looking for landscaping ideas edging / raised bed with pic

nbreauMarch 4, 2009

Hi all,

We are landscaping our home in the spring and i'm looking for ideas for the front of the home.

picture can be found here

My biggest concern is what to do along the front of the house. I'm thinking maybe 3 rectangular raised beds, one along each of the 2 walls with the window and one along the front porch (from garage to the stairs that are on the left side not yet built in the pic) about as high as the cement foundation wall. If I do go with the raised beds however stone/brick is more than i think i want to spend for that much wall. Maybe some kind of timber wall but i'm not sure it would look very good... Any ideas ?

Any other landscaping/design suggestions and ideas would be much appreciated.

looking forward to your input !


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Is this a walk-out basement house?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 11:48AM
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    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 12:13PM
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With the exception of split level homes, all walk-outs have one thing in common; a vertical transition of about 9ft from the front entry to the rear door. Thus the grade as it follows the house perimeter must drop 9ft. This is accomplished by vertical drops at walls or across earthen slopes. The sum of these grade elements must add up to 9ft.

Often homeowners ignore this fact in the grading to optimize the front look. Coupled with grading at the rear that optimizes the back use, the overall necessary grade drop gets pushed into the area at the side of the house. Without an expensive 9ft retaining wall at the side, the result is a earthen slope that is too steep, often a 3 to 1 grade. Such slopes are almost impossible to mow if in lawn and erosion is a problem with any other treatment.

The way to avoid this pitfall is to plan the entire grading before any of the landscape construction is done. Planning will get you the best compromise of looks, usability, and cost. Tunnel vision will get you a landscape you will come to hate. And after the first landscape is complete, the fix will be very expensive.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 12:42PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

Wow, good catch, pls. Good thing the photo went as far to the side as it did. I'm pretty sure that you have some thoughts about what the grading should be... hope you'll share them.

The message I get so far is that raised beds are about the last thing you should do, and that is the main thing that struck me off the bat as I looked at your photo. Raised beds should be raised for a reason, and I perceive no real reason to elevate your foundation plantings.

What also strikes me is that, in thinking about "landscaping" you've pretty much thought only about foundation planting. I don't see that as the only kind of landscaping that would look good here, nor am I even sure I see a need for foundation planting at all. The house is nicely grounded, and the foundation, being new, is not ugly. If you do some nice plantings out further on the lot, probably along topographical lines as the grade drops as you sweep around the sides, you might get enough concealment, even if you regrade to a lower level at that front corner.

Maybe you could eventually put stone facing on the concrete if too much of it shows.


    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 4:35PM
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thanks for the responses !

Sorry if I sound like an idiot, but can you you guys elaborate a little more on the slopping/grade from front to back ? Not that you guys didn't elaborate well, I'm just not sure I fully understand, or what it is I need to look out for. Both houses on either side are fully landscaped and have the same front to back grading/layout, so I figured I'd just spread x inches of topsoil needed and then lay sod overtop, so maybe i'm over simplifying ?

I don't know exactly how much topsoil I will be using before laying the sod (maybe you guys can suggest how much as well) but I'm anticipating some of it will be covering the visible portion of the foundation.

thanks again for your input, it is hugely appreciated.


    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 5:16PM
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I'm also posting another slightly more front on pic with the front porch more finished, this also gives a better idea of the size of the front yard.

as always, any input and suggestions/reccomendations/ideas are more than welcome

pic here

    Bookmark   March 4, 2009 at 5:31PM
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What part of the country are you in? Before doing any extensive landscaping, I would put in all the hardscapes I intended to do before planting, walkway, driveway, etc.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 9:01AM
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We're on the east coast of Canada (New Brunswick)

    Bookmark   March 5, 2009 at 9:09AM
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Grading for a walkout is more complicated than most other landscapes. Not all designers have the experience to do a good job on them.

Should you choose to do the design yourself, or perhaps want to evaluate what your designer has planned, I have some suggestions. Be warned, it's a lot of work. Scaled drawings will be needed; a plan view of the entire property and vertical views of both routes of the front to back perimeter.

There are some discussions of plan view drawings on this forum, so I will skip for now to the vertical views. The graphic below is one suitable for grade planning. Note that the scale is exaggerated with one small square representing 4 ft of horizontal distance, but only 2 ft of vertical distance.

Without detailed measurements, the graphic is only an approximation of what Nick may really have. Of the 9 to 9.5 ft vertical transition common to this house type, Nick has about a 2ft drop from the front entry to grade leaving about 7 to 7.5 feet to get to the back grade.

My guess of the current grading is shown by the irregular brown line which is probably around a 22 to 28% slope. Several treatments are shown with other colored lines.

Where the house foundation wraps around the back and fill can be place against it, the cheapest solution is that shown in green. The result is an easy to mow lawn and beds not subject to erosion. The side slope across the front of the house is more difficult to make look good and more surface drainage is diverted to the back.

Another solution shown in blue uses two short walls to reduce the slope. Short walls can be a DIY project and the grade in front is held to a minimum slope.

The purple line is a constant grade from entry to back house corner; cheap but steeper.

The red line is one of many big ticket wall treatments possible. This can result in a great looking landscape that produces the largest amount of high use flat property.

As the perimeter treatment is evaluated, it is compared with plan view to establish the the final grading and drainage.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2009 at 10:01AM
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westcoastgardener(8 SunshineCoast B.C.)

greetings nbreau from Canada's other coast! Your house looks beautiful and you'll have a great time working from what is essentially a blank canvas.

I hope you re-think the shape of the beds you decide on installing. You'd mentioned rectangular-shaped beds along walls - curved lines for borders around the outside walls of a house are so much more pleasing to the eye and soften existing perpendicular lines.

I'm not sure what zone you're in - our Canadian Explorer roses were hybridized to withstand very cold winters and might be worth consideration for a plant choice. I hope you keep us up to speed with some photos as you progress.


Here is a link that might be useful: Explorer Roses

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 3:00PM
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There is a few ideas on this site..

Here is a link that might be useful: A few ideas.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 6:36PM
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A 9' difference in grade change on a walkout is not typical here in the northeast. A 9' difference etween first floor and slab is, but the grade is typically 6'-7' based on the typical foundation and framing up here. We usually have about a foot of wood between the top of foundation and floor. Our foundations are typically poured at about 7'9" using 8' forms (a 4" slab floor is typically poured over the footing making the interior basement concrete wall about 7'5"). Code requires a minimum or 8" between the grade and wood which puts the floor a minimum of 20" inches above grade out front, but most have a little more foundation exposed. The grade at walkouts are typically only an inch or two below the slab as there is no wood box framing below the floor.

I just thought that it should be pointed out that 9' of grade change may not be typical in some areas of the country.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 7:20AM
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The 9 ft is there. It's always there. The drop from entry elevation to grade in front is a part of the 9 ft. One should keep his eye on the 9ft because the drop from entry to grade is a design element in itself, worthy of consideration.

In the graphic above I show two different street curbs relative to the house floor level labeled A and B. With a curb level at A, a minimum drop at the entry can result in front yard surface water flowing to the street. This vastly reduces the volume of water that must flow through the side yard, which can be a significant problem for narrow side yards.

With a curb level at B, there is no possibility of drainage to the street. Since all the water may have to flow through the side yard, it can be advantageous to have a greater drop at the entry resulting in a more moderate slope in the side yard, reducing the potential for erosion there. For this type grading I like a hardscape extension near entry elevation with a walk as shown in blue, to avoid a down then up approach to the house.

To see the big picture, keep your eye on the 9ft. The best time to work all this out is before the house elevation is set. It's not uncommon to see surface drainage problems that would have been much less if the house had only been built 6 inches higher.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 9:23AM
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You said "Thus the grade as it follows the house perimeter must drop 9ft" in your initial post. I see by looking further down that you meant to say elevation rather than grade.

I just filed a revised plan that someone else in the office had initially graded. I could have used your graphic to give him an understanding of why his grading needed some alteration. Some of the problem was that the front yard was going to be too flat in his initial plan. The bigger problem was that in the back there was a steep slope that continued to a pond. By having the house low it did have runoff going around the back and ultimately to the pond as you say. But it also created the need for a deeper cut in the back to accommodate the door. The result would have created a dip in front of the door that would collect water or having to grade out into the 50' buffer to the pond. By lifting the house and moving it toward the road 5' (still 58' from the road) it solved both problems.

Poorly designed walkout basements and poorly planned side entry garages are my pet peaves that real estate 101 has put into amatuer developers schemes.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 7:52PM
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thanks everyone, the amount of feedback and detailed input is very much appreciated.

I would say our lot is graded as per somewhere in between the jaded brown line and the longer green line (fig. 1) and the front is graded as per line A (fig. 2).

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 8:50AM
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they can give you more input if needed

Here is a link that might be useful: White Water Landscaping

    Bookmark   April 26, 2011 at 2:29PM
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