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Landscaping & Design/Dirt Fill against brick


John\'s Home
John's Home  
Dear Marc,
I recently had a home build by a contractor that built it higher out of the ground than I wanted.  As a result I have a high ground slope from sidewalk to right side of home.  I was hoping to have only a slight grade.  My immediate concern is WHERE to push dirt since my contractor is preparing to install sod.  

Regarding WHERE to push dirt; my initial thought was to build a retaining wall on the right corner of the home and attempt to reduce the slop from left to right.  This would require re-drilling weep holes and covering up a few feet of brick with dirt.  When researching (on-line) about covering up brick with dirt, every article I read says this is a definite NO-NO since bricks today are very porous.  Therefore I am at odds as to how to handle this situation.  Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

A small retaining wall is a great idea to take up the extra grade, especially if “a few feet” is a height of less than three. Regarding dirt against the brickwork, yes dirt on raw, exposed brick is a no-no. It is a code issue, as some municipalities require a 4” gap between brick and soil.  The Uniform Building Code (UBC, chapter 40) also requires that all grades drain away from a home, at 2% for a minimum of five feet.

If that is not an issue, installing a heavy-duty, paint-on barrier membrane/mastic, elastomeric coating, or rigid barrier along the brick face prior to back-filling with landscape soil may be one solution to consider.  

Here are a few water-proofing product names to google.  There are several more on-line:
Drylok Extreme Masonry Waterproofer
ProteShield Elastomeric Waterproof

A caution, however that 1.) It is not permanent and will last only about 15 to 20 years, and 2.) Using the heavy-duty black/white polymer paints, it will look ugly if you ever want to lower the grade, or if the soil settles.  Soil settling due to rain/snow coming off of the roof would create a whole new set of drainage problems that would need to be addressed...Adding gutters, concrete surfaces/patio, etc.

As a side note, sodding right up against the house in my opinion would increase the potential for future water intrusion.  I'd suggest a planter instead.

Hope it helps, John!

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Marc Chapelle, RLA


I am a licensed Landscape Architect. I can answer general questions about style and design, give you ideas and suggestions for site amenities, help with larger site-planning issues, or perhaps give guidance for recreational amenities & park design. IF YOU ARE GOING TO ASK FOR A PLANT SUGGESTION GO HERE: I prefer you ask somebody else why your petunias are not as perky as they should be; I'd LOVE to tell you how those petunias can increase your home's value!


20+ years of working with homeowners, contractors, developers and local civil engineering/architecture firms. I am located in the dry Great Basin area (Greater Nevada/Utah), so the use of landscape materials OTHER than plants is emphasized. As a licensed Landscape Architect I've worked on both the East and West Coasts.


BSLA in Landscape Architecture,Licensed in NV, CA, & VA - but can answer Q's across the country Many additional seminars, educational venues, and classes (both taught & attended)

Awards and Honors
Best Multifamily project, Reno/Sparks Builder's Association Best Model Home Landscaping, Reno/Sparks Builder's Association

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