What to do with this steep backyard?

DatoOctober 1, 2011


I am shopping for a home, and have found a house that I really like. Alas, the house comes with a really steep backyard. The seller already did something to it, but it doesn't look all that great. So, if you have any great idea on improving this backyard, please share it here. I'd appreciate it. I have included an aerial photo of how it looks like right now, and an elevation map of the property. Note The current owner has done some leveling. The bottom of the yard is all flattened out for a concrete patch and a play set. They also tried to level out the area right behind the house, but there is still about a drop of 1 to 2 feet from the house to where the junipers are. Ideally, I would like to have the following conditions met by the new design:

1. The area from the back of the house to about 40 feet out would be leveled so that my kids can play on this grassy area.

2. I would like to have some kind of "boundary" for the area in 1.

3. I would like to have some access path from the area in 1. to the bottom of the yard (where the concrete patch is).

Thanks again.

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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

This looks like a perfect example of a project that could use a well seasoned landsape designer.
There are a lot of elements and layers that have to be pulled together into one cohesive design layout.
I think it would be worth the value of investment in some quality design time.
Your property value would be enhanced as well as your quality of life.

You can easily get 40 feet of flat usuable space if you install a retaining wall that is 5 to 6 feet tall ( depending on how it lays out across the contours ) .
In my area ( N. CA ) this would require a soils and structural engineer to augment the landscape plans in order to apply for your grading and building permit.
Along with the grading and installation of the wall, there may be railings or a secondary wall installed along with steps, paths, erosion control, drainage, and more , such as landscaping, lighting and irrigation schematic.

The process of design and installation would be so much more streamlined and cost effective if you had a design professional working with you.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2011 at 1:52PM
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I would have to second deviant-deziner's (Michelle's) suggestion. Having a qualified, experienced designer, although it may cost more initially, will be an investment that will well worth it.

Significant regrading and structural/engineered retaining walls are usually quite feasible, but you definitely want to make sure they're done right (and in the right place) the first time around.

If the budget is tight (and when are budgets ever not?), then you can also explore a phased construction/implementation schedule. This is where having a designer will be additionally beneficial - making sure things are built in a logical manner to reduce the amount of redundant work, damage, or repairs needed down the line with each stage. Not to mention that having a master plan will make sure that everything will fit in the end.

Best of luck! There's a lot that you can do on a slope.

- Audric

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 8:18PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

While going with a designer would be a good idea, I agree, especially if retaining walls above play areas are in the picture, in the event that this is not an option, you might post some actual photos of the space so that it would be easier to imagine and discuss options.

One question I would have is whether flat space is really all its cracked up to be. You can do so much with a slope that kids can enjoy, that adults can enjoy, and by the way the kids grow up so fast you'll just have the yard ready for them when they move away :-)

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 9:44PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Doesn't it seem like jumping the gun asking for design advice for a property you don't even own, and may not even purchase? Additionally there are obvious discrepancies between the aerial photo and the topo plan you included which seems to show a 5foot cross slope at the garage doors/driveway, yet the driveway layout would seem to indicate the grading is actually level across this end of the house.

Creating a more level area immediately adjacent the back side of the house may not even be the most logical/cost effective location,nor have you given any idea of what you'd be willing to spend to transform this supposed liability. If you're seriously interested in bidding on this property, I'd suggest it makes more sense to revisit the property with a local landscape contractor who could advise you on cost effective viable solutions as well as give you an idea of costs. Getting what ifs on redesigning this site with the limited info given is not going to give you anything useful in my opinion.

At the very least you should add additional photos at ground level showing the real existing grades and conditions, and a better idea the minimum dimensions of the flat area you want to fit into that backyard.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 3:33AM
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