help with weird space between houses

fivefootmenaceApril 17, 2011

Hey all I'm absolutely stumped. I moved into my house 2 years ago and the section of my yard I'm having trouble with the most is in between my house and my neighbor's. The area is about 6 feet wide and is the length of my house. I have clay soil and the part of the yard is almost completely in shade because my neighbor's trees. Their yard is about 2 feet higher than ours and there is a retaining wall between our properties.

so here is the problem...currently we are getting a lot of water from our neighbor's yard through the retaining wall and because of the clay soil it's sitting there and it smells. I don't know what a solution could be to decrease the water. Also I would like the side of the house look nice (right now it's kinda embarrassingly ugly).

I'm such a newbie and have no idea what to do. I'm stumped :-/

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Add small bonsai tree,azealea,small rock(make by Perlite)

    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 6:21PM
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    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 6:37PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

OK, relax, Designshare is not serious, quite aside from the fact that a pathway wouldn't hurt. Someone with some actual help will no doubt be along shortly.


    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 7:11PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

If you've got water and a bad smell, you've likely got anaerobic decomposition of organic matter going on. The first thing you need to do is get drainage in place to get the water out of there! I assume there's no slope if the water is laying there now. Is the area within reasonable reach of somewhere you could drain the water to - to the street, or to some other drainage system you could connect to? It looks like the area is largely a utility area so I'd be inclined to focus on making it neat and clean - and dry - first and foremost.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 10:39PM
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I agree the drainage is a problem but the water is coming from my neighbor's yard and not coming from one specific area but instead seeping through the entire cement retaining wall (you can see how wet the wall is from the photo). How can I correct that problem from my end? Like I said I'm a total newbie and let me add a newbie with a tight budget but not afraid to diy...I just don't even know where to start :-/

    Bookmark   April 17, 2011 at 10:52PM
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tibs(5/6 OH)

Does the water just seep thru, or does it actually run out of the seams of the block or over the top of the wall? if it just seaps, could you apply some type of water seal like you do for a damp basement? Sounds like the wall was incorrectly installed without drainage on their side. You might have more than water in your yard, you might get a collapsed wall.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 8:14AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

It doesn't really matter where the water is coming from - you need to get it out of your yard before it damages your house (is there any water seeping into your basement...?) Some sort of drainage solution is likely going to be necessary if it's not possible to seal that wall. Have you talked to the neighbour about the problems you are having? Our neighbour on the north side did an addition to their house about 7 years ago. They used our north alley for access for heavy equipment, which compacted the soil. The addition also meant the ground level on their side was raised, directing more water towards us. When the construction was finished, they installed drainage along our alley and out to the ditch at the street. So the additional water drains away easily. And my garden in the alley benefits from the additional water directed through it. If you've got nice neighbours, perhaps they will help you solve the problem.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 11:41AM
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Does your house have a basement? If so, is that inside wall also damp? This is a situation which requires on site expert drainage advice. The place to start, with limited dollars, is to locate a landscape design/construction nursery business in your area which does large projects and would be familiar with drainage problems. Request a consultation and ask for advice. There may be a charge for this service but it should be helpful in leading you toward a solution. That wall with heavy tree growth planted on top is what gives me pause and says...take time to find some expert advice. Seek and you will learn.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 3:10PM
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I'm betting that originally there was a swale along the lot line directing the water to the front street, but your neighbor didn't like a steep side yard on his side so he put a wall in and obliterated the swale and positive drainage. You need to contact the Engineering Dept of your local City Hall and have them investigate. They can force your neighbor to make repairs to fix the problem UNLESS LOT TO LOT DRAINAGE IS ALLOWED IN YOUR CITY AND IT WAS DESIGNED ACCORDINGLY. Most cities don't allow lot to lot drainage for this very reason.

A simple fix would be to grade a swale at the base of the wall that drains to the street. Be sure that you have positive drainage away from your house along the whole side yard. If grades don't work out for this solution, he will have to install an underground system that serves both you and him at his expense. If there is an storm inlet in the street he could connect to that. The city engineer can help you and your neighbor explore options. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 5:30PM
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I don't have a basement so the walls aren't damp. If what I says below doesn't work I'm going to see if I could get a consultation with an expert to see what they say.

So I investigated the area a little more and I won't be able to dig to add any kind of drainage because the utilities are underground between that area of the house and the street. I'm going to take tibs' advise and use that special paint to try and seal the concrete wall. I'm also going to add a layer of sand to level the area out because right now from the water seeping through the wall there is a small slope toward the retaining wall where the water is sitting. If that remedies the problem I'm going to add a walkway because designshare's second photo looks pretty nice and I think some small pebbles will also help with drainage.

...if the paint and sand doesn't help then I'm going to have to face my neighbor. The reason I'm hesitating talking with them is because we don't get along that well....well let me clarify, I get along with the owners but not with the habitants. There are about 15 people living in the 3 bedroom house and there are always problems (kinda unavoidable with that many people). The owners are very sweet, but don't speak English, so I always have to deal with the son because he speak English- but he is very very VERY nasty.

So we're expecting more rain the next few days (I'm bracing myself for extra stinkiness) and on Thursday I plan on painting the wall. I'll let everyone knows how it goes.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 5:44PM
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Sorry I didn't see Dallasblooms post before I wrote all that...maybe tomorrow I'll call the town and see what they say. It can't hurt.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 7:26PM
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The minute I read your original post with reference to an odor the thought occurred that male neighbors next door may be relieving themselves outside. With that houseful next door it is a distinct possibility. You might want to call in the health department to run some tests.

By all means contact your town engineer. There may be some help there although his only interest might be where you discharge water to on county property if you decide to dig a swale or whatever.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 8:08PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Since it's not your wall, is painting it a good idea -- particularly since the representative of the owners (their son) is predisposed to nastiness?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 8:30PM
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