Category Archives: Yard Maintenance

French Drain and Curtain Drain Design: What You Need to Know

A French drain, sometimes called a curtain drain, is a simple system with no moving parts — gravity removes excess water from problem areas in your yard. Give gravity a chance to do its job by making sure your French drain design has the proper slope from beginning to end.

Which End is Up?

The two ends of a French drain system are:

  • The drain field, or high end, where excess ground water enters the drain pipes
  • The drain exit, or lowest point, where water leaves the system

A French drain needs a slope of no less than 1%. That means from the highest point of the drain field all the way to the drain exit, the system should slope at least 1 inch for every 8 feet of length.

Start with Your Exit Strategy

Select a location on your property for the drain exit. The goal is to move water away from your house and foundation, or from the soaked part of your yard, to a drier area.

Good locations for drain exits:

  • A grassy slope that’s exposed to the sun for most of the day. Grasses help absorb moisture and the sun aids evaporation.
  • A spot closest to your problem area so you can keep the system as short as possible, saving costs.
  • The street, so it can be carried away by your municipal storm drain system. But check with your local building department first.

Don’t locate the drain exit:

  • Where runoff is directed toward a neighbor’s yard.
  • Where the water could run onto a sidewalk or driveway and turn to ice during freezing weather. Directing drainage toward pavement often is a violation of building codes.
  • Where runoff could cause erosion, such as a dirt slope with no protective vegetation.

Connecting to an Existing Drain Line

Some houses have rain gutters that empty into an underground drainage system, which ties into a municipal storm drain. Your French drain can tie into this system also.

Local codes might require a backflow valve that prevents water from backing up onto your property if a clog occurs downstream. Expect to pay about $500 for a plumber to install this device.

No Acceptable Exit Point

If you can’t find a good place for your system to drain, you’ll need to empty your system into a dry well. A dry well is a vertical hole, typically about 4 feet deep and 1 foot in diameter, that’s filled with gravel. A dry well lets excess water be absorbed by the surrounding soils.

Determining Proper Slope

If your yard is sloped, it may be easy to spot the high point (drain field) and low points (drain exit) for your system.

If you’re not sure, use a line level to determine slope:

  • Pound a stake into the problem area and another at a possible exit point.
  • Tie a mason’s string to the stakes.
  • Put a line level on the string. Pull the string taut and level.
  • Measure the distance from the string to the ground at the stakes, and calculate the drainage slope.

Remember, you can add some slope when you install your system by digging the trench progressively deeper.

Using a Professional to Determine Slope

A surveyor, civil engineer, or landscape contractor will use a tripod-mounted transit level to help you determine the slope you’ll need for your system and possible exit points. Expect to pay $150 to $250 for the service.

Route Around Roots and Utilities

  • Plan to route your drain line around large trees to avoid cutting roots. Roots usually extend to the “drip line” of the tree — the outmost edge of its branches.
  • Call 811, the Call Before You Dig hotline, to have the location of underground utility lines marked on your property. You want to check not only in areas where the drain will live but also where you might dig a dry well. This is a free service.

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/drainage/french-drain-design/#ixzz41qswBd56
Follow us: @HouseLogic on Twitter | HouseLogic on Facebook

Image: Wet Basement Repair, Vancouver

Organic Home Remedies for Lawn Care

Vinegar is a popular organic weed killer

We might love the idea of maintaining our lawns with non-toxic pantry products — soda, vinegar, and dish detergent — that help keep pesticides and other chemicals out of the environment while saving us a little money.

But do these home remedies really work as organic alternatives to traditional pesticides? And if so, do they really save money?

Not so much, say turf professors and pros.

“I wouldn’t waste my time,” says John Boyd, a University of Arkansas professor of weed science. “You can kill a weed with vinegar — in the better neighborhoods they use balsamic. But it’s not all that effective or cost-efficient.”

Also, home remedies — especially bug-killing concoctions — don’t have the same precision and accountability of store-bought lawn care products.

“They’re not labeled as pesticides, and have not been through any review or screening process,” says Dan Gilrein, an entomologist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County in New York. “Materials may not be as benign as assumed — particularly when not used as intended.”

So are organic home remedies for lawn care a waste of time and money? Some are; some aren’t. Below, we break it down for you.

Boiling Water

Reputation: Weed killer

Reality: Undoubtedly, dumping boiling water on a weed will scald and kill some shallow-rooted, annual weeds, like chickweed. But it won’t wipe out the deep roots of perennial weeds, like dandelions, unless you repeat for days.

What’s more, the boiling water treatment is non-selective; not only can you scald yourself, but you can also kill grass and prized plants around the weed, says Craig Jenkins-Sutton of Topiarious Urban Gardens in Chicago.

Cost: How much is your time worth? By the time you boil the water, run it out to the garden before it cools, and carefully dump it on unwanted weeds, you could have grabbed a good weeder and dug up a garden full of dandelions — and those won’t come back.

Vinegar 

Reputation: Weed killer

Reality: Acetic acid is a good general herbicide that sucks water from common weeds. But most pantry vinegar has only a 5% acetic acid concentration — too weak to kill all but the most tender, annual weeds. Perennial weeds — fuggedaboutit!

If you want to kill weeds with vinegar, you’ll need a commercial solution that’s 20% acetic acid. It’ll suck weeds dry, but will also dry out your prized plants, so be careful when spraying.

Cost: Distilled white vinegar: $2.40/gal.; commercial vinegar: $33/gal. (Note: Diluting it 1:1 with water will give you twice the amount of vinegar at a high concentration.)

Dish Detergent 

Reputation: Insecticide

Reality:
 The Iowa State University Extension says it’s OK to use dish detergent, like Ivory or Palmolive, to kill soft-body insects, such as aphids, scales, and whiteflies. The soap destroys the waxy shell that protects the bugs, causing them to desiccate (dry up).

In a spray bottle, combine 1 tablespoon of dish detergent with 1 quart of water. Then thoroughly saturate the infected plants to completely wet the insects you want to kill.

One problem with dish soap, however, is that it can kill plants along with the insects. That’s where commercial insecticidal soaps have the advantage. Their formulas usually have a stabilizing agent that helps prevent the soap from damaging plants. Of course, you pay more for that formula.

Cost: Palmolive dish washing liquid: $3.30/10 oz.; Safer Brand Insect Killing Soap spray: $6.40/24 oz.

Soda and Beer

Reputation:
 Fertilizer that greens-up lawns

Reality:
 Home remedy guides say beer and soda contain carbohydrates and phosphorous, which feed lawns. Turf scientists, however, say that grass makes its own carbs from photosynthesis, and that soil generally has all the phosphorous a healthy lawn needs. Actually, phosphorous runoff is a watershed pollutant, and some municipalities are banning commercial fertilizers that contain phosphorous.

Spraying flat cola or beer on your lawn essentially just waters the grass, which can help it turn green.

Cost: Six 16-oz. cans of Bud: $7.80 (enough for a 10-by-20-ft. lawn)

So What’s a Greenish Lawn-Owner to Do?

First, know this: Lawns suck up more water than any other irrigated crop in the U.S. — so their very existence, arguably, is eco-unfriendly. If you’re dedicated to protecting life on Earth, replace your lawn with indigenous, drought-resistant plants or artificial turf.

Still, you might think life on Earth isn’t worth living unless you can wiggle your toes through cool fescue that’s not covered with toxic chemicals. If so, here’s some advice:

  • You’ll have to devote yourself to precisely mowing (with a push mower, if you want to be green), watering (deeply and less often), and fertilizing (with nutrient-rich compost). Diligent lawn care will keep out weeds naturally and promote beneficial insects that will eat the ones you don’t want.
  • Forget the idea of lawn perfection. Without chemicals, a few weeds will grow and some patches will turn yellow.
  • Spend a few extra bucks and buy organic lawn products that take the guesswork out of applying non-toxic solutions.

 

Read more: http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/organic-lawn-care/#ixzz35kkIufAv
 
By: 
 Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic
 
Visit Houselogic.com for more articles like this.

 

Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

 

Tags: