Landscaping & Design/Landscape drainage


Recently purchased a home; the house is approximately 2 years old.  This is our first summer in the home and we have had severe storms and down pours this season.  I have noticed some leaking in the basement near a few of the basement windows; basically the windows well is filling up and water is coming in through the window itself.
I spoke with a local basement engineer and he mentioned moving some dirt in the backyard as the dirt near the foundation has settled a bit and it appears to be causing water to basically flow into the well.  The engineer suggested building up the dirt near the foundation and/or placing river rock to help with the flow (drainage) direction of the water as it washed away from the house.  I understand the idea of raising the level of the dirt and using the river rock around the foundation will certainly make it easier to mow around the house as far as a nice border.  My questions are 1. Do I need to remove the current grass that is there next to the foundation or can I pile dirt/river rock on top?  2. Do i use a landscaping fabric material under the rock?  3.  Should I spray Round Up or some type of chemical to help stop weeds from growing up throw the rocks?
Appreciate any insight provided.


The rock will not serve to drain water away and may in fact,impede the flow away from the house and thus give the water more time to soak into the soil. The water may not be coming entirely from the surface. The soil around the foundation may saturated during heavy rain. To solve this problem you need subsurface drainage in the form of pipe next to the foundation wall, wrapped in gravel or a FIN drain.  Other drainage devices,such as french drains and swales,may be needed around the perimeter of the house.

A concrete or plastic apron around the surface of the soil near the foundation could also be helpful or may be the only solution needed. This apron will keep rain from penetrating the soil surface near the foundation. Think about using an apron in combination with pipe,french drains or swales.

You must maintain a minimum of 1 foot from the first floor of your house to the grade line (the surface of the ground at the foundation) and so any soil banked against the foundation should not take the grade further than 1 foot from the first floor elevation. Installing drainage devices and/or an apron would be more effective than changing the grade next to the foundation.

If you decide to install plastic or rubber sheeting as an apron,you could pile rocks on top of that or you could bury it 1 foot below the surface. The sheeting would have the added benefit of suppressing weeds. Rigid plastic panels could also be used as an apron although some way of sealing the seams would have to be found. There would be no need to remove the grass if placing the apron on the surface.

Mark Harshman  

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Design of landscape structures and design of planting arrangements in the landscape. I usually do not answer questions of a horticultural nature or about growing plants or gardening unless they are related to design. I will answer these questions at my discretion. I will answer maintenance questions at my discretion,usually when they are related to design. I am a landscape designer. I am not a contractor or a gardener. Although I will describe how something is built I do not provide detailed installation or construction instructions. Here are example categories of problems I can help you with: Design of residential walks,low walls,low retaining walls,fences,drainage systems,arbors,plant selection,xeriscapes (low water use landscapes),rain garden design,rain water harvesting,permeable paving,sustainable drainage. No advise on an architectural or engineering level. I DO NOT PERFORM ACTUAL DESIGN WORK THROUGH THIS SITE. I only provide suggestions and advice. For more comprehensive help check out my website at:


Landscape concept plan for a 30,000 square feet housing site. Involved site recon by pace measurements and photographs and a site analysis and a site analysis report and recommendations and a preliminary cost estimate. Design elements included canopy trees,shrub cover,accent flowers,trash receptacles,benches and planters. Landscape concept plan for a 7,000 square feet site for a community center. Involved site recon by tape measurements and photographs,a site analysis and the creation of 3 conceptual designs for the site. Work was done through a local professional design center. Design elements included tree garden,playground,sitting area,lawn,cooking area,lighting and concrete and brick paving. Landscape concept plan for a 3,000 square feet housing site. Involved site recon by tape measurements and photographs and a site analysis. Concluded in 3 concept designs for the site,shown at a formal presentation,a site analysis and recommendations. Work was done through a community volunteer program. Design elements included decks,a playground and fencing. Briefly as draftsman for landscape designer/gardener. Conceptual landscape design for residence. Involved site recon by tape and pace measurements and site analysis. Design included covered patio area,ground cover and flower beds. Two years experience as draftsman for transportation department in engineering firm and for engineering consultants to phone company. Duties consisted of plotting topography. Survey crew member. General assistant to surveyor. Work was done for U.S. Army and County Highway Department. No instrument work. Duties included tape measurement,holding graduated survey rod and plumb bob for sighting and clearing brush. Marketed Landscape Design Services. Brochure writing,promotional material and marketing graphics.

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