Group 6 3 minutes Read

the yard: issues

Lauren Zerbey

A common thread during our remodel process has been the unglamorous and mundane task of fixing things. Unfortunately, our yard is no exception to this trend. While we’ve made substantial progress over the last several years, there are still some significant projects to undertake. The good news – we’ve had almost five years to identify the problem areas, think about how we use the spaces and come up with a priority list.

Drainage: As I write this, it has been raining for nearly 20 hours non-stop (and it’s May, hello!!) – so yeah, water management is a big deal. In older neighborhoods like ours, homes often have inadequate gutters and downspouts that either spit out directly into the yard or tie into the combined sewer and stormwater system. In all new development and remodel  projects, roof runoff must either go to a dedicated stormwater system or infiltrate on site. When we replaced our roof, we installed new gutters and downspouts (our old gutters were wood!), but the water still ultimately ends up in the sewer or in our yard. This poses problems during heavy or prolonged rain, when water finds its way into our basement via hydrostatic pressure. It doesn’t happen often and it doesn’t usually do any damage because our basement is unfinished, but it’s a problem that absolutely has to be fixed before we finish out that space. In short, we’ll be doing a lot of digging around the perimeter of our house and installing a series of drains that lead to a dry well where the water can infiltrate properly and “recharge the aquifer”. I know, more dirt digging. Awesome. (Although, I think Kyle really wants an excuse to rent a backhoe.) In addition to roof run-off, we’ll also improve the infiltration rate of our planting strip. Our street is slightly sloped and during heavy rains, water comes sweeping down the sidewalk and into the planting strip, making the area a good candidate for a rain garden.

Circulation: We’ll be focusing primarily on the front yard this summer and circulation is one of the top design criteria. Basically, we need a pathway system that links the driveway, sidewalk and street to the front door, with a secondary connection to the south side yard. We want something that is modern but not in-your-face; we also want to minimize the amount of impervious surfaces as much as possible. (The catawampus concrete pavers in the above photo have to go!)

Lounging: Our front yard faces west and gets great evening sun. The stoop we built two summers ago (shown above) provides a nice, informal sitting area, but we’d like to dedicate part of the yard for general lounging and maybe even some al fresco dining (fancy!). The yard is by no means level so we’ll have to do some grading and terracing to make it work.

Soil: After we fix our drainage issues, we’ll be amending the soil like crazy. Fortunately, in Seattle our food waste gets picked up and converted to compost so we have some great local resources to go to.

Plants: This is the fun part, but it’s also the part that makes us the most nervous. Truth be told, there’s a lot we don’t know about plants and our track record is not good. The Camellia (shown above) that we painstakingly transplanted from the front to side yard during our exterior renovation – totally dead.  We don’t have the details worked out just yet, but we know we want to stick with native, low-maintenance options. We’re also ok with saving money by buying smaller plants and trees and being patient while they “fill in”. Finally, we’ll install a simple irrigation system for the dry summer months and while the plants establish. And even though we rocked the mulch look far longer than we originally anticipated, we intentionally saved the landscaping for last. There is no way plants would have survived the roof tear off or all of the siding work and by not having anything to protect, it was one less thing to worry about during those projects.

Lastly, we’ve got a serious budget to work with. Last year was crazy, so this year is all about scaling down and phasing. In fact, we’ll probably complete the rest of the exterior in 3-4 phases, which will be dictated by time, cost, and sequencing of other larger projects. We’re excited to get our hands dirty and tackle this summer’s projects, but we also want to enjoy summer. There are still so many things that we want to do and explore (berry picking has been on my list for years!) and we’re adamant about making sure this summer is an equal balance of work and play. That is, if summer ever comes.


 (P.S. – I’m playing around with ideas for a new blog header. The old one had been bothering me for a while and so I’ve been sketching out ideas for something simple but effective. I’m still tweaking it, but I think it’s an improvement!)

(P.P.S – Well, it pretty much rained all day so instead of cleaning up the raised veggie bed, I cleaned up the House Tour page. I created new pages for the mudroom, flex room and loft and added more up-to-date photos for the kitchen, dining and living room.)