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Landscaping - My Front Slope
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Feb 22nd, 2004
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April 23rd, 2003
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|My House -   2002/12/02||Viewed 63 times this month, last update: 2005/01/14|
This is my house, or the side of it, in Portola Hills California. Even the locals don't know where Portola Hills is, so: Portola hills is up the hill from Foothill Ranch, which is up the hill from Lake Forest. It's the hilly region north of El Toro road between Santa Marguita Parkway and Cooks Corner.
I bought the house in late November, 2002, at which time there was very little wrong with it, but that won't keep me from fixing things!
2002/12/01: First, the yard drainage is all clogged. I used a piece of old electrical conduit to snake it out, so that I could hose down the back yard without flooding everything. Next, the grass. Mowing, edging, and seeding the bald spots. Third, the walkway lights, smack two into working, then set the timer properly. Sleep....
The computer cabinet, in it's new home. I ran a seperate 20 amp circuit for [My AT&T UPS//the UPS], and gave it a twist-lock socket and plug. This arangement, unlike in the old apartment, where I had all the cables going out the bottom, allows me to put an air filter across the big lower ventilation opening. I think the computers actually get dustier in the cabinet, than on the floor.
2002/12/05: Alright! COX got my cablemodem installed! Good thing I installed those wireless access points in the attic last night, or I would have nowhere to do work from. (My desk is still at the apartment!)
2002/12/30: I ran CAT-5 cable from the computer cabinet, up into the attic, and to the kitchen and garage, so that I could install my two [Open WiFi Network//access points] for front-to-back wireless ethernet coverage.
2003/01/04: This weekend's task: Improve drainage for the side lawn, and back-yard garden.
The whole side lawn stays a muddy mess, due to the original drain system's vertical drains. These drains were at or above the level of the ground, and not in the low-points. So, I'm replacing the original system with a perforated drain pipe, in a gravel ditch, just below the sod. Water will drain into the V shaped gravel filled-ditch, and once the water level reaches the bottom of the perforated pipe, it'll be whisked away to the street. The gravel keeps the pipe from becomming clogged with mud.
2003/01/04: We just got some rain here, and the new side-yard drainage works great. Too bad that's not the end of it. The back-yard planter needs much better drainage, and the entire drainage system is blocked from exiting to the street.
2003/01/22: I have a mountain of dirt that I have excavated from the side-yard drainage project and the back-yard drainage project about eight feet wide and four feet tall. It's presently holding down a big chunk of my back porch, and making an eye-sore. So, it's off to the dump it goes. But how? Well, I had a brainstorm (sarcasm) and thought up the plan of lugging it to the dump in large plastic garbage cans in the back of My Truck.
Do you know how much dirt weighs? I guess I didn't. First of all, I could only barely roll half-filled cans down my driveway, let alone heft them up into my truck. I had to empty the cans about 1/4 of the way to heft them up, then bail from one on the ground to one in the truck in order to get the rest in. All told, I have three half-filled 44 gallon trash cans of dirt in the back of my truck, and my hands and back are screaming at me!
The plan is to take them to the dump tomorrow morning, and simply push them out the back. I hope that works, or I'll look awfully silly.
Worst of all... Three half-filled cans is only about 1/3 of the pile.
2003/01/24: Three trips to the dump later, the dirt pile is gone, and I'm sure the rear springs in my truck are a bit shorter. Well, at least the back-porch has somewhere to drain now, and I got all those bits of old drain pipe off the lawn.
2003/02/05:The next stage in drainage control: Where does the water go?
Now that I have these nifty new drain systems, which very effectively collect the overflow of the yard rain and irrigation water, some more problems arise. The exit pipe of the drain system is blocked, and no amount of roto-rootering has gotten it un-blocked. So, the drain water sits in the pipes, and keeps the yard muddy.
The last access point in the drain system is in the far corner of the front yard, and is always filled with water. However, if I put my sump pump down in there and pump the entire system dry, then the yard dries up a little. So, the task is to get water out of the drain system.
Step 1: Let the water collect somewhere other than the pipes. To acheive this, I removed the 8 inch drain access point, and dug a big hole. Into this I poured a layer of gravel, and inserted a large plastic pot, upside down. I then put holes in the side of the pot for the drain pipes to enter. The idea is that this will be a water collection reservoir. I estimate that there is about five cubic feet of space for the water to collect before it reaches the bottom of the drain pipe, and starts backing up.
Step 2 will be to run power out to the reservoir, and install a submersible pump with automatic switch. Once a few inches collect in the hole, the pump will kick on, and do something useful with the water. One thought is to run it out to the street. Another idea is to possibly re-use it to water the yard. We sill have two large trees without any automatic watering, and it would be easy to run small pipes from the pump to the base of these trees.
2003/02/06: I have to admit, I didn't know how much water really needed to be accomidated in the above drain reservioir. I was just guessing at the size of the plastic container I needed. Well, I set my irrigation computer to do all of it's work at 10:00pm and midnight, so I was able to check the level of the reservioir this morning. Two inches to go before the level of the water reached the bottom of the drain pipe. So, it works, but is only good for one day's normal watering of runoff.
This means that I must put an automatic pump in there, since even a short bit of rain would overflow the system now. I could dig a bigger reservoir, but to even double the storage space means so much more digging, I don't think my wrists (or my truck, hauling it away) could take it!
So, I vote the water gets used for re-irrigation, with a shunt valve to dump it to the street in overflow conditions.
2003/02/11: We just got some more rain here. Enough to keep my poor little pump busy pumping it out to the street.
The interesting thing is that this morning, I went out to check things out, and found large pools of water right on top of my nifty new drain system. Bah! I exclaimed. Failure! No, not failure, just crappy soil. I went and got a big pole, and poked some holes through the sod into the gravel of the drain. SLURP! Water all gone. Who knew topsoil could be so uncoperative?! So, I went down to Home Depot and got a lawn airator. A couple of hours and a couple of blisters later, the lawn "breathes" just fine. Both air and water. Now it's just wet, instead of underwater. And, of course, the poor little pump has to work even harder.
Lastly, I think it would be really nice to have a larger resevoir. At least one that I can bury a bit deeper, so as to not have as great an impact on the surface asthetics. I still can't think of a good container though! The perfect dimentions would be a cylinder 36" wide by 48" deep, with at least one end capped off.
Here's a picture of how the drainage system ended up. I put in two submerged control boxes. One for the valves, and one to access the underground reservoir. Both have small green covers, that make for a very clean look. On the right is a electrical box I installed to deliver power to the pump.
There are three of these boxes in the front yard, which I ran along the lawn edge. They are connected via waterproof conduit burried a few inches underground. This conduit goes under the front walkway, and up to the main circuit breaker panel. I gave it it's own 15 amp circuit.
(Tunneling under the concrete walkway was fun!)
The drain system works great, as long as I remember to turn the shunt valve when it looks like it's going to rain. However, after about two straight days of rain, the pump gets overwhelmed. I'm not too worried about that though, since it just overflows onto the driveway anyway.
All-in-all I'm very happy with the system. I still need to integrate a drainage system for the driveway, but that won't be too hard.
I dicided to tackle rain gutters this weekend, as the splashing outside the garage door was causing leakage into the garage, and getting stuff wet. I ended up doing two segments, one around the master bedroom patio, and one along the front walkway. It took me some time to figure out how the pices go together, but I did both installations in about four hours. Pictured to the left is the installation around the master bedroom patio. It's a wierd roof shape, but this captures all the runoff, and sends it straight into the dranage system.
Along the entire 50 foot long front walkway runs another gutter that drains to the lawn, and into a drain vent.
I'll probably do the back-yard next weekend.
Last weekend I installed three long-thin drains along the side of the driveway where water from the roof and the driveway itself ends up. These drains flow into the underground resevoir, and drain quite nicely. Doing the digging for these drains also allowed me to hide the outflow pipe from the pump, which I did by running it inside the drain pipe, and installing a little elbow right at the end of the driveway to let the water out into the street. Very clean.
Tee hee! 1 year after buying the house, I looked into refinancing. I got a loan at 1% less, and the house appreciated 13%!!! Finally, after making $200 against the principal per month out of my massive mortgage payments, I have some equity!
Well, after almost a year with the cistern-based drainage system, I'm still happy. I've made changes of course: I ditched the idea of recycling the water, it just didn't help enough during the dry season, and it was really irritating to run out in the rain to switch valves. I also upgraded the outflow pump tubing, from 1/2" I.D. garden hose to 1" I.D. hose, allowing for much greater flow. I also constructed a filter standoff/screen for the pump, so it doesn't get clogged by debris. However, even now under a very severe downpour, the system gets overwhelmed, but it no longer floods the entire yard, as the driveway drains allow the water to run out that route. Below is a 1/15 sec exposure of the system in action, during a medium-size rain:
2005/01/14:Drainage: The final solution
The old cistern for my drainage system was made out of a heavy-duty garbage can. I thought it was tough enough, but I was wrong. It buckeled, leaving just barely enough space for the pump and it's float-switch. With the heavy rain over the last couple of weeks, the system was tested to the max. And, since I'm so OCD, I decided the week-long winter break we're in was the perfect time to revamp the system. So, I dug out the old cistern, and poured a new one out of concrete, reinforced with rebar, and with a full size lid for easy access:
The new cistern will last 100 years, and has at least twice the capacity of the old cistern. Here it is buried, and with the sod re-placed:
I really like this setup. It was a HUGE amount of work, and ended up costing me about $300 all told, (not including the rest of the drainage system around the yard) but well worth it. If I had to do it again, there is only one thing I would change: Use non-quick-set concrete. It just sets up too fast for molded concrete. I ended up with a few un-filled holes in one wall, which I had to patch. If I had used normal concrete, it wouldn't have been so rapidly stiffening, and it would have flowed into the form much better.
RedBeard (2003-12-21): This page has given me quite a few ideas for fixing the drainage problems in my own back yard. I bought a house in the first part of September, and I love it! The back yard, however, needs some attention. It's almost completely flat, being in a valley that was a riverbed when our ancestors were still killing their dinners with stone-tipped spears and learning about the latest technology, fire. The soil is made up of infamous Georgia Red Clay, which is virtually impervious to water. Normally, earthworms help to aerate most soil, but they don't like clay, so there's almost no aeration of the soil. Needless to say, my back yard has a few medium-sized, shallow ponds in it for up to a week after any rain - and from November to April hardly a week goes by without a healthy rain here.
Of particular annoyance is the area immediately in front of my toolshed, which faces north. One of my hobbies is woodworking, so I spend a lot of time out there. Lots of traffic, lack of sunshine due to the shed's shadow, plenty of rain, and poor drainage turned that area into a mud pit. Last week I bought a ton or so (2480 pounds to be exact) of 1/2" aggregate gravel and brought it home. By the way, a 1996 F-150 longbed with the towing package is just barely able to haul about 2500 pounds in the bed, and I don't recommend over 1500 pounds if you have to traverse steep hills or windy roads - I have both of these between my house and the quarry. When I got home, I shovelled the gravel out of the truck into an area 10 feet wide (the width of the shed) by about 6 feet deep. I then poured out two 80-pound bags of "just add water" concrete mix and raked it into the gravel. This should settle by spring, when I plan to pour a concrete slab and put a paving-stone walkway from there to the door of my screened-in patio. Then I tried to move my pickup truck from that spot back to the driveway, got stuck, and ended up digging deep ruts in the yard when I finally got unstuck. Definitely must improve drainage for the back yard overall.
I intend to try to remedy the overall drainage situation in late spring, once things dry out a little. Since the entire neighborhood is flat, there's not much I can do in the way of draining the water downhill unless I pipe it to the ditch out by the road. This means I'll have to dig a trench, about 100 feet or so long, with a continuous slope. Then I'll put down filter cloth, pour aggregate, put down more filter cloth, and spread topsoil on top of that. Needless to say, I'm checking on backhoe rental prices now.
I'll try to remember to document the work on my website (www.techdudez.com) when I finally get "a round tooit" (I already have a square tooit *grin*).
RedBeard (2003-12-21): er...I said "windy roads" in that last comment - meant "winding roads" or even "very curvy mountain roads that Porsche drivers live for"
NN (2004-10-13): I have a drainage problem in Australia. Thank;s for the ideas!!!
See also: My Workspace, Laser Cannon Revival, Front Bumper, Version 2, New new house, New new house, Stump Pullin' Yeeee Haw!, Whiting Ranch Hiking, Some People's Comments