Desperate for solution to grading issues

joslin99June 2, 2010

We have a side yard that is 40w x 100d rectangle abutting our home. The rearmost 15ft (40w x 15d) is sitting on rock ledge and is 3 feet higher than the rest, the other 40w x 80d slopes up 1 foot from the front to the back and two feet from right (house) to left (neighbor). So if I am standing at the front right corner of the yard the back left corner is actually 4 feet higher than I am. The house is at the lowest point.

We can't figure out what to do to make it level enough to live with and use as a yard. People have come out to give us estimates on "grading" but DH just pounded in some stakes to determine exactly how much dirt was at the high point to be scraped off, and at some points there is only 4 or so inches of dirt- so no 4 feet of anything to remove. Just 4 inches of soil and then big giant rock. I am freaked out at the thought of them just starting to dig and digging up the boulders since the foundation for my house is maybe 2 feet away from here and I wouldn't want to disturb anything.

We were thinking that instead of digging out we could maybe raise the level of the low section (40w x 80d) and use a small retaining wall along the front. This would put our basement windows below grade and I am not sure this is kosher either. At the front of the house there is about 24 inches of foundation above grade and about 7 inches at the back (where we wouldn't be adding anything)


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From my experience and reading other threads, you should post pictures of your problem so that the pros on here can better assess your problem.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 7:52PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

My sense is that you should come to terms with the fact that you have a sloped yard and not a flat one. You could maybe do some diagonal terracing away from the house to make some level areas without changing the grade much right by the house.

Slopes actually make a yard far more interesting and have tons of landscape potential. People with flat properties have slope envy - ask me how I know! It's a bit like straight hair and curly hair though - no one's ever happy with what they have.


    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 11:21PM
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Do you actually need the entire site graded to a plane for some kind of use? If not, why not grade what is gradable and expose the ledge for aesthetic reasons.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 6:52AM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

I'm not sure I can understand the exact layout of your yard without photos or a diagram, but it sounds like you have an answer here:

expose the ledge for aesthetic reasons -- laag's given you a great idea. Remove some of the dirt at the foot of the ledge, add a few dramatic shrubs or small trees (at the top, halfway down; wherever there's a good pocket of soil), fill in with rock-plants, and make the ledge a real showplace: the stunning backdrop for the rest of the yard ...

do some diagonal terracing away from the house to make some level areas without changing the grade much right by the house -- and add karinl's terraces: probably one or two terraces between the level around the house and the ledge. Exactly where the walls are placed will depend where you have bedrock and where you might have loose rock. Remember, you can always add soil (or some combination of stone/pavers and gravel) to an area to make it level. But work with the shape of the land itself: no right angles, no straight lines unless that's what the land wants to do. [At the property lines, you'll have to slope the terraces up or down a bit to meet the level of the neighbors' properties. Or just add some rocks.]

Each terrace will be just a step (maybe two) up from the previous level. No need for a railing at the walls: plant just above the walls, and that will keep people away from the edge. Maybe something that will trail down the wall and look interesting.

If your terrace walls are low, if they're built on bedrock, and if you use natural stone, it could even be a do-it-yourself project. Or you could hire someone to build the walls, and move the soil yourselves.

*sigh* Here I am, supposedly in the mountains, and everything's all covered with dirt. I'd be thrilled if my sloping lawn (with a much greater slope than the OP's) had some interesting bedrock under it that I could expose and garden around. Much more character than the sloping lawn I have!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 11:22AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Well, if I'm following this correctly, ignoring the rock ledge in the back, the slope is about 1 ft over 80 ft front to back, and about 2 ft over 40 ft side to side. There are an awful lot of places where that would *be* a flat lawn. It's certainly level enough for any yard uses I can think of.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 12:01PM
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