Seeking help for basic water/protection landscaping

violetwestMay 1, 2013

Hi there GW. I am a new home owner with a complete blank slate yard. (sorry for the length of this post--I'm wordy!) Despite all my dreams of beautiful landscaping, the first thing I need to do is some basic stuff to protect my house and yard from water. Right now all I have is some large aggregate along the sides of the house, and dirt and some scree or something in the back (front is xeriscaped).

I am in New Mexico. We are very dry here, but often have drenching Monsoon rains in the summer. I'm being told that I need to lay down some kind of rock along my foundation to prevent erosion and water damage to the house. My roof is a flat southwestern style, which slopes to the side. All/most of the rain should pour off one side of the house which has a shallow eave, but there are no gutters or scuppers or anything.

The subdivision regs state that water should be guided toward the front yard through swales to the side (very difficult!) Also, it says no planting within 10 feet of the foundation, which is totally impractical imo--it's a small yard!

At this time, I cannot afford to extend my small concrete pad or put in much hardscape, so I am looking for some budget answers to the following questions from more knowledgeable folks (I've never had a house, or a garden before. Never even pulled weeds!). I cannot do a lot of physical stuff myself, so will have to hire somebody to do heavy lifting/rock work/go up on the roof. etc.

1) I'm most concerned about water coming off the roof directly into the backyard and falling close to the foundation. There are no eaves on that side and nothing but dirt except for the small concrete pad. Should I put some kind of rock there for now? It needs to last at least one year.

2) I'm thinking about putting a rain barrel to collect rainwater on the side yard. What kind of scupper or gutter could be installed for this? What kind of workman--landscaper? handyman--roofer?

I'm attaching a pic of the yard. This is a panorama view. The side where roof slopes is on the right hand side of the picture.

Any tips sure would be appreciated. I do have a lot of plans for the yard, but right now I want to make sure my foundation doesn't get destroyed if it rains.

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" I'm being told that I need to lay down some kind of rock along my foundation to prevent erosion and water damage to the house. "

Isn't the yard graded to slope away from the house? It doesn't need to be a pronounced slope, but just enough so that water will choose to run away, not toward the house. Grading is the first thing to check. There must be a path for ALL the water that reaches ALL parts of your yard to run to a lower elevation that is off of your property. You may be able to determine this from observation. Or you can use actual water (from the hose garden hose) to test parts of the yard, if you can't tell visually. A roof gutter and downspout would be useful on the side of the house where water comes off of the roof. Once water gets to the ground, it may run like a torrent during a heavy rain. That's why you might need to line its path with stones (a la "dry stream") so that the evacuating water stream doesn't erode a channel into the ground. Observe how neighbors are handling this.

There are people/companies who install gutter and downspouts. A landscaper would line a channel with rock. Depending on the individual, a handyman might do both.

Tip: If you post any more pictures, take during better lighting conditions and avoid panoramas as they distort too much. It's easier to see what you have with multiple views of normal focal length by just panning the camera.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 8:58AM
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I appreciate your response very much, Yardvaark. The yard is graded (although it hasn't rained hard nor have I tested it). I have more photos if you need them (will have to post later, though)

I guess I'm most concerned about the "drip line" area on the part of the house in the back where there's no rock. I really don't want to cover the back yard with rock right now.

New subdivision; neighbors mostly haven't done a thing except plant a few trees.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 9:29AM
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I'm asking if the yard is CORRECTLY graded (so that no water pools and is "trapped" on the property.) Photos cannot say for sure. You'd need to make the determination and report it. Since water spills off the side of the house, there wouldn't be any need to "cover the back yard with rock" at anytime. You would probably want to start by adding a gutter where the water spills off the house and then have a stone-lined channel guiding water that comes down the downspout to an exit point at the downhill perimeter of your yard. If such a channel is needed (as you allude it is) you would want to incorporate it in an artistically beneficial way. ("Artistically" does not mean make it cute, painted pretty, or adorn it with seashells and sequins. It means make it handsome appearing and sensibly arranged.) You might also look at how this issue is dealt with in more established neighborhoods.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 8:43AM
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I guess I really cannot address all of your points yet--until we get a drenching monsoon rain. I'm just anxious, and was hoping to be proactive.

Don't think there's anything in my posts that would lead a reader to suspect I would be placing "seashells and sequins." I have a couple of nice river rock "rivers" in the front and side yard, however.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 11:30AM
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"...I'm just anxious, and was hoping to be proactive." Usually, a person could tell how their property will drain with a good visual inspection. It's pretty easy to see while standing there, what ground is higher and what ground is lower. Pretend you're water coming off of the roof. When you hit the ground, where will you go? Walk the path until you get to the perimeter of your property. A little looking around like this can usually pinpoint any potential trouble spots. Where ground seems very flat (while still pretending you're water) and you can't quite determine which way to go, that's where a garden hose making a bit of a puddle (with a shower, not with fierce water pressure) can show you which way water would really go. You don't need to wait for the monsoon.

"Don't think there's anything in my posts that would lead a reader to suspect I would be placing "seashells and sequins." No. There wasn't. I was just trying to be proactive by explaining what I mean by the word "artistic." I'm sure it could pretty easily be misinterpreted. I live in Florida where the worst is done with the best of intentions. Sorry. :-)

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 11:45AM
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These things are probably not going to jump out at me as they would someone experienced like you. Yes, the yard has been graded, but it's very subtle to my eyes. Also, right now it's just dirt, and there's been gale force winds and blowing sand and dust for the past several months, which could change things, no?

Furthermore, I have had a landscaper look at it and tell me it's unrealistic to expect the water to drain toward the street as per the subdivision regs no matter what is done; and

a close friend with a great deal of experience in construction, grading, and homeownership advised me that I needed to protect that area.

So. Right now I'm trying to focus my landscaping budget on what NEEDS to be done to protect the property, enhance privacy and usability before I indulge in any fancy sequin stuff!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 11:54AM
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1. Put out the garden hose in the spots where you think the water will fall. Turn it on for long enough to get enough water to trace it to where it leaves your property. Which way does it go?

2. Do you have rock lined drainage along the side of the house? I can't make out from your picture or your descriptions if this is true or not.

3. Only places I can tell from your photo where you have a dripline is on the side of the house and surrounding the little concrete patio. Water will not drip anywhere else except for normal rain fall. You have two options there.

a) Install gutters and add a gutter extension on the down spout to direct the rain to the sides where you either have drainage or have to create it. Gutter Co. or handyman can do.

b) Add rock for it to splash onto that also is drainage channels. Handyman, Landscaping person, yard person could do, but need to be able to handle basic knowledge of creating good drainage.

4. How heavy is your rain fall? Is it possible that your "friend" is referring to your whole yard being dirt and that the rain won't soak in and thus start moving the dirt around and create channels in the dirt as it is running off the property?

If so you will have to look at making sure you don't have soil erosion issues. What is common in your area instead of lawns? Any ground cover? Rocks certainly would work, but is that what you want in your landscape? What does established neighborhoods use to control the dirt from eroding in their yards?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 2:31PM
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"These things are probably not going to jump out at me... " That's why we're suggesting methods by which an inexperienced person can determine where water will run. One comment about lyfia's suggestion of using the the garden hose ... where I am, in Florida, the soil is so sandy that one could run a garden hose for days and water would never reach the property perimeter because it soaks into the ground too quickly. BUT one can spray a shower of water in a small area, create a puddle there, and that puddle will run somewhere a little bit and tell one which way is downhill from that particular spot. Move in that direction and create another puddle. Where does it go? Go in that direction and repeat the process and, eventually, by combining this method with any obvious visual clues, you'll begin to discover where water is/will drain from your property. During a torrential downpour, that's where water will generally go. If your site has places where water will be trapped or where it will run toward the house, that's what you'd want to fix before you add any landscaping. And if there are places where water will run with such force that it will take some of your ground with it, that's where you'd be wanting to create that rock-lined channel (presuming you need it) ... which might be a combination of creating the channel and grading nearby ground so that water enters the channel. In other words, you don't want the water itself to decide the "art" of your yard. You want to decide that, but while working in concert with what the water will already be doing. You would balance where it will already be against where you want it to be, trying to come up with something workable that's attractive.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 3:17PM
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melle_sacto(Z9/Sunset 14 CA)

I have zero idea how it would drain, and I am not the kind of person who could tell by looking. After living in our home for 11 years, I know where the "low" spots are that water collects :-) The suggestion of using a hose to try and figure it out is a good idea, it will definitely give you some idea.

I will say this: re-doing work you already did, especially if it's work that was done wrong or really cheaply, is NO FUN. If it were me in your shoes, knowing what I know now, and knowing that monsoons are an issue in your area, I would go ahead and put the budget toward proper grading/water drainage by a professional. And maybe hire someone to draw up a landscape plan that I could then implement over the years.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 3:49PM
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This is all very useful advice. I will get out the hose and play with water this weekend.

and yes, my point is I want to address these fundamental issues before I spend money on the fun stuff.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 5:25PM
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hi Violet West,

I think that place is awesome. I hope you found some answers with your hose test. For your questions:

1) I'm most concerned about water coming off the roof directly into the backyard and falling close to the foundation.

I think I'd see how the water runs off the roof...put the hose up there, too and test.

2) I'm thinking about putting a rain barrel to collect rainwater on the side yard.

Just put a rain barrel (or two) out in the open area of side yard, no installation of gutter, scupper, or cost other than the barrel(s). We collect a lot of rain this way. If you want to connect it to your roof then you will likely need to install a gutter to direct the water into the barrel.

Good luck, I suspect the place was built to direct water away from your home btw.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 9:51PM
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it seems like such a silly thing, being concerned about too much rain in the desert -- but we can get floods here because of the soil conditions and poor stormwater drainage.

I'll let you know how it goes!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2013 at 10:10AM
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