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Old 09-08-2012, 01:55 AM   #1
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Grading...Newbie, please help


I would be very grateful for some advice please. I just moved in and want to install a lawn in my backyard. Currently it is a sandbox (nothing there) so I am going to have to amend the soil quite a bit to help with the clay soil and get the ph right. I figured while Iím doing this I should also get the grade right. I asked a friend of a friend in passing who is a retired architect, and he says you must have a 3% slope on all landscaping to prevent pooling (which I definitely do not want), and at least 10 ft of the slope has to be in the direction directly away from the house. I would have no problem blinding following his advice, but there are obstacles that make following his advice a little difficult. So my first question is; is he correct?

If he is, here are my obstacles. The yard is 56 ft long running from south (the back door of my house) to north (the back fence) and 20 ft wide (east to west). Now the bottom of the east fence is 1.5in higher than the bottom of the west fence, excluding the board that the fence sits on which is 7in below the fence. The east fence does not have a fence board (or whatever you call the board that the fence sits on). The neighbors to the east and north have yards that are level with my property line, the western neighbors yard is slightly lower than mine (hence why I believe they put in the fence board). Now what I originally thought of was to have the 3% slope running from the east to the west, but that would be 7 in which would run the water straight into the fence board, which I am worried would rot out the fence board quicker and also pool the water. But Iím thinking that no matter where I put the slope I am going to have that problem (since the water would hit either a dirt wall or fence board) unless I haul in tons of dirt and slope the water to the eastern neighbor which I really would rather not do. Iím also worried that if I did that I would have to put a lot of dirt on my west fence which will be a pain to deal with when having to replace the fence.

So what would people do if in my shoes? I have attached a picture in case that helps. I am facing North and am standing about in the middle of my yard. Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this and offering your advice.
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Old 09-08-2012, 03:40 AM   #2
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You might get better answers if we knew where you are

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Old 09-08-2012, 07:42 AM   #3
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Quote:
If he is, here are my obstacles. The yard is 56 ft long running from south (the back door of my house) to north (the back fence) and 20 ft wide (east to west). Now the bottom of the east fence is 1.5in higher than the bottom of the west fence, excluding the board that the fence sits on which is 7in below the fence. The east fence does not have a fence board (or whatever you call the board that the fence sits on). The neighbors to the east and north have yards that are level with my property line, the western neighbors yard is slightly lower than mine (hence why I believe they put in the fence board). Now what I originally thought of was to have the 3% slope running from the east to the west, but that would be 7 in which would run the water straight into the fence board, which I am worried would rot out the fence board quicker and also pool the water. But I’m thinking that no matter where I put the slope I am going to have that problem (since the water would hit either a dirt wall or fence board) unless I haul in tons of dirt and slope the water to the eastern neighbor which I really would rather not do. I’m also worried that if I did that I would have to put a lot of dirt on my west fence which will be a pain to deal with when having to replace the fence.
Ayuh,... Yer really Over-thinkin' this,...

Water flows, Downhill,... So long as there's pitch, Downhill, Water will flow....

Yer only choice is to direct a swale to the Northwest...
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Old 09-08-2012, 09:50 AM   #4
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Grading...Newbie, please help


My wife who is a landscape architect says that a 2% slope is sufficient to drain in any situation. By law here in Canada, you are not allowed to change the rate of flow onto or from a property, so any grading you do has to maintain existing conditions. You should check if this is the same sitation where you are.

I see that your problem is that the water has nowhere to go at the back without hitting the fence boards. I'm curious whose fence it is, because normally fence boards should sit a couple of inches above grade to allow water to flow. As you mentioned, your neighbour likely installed the bottom boards to prevent water or animals from getting in. If you grade the backyard so that it drains against the fenceboards, they will rot.

Here is a solution that I have used.

1) Create positive drainage away from the house at a 2% slope for 8-10 feet. This will become the top of your low point.

2) Build up the back of the yard so that water will flow from the back to the low point that you created, then grade so that the water flows around your house on both sides. This will send the water to the front of your lot where it should drain to the roadway.

This solution requires a lot of topsoil. You will have to raise the back of your yard up by approx. 9 inches. You can lessen the amount of top soil required by starting the top of the slope 10-12 ft. away from the back of the property. In the back 10-12 feet, you could install a rock garden that is designed to retain the runoff, or you could dig down six inches, install a bed of 1" aggregate that will hold water, then put topsoil and lawn on top.

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Old 09-08-2012, 02:01 PM   #5
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Kevin, Thanks so much for the response.

Something that I did not mention was that I can't really divert water around the house since there is no side entrance to the road on my property. So how about instead of starting at the back with a rock garden and going to the road, maybe starting at the house and going to a back rock garden that would retain the runoff? I've never built a rock garden before, how deep do you think it would have to be to hold the water?
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Old 09-08-2012, 02:55 PM   #6
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I practiced landscape design for quite awhile in N California. Have you committed your plot plan to paper yet? I think scaling it a good idea for lots of reasons beyond grading. It will give you a way to communicate and better show your situation. And as you get to planting things, moving them around by mouse click sure beats dragging 24" boxed trees around the yard to see where you want them. Irrigation design works best from drawings too as does any sort of landscape construction, hardscaping, waterscaping and so forth.

You sort of lost me talking about inches higher and lower here and there. Where is your consistent starting grade survey benchmark? And have you actually measured existing grade with even a stick, measuring tape and string line and string level. I did it for a living but was still off from what I measured and what I thought I saw.

There is certainly something to be said for the possibility of overthinking this but I cannot tell you how many neighborhood situation I have mediated over the years.

The problem is the developer comes in, turns over the engine on the giant earth mover and scrapes the land to make room for reasonably level foundations. Often no respect is paid to what the lay of the land was and how it should be regraded but with houses now in place. As people move in they quite naturally seek to resolve grading issues for their little 3,000sf of paradise. Immediately or over some period of time, some poor shmuck who bought the site and home at absolute low ground screams fowl and neighbors start suing each other. The developer, who caused all the problems in the first place may or may not be around or even in business any more. Tempers fly, lawn ornaments get overturned or gnomes are beheaded for no reason.

If you get along with your neighbors I would suggest you all band together and share the cost of a landscape architect or designer (with land survey knowledge), civil engineer, grading contractor, etc. In the long run it will make you all a happy hood and save you fortune in things like rotted fence boards and puddled back lawns. You will not be pointing at each other to lay blame and your landscapes will be much, much happier. I promise.

Another thing you might do is see if you can find the plats for what the land was and what grading was approved for the development. All of Hayward is still in Hayward County? Included will be the benchmark locations the surveyors used to establish grade and changes.

My sweetie for decades was from Hayward. Japanese American but with family US citizens longer than either side of mine, they had a huge flower growing operation at one time. It was abandoned by the time I met her but it would be hilarious if you happened to be living on that land! The family sold it for a hefty chunk.
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Old 09-08-2012, 07:51 PM   #7
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I recall in certain places, you are supposed to contain your rain water so you may want to check with your municipality.

How much rain do you get on average? If your location is relatively dry, perhaps consider putting in a drywell on the lowest side?

BTW, if you are grading yourself, a neat little trick I learned was to buy a long piece of 1/2" clear vinyl hose (they usually come in 50, 75 and 100 ft in rolls for about 25 bucks), add water with some food coloring to find a level height between two distant spots. Might come in handy for your project.

Good luck
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Old 09-09-2012, 08:14 AM   #8
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A 2% to 3% slope is often used to assure drainage rather than make it level because you will never get it perfectly level so water soaks into the ground absolutely evenly.

While you should not intentionally cause water to puddle up against your neighbor's fence boards, you do not have to make extra effort to keep the fence boards dry. At any rate the fence boards could be an illegal water diversion.
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Old 09-09-2012, 12:56 PM   #9
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Thanks guys, I really appreciate the ideas that all of you had...I think first thing tom morning I'll have to figure out the legality of all my options.

sdsester-It's off of B st, but Hayward is now Incorporated within Alameda County. I agree with making everything to scale, I'm definitely going to do that.

allthumbsdiy- I really liked the idea of doing a dry well (I had never even heard of such a thing) and think that's actually what I'm going to do. So thank you very much for that.

Again, thank you all for your help.

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