Friday, January 28, 2011

Project Spotlight - Hillside Remodel

Hillside Remodel

The main goal for this hillside project was to incorporate more garden area for the client on a steep hillside. The existing back yard consisted of a steep grassy slope, an irregular shaped and unevenly spaced natural stone steps (that were dangerous to try to go down) and a waterfall that was unimpressive and virtually unseen.

After walking the site with the clients and reviewing some pictures, long term goals were discussed and it was determined that the client would like to see 4 different options for their back yard.
Concept #1 – Key Points

• Redesigned disappearing waterfall and stream that takes advantage of the hillside by adding dramatic waterfalls versus the existing stream that just flows down the hillside.

• Natural stone slab steps and flagstone path that follows the waterfall down the hillside. Natural stone slabs act as a bridge over the stream and waterfall.

• A semi circular garden area with boulder walls built into the hillside

• Deck with built in spa

• New patio off the lower sliding doors

• No grass on the hillside, just trees, shrubs and naturalizing groundcovers. For the side yard a flagstone path takes the pace of the skinny grass strip

Concept #2 – Key Points

• The existing water feature to remain as is

• The location of the stone steps would remain as in the existing, but new 6” thick, flat slabs would be used to increase safety

• A rectangular garden area with concrete/keystone walls built into the hillside

• Existing concrete patio remain

• Grass is replaced on the hillside with naturalizing ground covers, shrubs and trees

• All grass is eliminated on the side yard and a new flagstone path welcomes guests to the back yard

Concept #3 – Key Points

• A more linear type design plays off the lines of the residence

• A small screen wall with a spillway water feature serves as the focal point for the upper patio.

• A large concrete wall and staircase leads to the new lower patio.

• The lower patio has a shade structure to match the existing shade structure on the upper patio

• A rectangular garden area with concrete walls sits on the hillside

• All grass on the hillside is replaced with naturalizing groundcovers

• The side yard grass is removed and a stepping stone path leads to the back yard

Concept #4 – Key Points

• The waterfall is redesigned with no stream going down the hillside

• The existing steps and lower patio remain but large boulders are brought in to make level areas

• The grass on the hillside is reduce by approximately 50%

• A small garden area is and wall is located next to the steps

• The side yard remains as is

After presenting the 4 concepts to our client, they gravitated to concept #1, but they also like elements from the other concepts. The final base design consisted of the Side yard path from Concept #2 and the waterfall and steps from Concept #1. While sitting down with the client to go over the concepts, we also decided to make the garden are larger (use the shape from concept #1). We also decided to eliminate the existing hot tub and to create a very small patio by the exiting lower patio doors.

We revised the plan to reflect these changes and then we started our construction documents.

 • Demolition plan - to illustrate all elements that were to be removed and elements to be saved and protected during construction.
• Grading Plan - to illustrate the grade changes proposed, wall heights and drainage patterns. This drawing was approved by the City

• Erosion and Sediment Control Plan – to illustrate how the contractor will reduce/eliminate erosion during and after construction. This drawing was approved by the City

• Materials Plan – to illustrate, note and detail all hardscape items like, the rock wall, steps, waterfall, patio and walls.

Planting Plan – to illustrate all plant material proposed for the project

• Irrigation Plan – to illustrate how all landscape areas shall be irrigated.

Now that all the drawing were done, it was time solicit bids form landscape contractors. Sterling Landscape, The Lawn Co., and Eagle Landscape were invited to bid the project. The contactors presented their proposals and provided pictures of installed projects for the clients review. The client was very impressed with all the contactors and had a very hard time choosing just one contactor, but in the end, they decided to go with Sterling Landscape.

Construction started in February with the demolition of the existing grass, steps, waterfall and lower concrete patio. Because access was severely limited, we had to work our way backwards and start at the top and work our way out. We started with the upper stone steps and started to work our way down.

The waterfalls and stream were installed after the steps were installed because we could play with the grade of the water feature, while the steps and landings had critical elevations that had to be maintained. We first painted the main location of the water course, and then we decided the best location, height and orientation for each waterfall. It was then time to excavate for the water feature, install the liner and start to bring in the boulders. After we finished placing the boulders and rocks, we fired up the water feature to make the water went where we wanted it to go and to make sure we were not losing too much water to splashing or to see if we had any leeks. After some fine tuning and adjusting, the smaller washed pebbles were seeded in the bottom of the stream and waterfall and then the pond liner was trimmed to remove any excess.

Now that the water feature was done, it was time to finish the last set of stone steps, flagstone landings and new brick paver Patio. For the landings and stone Slab bridges, we used New England Bluestone flagstone. For the new lower patio, we used Basalite’s Italian Renaissance tumbled pavers.

With the majority of the hardscape in the back yard finished, the side yard flagstone path was painted out, excavated and installed. This truly transformed a boring grass side yard into an the main entry to the back garden.

Now that all the hardscape items were installed it was time to place the plants so they could be reviewed by the owner. After acceptance by the owner, the crew started planting the trees, shrubs and perennials. After the plants were planted, weedcloth was installed and topped with 3” of bark much.

A concrete mowstrip and new sod finished off the other side yard and now it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy the sound of water. Sterling did a fantastic job installing the project and listening to the client’s needs. This project took longer than most other projects of this size because of the access limitations and the steep slope working conditions, but if was finally completed in May.

I would like to thank the home owners for being great to work and for believing in me and having patience during the construction process. I would also like to thank Sterling Landscape and Afterdark Lighting for great installation job!

Here is a look at some before pictures for our project spotlight for the next issue -- I wonder what we are going to do here?

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