home in on of the higher areas of the city. Despite this, we found water seeping into our basement this year as the water started to melt.

It was frustrating, to say the least. Not only had the previous owners signed a form saying that there were no known water problems, but we had also had a home inspector in, who found no sign of such problems.

We brought the home inspector back in, and he claimed that our issues were "due to the ground being too frozen for the quick melt to get to the weeping tile" and that it wouldn't be a problem once the ground thawed. We were disappointed, as we live in Canada after all, frozen ground isn't exactly a rare occurrence.

Imagine our surprise later in the spring when the ground had most certainly melted, but upon a heavy rainfall we began to see water seeping into the basement again! (This was the first of several times through the spring that this occurred).

Back came the home inspector with his new fancy moisture detection tool - he decided that the water was most definitely coming in through the corner, and that there wasn't a crack in the foundation, it was just seeping in because there was too much moisture in that area. We were no longer convinced.

After seeking guidance from some family members, we decided that we needed to find the crack in the foundation (that we were sure was there at this point), and seal it. In addition, we needed to fix the grading in our yard so that water would no longer collect alongside the foundation.

As you can (sort of) see in this picture, the previous owners had a flower bed along the south side of the house. What you can't see is that the flower bed is at least 2" lower than the rest of the lawn, and that much of the lawn slopes toward it. In addition, the lawn also slopes towards the front corner of the house, where the water cannot escape due to a raised driveway.

Over the course of a weekend, Gilles, his parents and I were able to find the crack in the foundation, determine (luckily) that there was no damage or mold inside the wall, seal the crack, and build up the dirt along that wall. We also removed all of my plants from the flower beds in front of the house, filled them with clay, and graded them so that water would run away from the house. This was step 1.

Step 2: Our beautiful birch tree in front of the house was unfortunately, dying. We had a treeing company come in and remove the tree, as it had only a year left.

Step 3: Kill the lawn, front and back. We then treated the front and back lawns with RoundUp, so that they would break away easier as we graded them, and wouldn't come away in such large clumps.

Step 4: Bring in the heavy machinery. It would have taken far too long to grade the entire yard by hand, so instead we hired someone to come in with a Bobcat and regrade the front lawn for us.

Step 5: After this, we attempted to get someone in to install sprinklers, but were informed that no one (we tried 20 companies) would be available until next year.

This concluded the grading portion of the project. After this we moved into creating a raised flower bed for the front yard, optimizing the soil and grade, and seeding grass. More posts to come on these subjects.