Location: Midlothian, Virginia
Key Features: 450 Square foot Pave Patio, Unique Swing, Sitting Walls, Pillars, Fire Pit and a Low Maintenance Landscape
Biggest Obstacle: Before entering the project, we thought the biggest obstacle would be accommodating the yard sloping back towards the house. Upon arrival, we learned that the biggest obstacle was a frustrated neighbor that had dealt with inconsiderate contractors in the past.
Solution: We won over the neighbor with communication, consideration and kindness. In the past, this neighbor had dealt with contractors that damaged her property, roughed up her yard and blocked her driveway. Throughout the entire build process, our project manager was in regular communication with both our client as well as the neighbor to ensure that everyone was aware of what was going on and that no one was inconvenienced by the process. In the end, after experiencing the consideration of our crew and the quality of their work, the neighbor was an avid fan of Outdoor Dreams.
Like the staff at Outdoor Dreams, this client is a hard-working professional that wanted a place to escape the daily grind. Our client was fortunate enough to have an existing screen porch, but the remainder of her yard was left unfinished by the builder. Her backyard was narrow, exposed on all three sides to neighbors and a cul-de-sac. Additionally, the builders final grade left her with an oddly sloped and poorly drained backyard. With the design, we aimed to create a more private, intimate space that provided room for lounging and dining. Additionally, our client had a special feature that she wanted to work into the space.
As you can see in the photos, the result was a quaint, perfect space. The hardscape is composed of BLU 60 slabs and a two-toned Villagio paver border. The walls and pillars are a creative combination of Manchester and Mini Creta Wall blocks; this unique combination provides an attractive texture contrast. Included in the hardscape is a creative arbor-covered swing, fire pit and new, curved steps down from the porch.
For the landscape, we created a low maintenance mix of trees and shrubs that will provide interest throughout the year and privacy on all three sides of the property. Our client was impressed by the thoroughness of our crew and thrilled with the outcome!
Slope Towards the House
Part 1: Developing a Plan
One of the more frustrating obstacles we encounter are yards that slope towards the house. Though this is unavoidable with some properties, poor grading and lack of thought from the builder make the problem worse, especially when installing a patio.
When installing a patio, as with a house foundation, it is important that the surrounding yard slope away from the patio. This can be very difficult with patios, especially on narrow residential lots that slope back towards the house. To ensure that this patio was properly built, our designer consulted regularly with our project manager throughout the design process. Once an outline was established, our designer and project manager developed a water management plan that accounted for a carefully calibrated patio elevation, installing drain tiles and collecting downspouts. The result of this extensive planning was a clear build process and final patio and landscape project without standing water.
Slope Towards the House
Part 2: Addressing Poor Soil
Along with the runoff issues, yards that slope towards the house typically have the worst soil conditions. When the yard slopes towards the house, water will typically flow towards the foundation where it will settle and sit. Couple this water collection with poorly draining clay soils and the result is an unbuildable mess. Soggy clay soils cannot be amended and absolutely should not be built upon. When contractors build patios on these terrible soil conditions, the result is always a patio that is quickly failing.
When we began excavating for this patio, it became immediately clear that the soil conditions were terrible. To ensure a stable patio foundation that would support our lifetime warranty, we had to excavate 18-24” for about half of the patio space. This excavation also resulted in a patio foundation that required almost twice the amount of gravel as estimated. Though it required significantly more work than anticipated, the resulting patio and hardscape are solidly built and proudly backed by our lifetime warranty.
Creative Value Engineering
Budget is a concern with every client. Over the years, our designer has developed many creative ways to keep project costs under control. As illustrated by this patio project, one of the more creative ways to control the cost of hardscape walls is to use Manchester blocks from Techo-Bloc. These blocks are less expensive than most wall blocks and are incredibly easy to work with, bringing down the labor costs. For this project, we have mixed the Manchester blocks with a band of Mini Creta Architectural blocks for a creative look that provides unique texture contrast. To look at this patio and hardscape, you would never guess that this creative flair was a cost lowering result of our designer’s value engineering.
More Project Details
Sitting Walls: Manchester Blocks from Techo-Bloc (Chestnut Brown), Mini-Creta Architectural from Techo-Bloc (Chocolate Brown), Architectural Caps from Techo-Bloc (Chocolate Brown), York Pillar Caps from Techo-Bloc (Chocolate Brown)
Plant Combination: ‘Schip’ Laurels, ‘Endless Summer’ Hydrangeas, ‘George Tabor’ Azaleas, ‘Red Rocket’ Crape Myrtles, ‘Bloodgood’ Japanese Maple, Slender Hinoki Cypress, ‘Bloomerang’ Lilacs and ‘Zhuzhou’ Loropetalum.