Hinsdale Residence - Backyard Patio Update

As I pulled up to this Hinsdale home I immediately noticed that its original landscaping was in need of some restoration. The house was still as beautiful as the day it was built, but the landscaping was showing the test of time. For starters, the vegetation was a bit overgrown, the paver driveway had settled and looked worn, and a large timber retaining wall was beginning to rot out. Next was to find out what the homeowners had in mind for the restoration of their landscape.

We began by discussing what we could do to fix what was currently there. I gave them my thoughts on which plants should be removed, due to bad health or overcrowding, and what plants could stay put or be transplanted to other areas of the property. It is always my goal to keep and reuse as many plants as possible, and then add new vegetation to give it a fresh look. Next, we discussed the driveway, and I explained my thoughts as to why there was so much settlement and what we could do to correct the problems. Then we discussed the different options there were for replacement pavers, and they decided on the perfect one. Finally, we talked about replacing the large timber retaining wall that ran almost the entire length of the property on the south side and across part of the back. A replacement for this was quite easy to choose, as suitable choices for a wall of that magnitude are limited.

After discussing how we were going to fix what was existing, we moved on to talk about additional wants and concerns that they had. First of all, in addition to their existing deck, they wanted to add another gathering area. The homeowners love to cook and entertain family and friends, and wanted to make sure they had plenty of room to accommodate everyone. They were also looking for this gathering area to be a place where they could potentially have a fire pit. Another request they had was to figure out a way to make the back yard more useable. What back yard they did have was sloped, and very conducive for playing on. Their final request was to correct their drainage problems. Some new homes had recently been built around them, and the consequence has been flooding problems for the existing homes.

I went to the drawing board and figured out that if we raised and extended the retaining wall all the way across the back yard and around to the opposite side, that would allow us to solve everything. The retaining wall afforded us the opportunity to level off the lower portion of the back yard, thus making it the perfect place to add a bluestone patio with seat walls and a lawn area that would be perfect for playing. Along with the retaining wall acting like a dam keeping flood waters away from the house, we were also able to re-grade other areas of the yard and properly bury all downspouts and sump pump lines to correct all the drainage issues.

Now that we had a plan, the hard part began: getting approval from the city. I prepared some detailed engineering plans for the retaining wall and a detailed grading plan and was ready to present the plan to the city engineer. After a couple meetings with the engineer to confirm that we were addressing a few known problem areas in the existing grade, we were given approval to move forward with the project.

Aside from some spring rains, the project went very smoothly. We were able to get the new retaining wall built, and with the new wall product paired with the addition of geo-textile reinforcement and a new drainage system, this wall should hold up for a very long time. After the wall was completed, we were able to move on to the patio, grading, and planting in the back yard. Lastly, we were able to complete the new paver driveway and front landscaping. Once the old driveway was taken up, my suspicions as to why there was so much settlement were confirmed. The front downspouts had previously been buried underneath the driveway, using black corrugated draintile. After we switched the draintile out with PVC and re-leveled and re-compacted the gravel base, this driveway was ready to go.

Not only did this project drastically improve the appearance and functionality of this family’s landscape, but we were also able to correct all of their drainage issues; giving them peace of mind.