Your yard can make a powerful statement

  • Landscaping & yard maintenance is important for the curb appeal of any home.
  • They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. That may be because your neighbors have hired someone to take care of it for them. More Americans today are finding that a lawn service can do a better job than they can in designing a lush yard and keeping it thriving.
  • Many people get great satisfaction out of a well-maintained yard. It adds value and appeal to a home. But it’s a lot of work, especially if you have good-sized lot. Planning it all out takes a trained eye with a clear vision of how to bring all the corners of your property together.

How do you begin?

  • Whether you want to redo your existing yard or you’re starting from scratch at a new house, careful planning is the key to making your yard outstanding. Most people love the richness of a lush, dark green lawn. But there are so many other options to consider before you put down all that sod. Remember, the more elaborate the yard, the more work there is to keep it alive and green.
  • First, plan out where you want flower beds, and how many. Many homeowners surround their houses with flower beds and add shrubs, vines and grasses to fill in. Others carve out larger chunks of the yard for more elaborate displays. The only limit is your imagination. Flower beds can take any shape you want and can be changed from season to season.
  • Second, decide which kinds of plants you want. Spend time at a nursery to see what’s available and talk to experts about what grows best with your type of soil and amount of sunlight. If you want trees, take your time deciding where they’ll go. You always can transplant shrubs or plants, but once a tree has taken root, it’s much harder to move it.
  • Finally, figure out how you’ll tie all the pieces together. Do you fill in with grass, stones, a pathway or gravel? Do you need a decorative or protective fence? What kind of borders on your flower beds? How about a nice arbor or small water fountain and seats for a quiet place to relax and enjoy the benefits of your labor?

Putting it all together

  • If you’re overwhelmed by the task ahead of you, consider hiring a landscape architect. With a little guidance from you, she can put together a plan that is beautiful and practical so you can get the most out of your yard.
  • A landscape architect can get involved in planning the yard of a new home even before the lot is cleared. They often work with architects and contractors to plan the best arrangement for sidewalks, sprinkler lines, decks or patios, or even outbuildings.
  • For an existing home, a landscape architect can plan a yard makeover. She’ll take into account what you want to accomplish, natural elements like the type of soil and direction of sunlight, and what kind of plants will work best. Many landscape architects aren’t directly involved in the digging and planting. They’ll hire someone to do that.

Regular care keeps it perfect

  • Now that you’ve got it all planned out and planted, how do you keep up with all the work involved? More and more people today are hiring lawn and yard maintenance crews to keep their yards fit and trim. There are many to choose from, and they usually fall into two categories: lawn care and landscape maintenance.
  • Lawn care companies mostly just cut and edge the grass. Some of them apply fertilizer and pesticides, too, but often you’ll have to hire a separate company for weed and pest control. Landscape maintenance firms will do just about anything to keep your yard lush: mowing, edging, pruning, weeding and fertilizing. This is the most expensive option. Still other firms will specialize strictly in maintaining plants and trees, and expect the homeowner to keep the grass cut. For the price, this may be a good compromise.

My yard is a mess, where do I start?

  • Visit local garden centers or nurseries and talk to experts about what kinds of plants and grasses grow best in your climate. A landscape architect can do anything from a complete makeover for your yard to putting the finishing touches on something you’ve started.

Lots and Grounds

  • If the general terrain around your home is inclined, is it a gentle, sloping incline or a steeply sloped incline, and in which direction does surface water flow? A primary point of concern is the possibility of surface water movement towards the house and eventual penetration into the below grade areas. If your land slopes downward from the street to the house, your house may encounter serious drainage problems. The surface water, if not properly diverted or controlled may accumulate around the foundation, or it may collect or pond on the lawn.
  • The actual soil conditions around the home are a major concern. Soil erosion, ponding water and grades that slope towards the house can lead to water in the basement or crawl space areas. The basic principal for preventing or minimizing erosion is to have the ground covered as much as possible with vegetation, such as grass, trees, shrubs, etc. As the homes are landscaped, the shrubs and trees are often intentionally planted very close to one another to produce an immediate, pleasing cosmetic effect. In most cases, the plants are not placed with the future appearance in mind. Consequently, as the shrubs and trees grow and fill out, they tend to crowd one another. They also tend to be too close to the house.
  • More importantly, they begin to impact the exterior surfaces of the residence. Damp conditions are conducive to the growth of fungus and mildew that lead to the decay of the wooden structural components. In general, shrubs should be trimmed at least 12 to 16 inches away from the walls to prevent damage by abrasion when high winds blow, and to allow the siding and other building materials to dry out.
  • English Ivy makes a good ground cover, but on structural elements, its tendrils probe every opening. Often, you may find the ivy tendrils inside the basement area where they have found openings along the sills, windows, etc. and have grown through. Ivy that climbs a downspout or telephone wire can tear away the supports. Ivy that gets behind siding, shingles and clapboard can, as it gets thicker, force the material away from the structural components of the residence. Ivy produces claw-like anchors to support its own weight. The claws puncture the wood shingles and the paint layers on the clapboard and wood siding, leaving openings through which water can penetrate. The best way to remove them is to cut them off at the roots and wait 1 to 2 weeks for them to weaken and dry before pulling them off. Do not wait too long, because they will become too dry and fragile and you may find yourself removing them 1 inch at a time.
  • Dead trees are vulnerable to insect damage and decay, and they are a potential safety hazard when they fall, especially if they are located near the residence. In the fall and winter months, it is somewhat difficult to determine whether a tree is dead or has any dead branches. However, if you see limbs with bark peeling off, you can assume that these branches are dead and should be removed. Depending upon the size and location of the tree, its removal can be costly. A professional who is skilled and insured should perform this type of work. In addition to dead branches, all limbs that are overhanging or resting on a roof of the residence should be pruned back. These branches, especially in periods of high wind or when covered with snow, can damage the roofing surface.

Trees & The Foundation

If a tree isn’t the proper distance away from a house It’s roots can get out of control and clog sewer and water lines or cause cracks and damage to the foundation.

If a tree causes damage to the foundation of your home, you’ll need to call in a professional. The tree may have to be removed before the foundation is repaired. That’s why it’s important to do your homework. Determine how big a tree can grow, and how far the root structure can spread to avoid problems spouting up down the road. Here are some general tips to help prevent a potential root problem.

  • Plant trees at least 10 feet away from the house, depending on how big the tree and roots will grow.
  • Don’t plant trees above or near sewer or water lines.
  • Consult with a structural engineer if you believe tree roots have damaged your foundation.
  • If tree roots are inching closer to your foundation, consider installing a root barricade made of thick Plexiglas. It’s buried deep in the ground and can stem the roots from attacking your house.

Note: The Information contained within this website is for informational purposes only. Kevin M. Leonard & The Ohio Home Inspections Company always recommends that a qualified expert be consulted in the area of concern.