Mike Holmes: Don’t kick back in your backyard until it’s got the all-clear

Smart backyard planning and landscaping can help you protect your home, as well as cut cooling costs.

We’re heading full force into summer, and for many of us, the idea of a great summer starts with a great backyard. But more than just a place to have some drinks, enjoy time with the kids and friends, it’s important that your backyard works for you — by that I mean it helps protect your home and save you money.

What’s the first thing we should look at when checking out a backyard? Grading — that’s the slope of the property surrounding the house that helps direct water away from the foundation, not toward it. This helps protect against basement leaks. For every foot away from the foundation wall, the ground should drop at least half an inch. So over a six-foot span, you should have at least a three-inch drop.

If you ever want to test it, you can do a hose test. Get the garden hose and point it horizontally to your foundation wall, about five inches away from it. Turn the hose on and as the water runs, check the direction of the water flow. It’s a quick way to make sure water is moving away from your home.

That’s also why I don’t like plants and shrubs right up against the foundation wall. Every time you water them, you would be driving water directly to your foundation. Any tiny cracks will allow water to penetrate through, and if your basement is finished this could require an expensive fix.

When they get bigger, shrubs against your foundation wall and exterior can also trap moisture against your home’s exterior, which could lead to mould, termites or other insects. You’re better off moving those garden beds and shrubs away from the house.

What about trees? I love them, and they can help block the summer’s heat and sunlight from entering your home if planted in the right spots. But again, don’t plant them too close to your home.

The extra foliage will direct water and precipitation to your home’s exterior and roof. This can increase the chance of a leak; it will wear down your exterior siding faster, and when the leaves drop in the fall they could end up in your gutters, potentially clogging them.

Ideally, you also want to keep trees away from any sanitary lines, too.

A tree’s roots can grow to be two to three times wider than its canopy, and the roots can wreak havoc on your plumbing and weeping tile, especially if your home still has clay pipes. If there’s a tiny crack in the plumbing underground, the leaking water will attract tree roots to it, because roots seek out water, and then they can grow into the pipe itself, causing a blockage and potentially a sewer backup in the basement.

Related

It’s one thing to protect your home, but it’s also important to make it work efficiently. One way is by helping block out heat so you don’t have to crank up the air conditioning as often (which saves you money). There are a couple of backyard projects that can help do that.

As I mentioned, you can strategically plant trees around your home to block out the heat, but you can also install awnings on your windows. Awnings are an old-school solution that can reduce heat gain by about 55 to 77 per cent. In some areas, awnings can save homeowners as much as 25 per cent on their energy bills.

You could also hire a pro to build a pergola on the sunny side of your house.

Pergolas are those wooden exterior structures, usually in the backyard against the house, that have vertical posts supporting large crossbeams and joists. (If the pergola is free-standing it usually has four support posts. If it’s built off the side of a house it will have two.) Pergolas are great because they can help block out the heat and cut cooling costs, and they look good, too.

Your backyard should be your sanctuary; the place where you can kick back and relax. But to do it right you have to plan it right, because what you do on the outside of your home will always have an impact indoors.

Source National Post Mike Holmes, Special to National Post | June 12, 2015 

Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV. For more information visit makeitright.ca.

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