Few questions for DIY yard improvements (drainage, patio, walkway)


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Old 02-08-23, 12:56 PM
J
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Few questions for DIY yard improvements (drainage, patio, walkway)

Hey all,

I'm currently in the process of renovating the yard. We already had turf removed but I need to excavate more as I have plans to install a flagstone patio (probably somewhere around 150-200ft worth) and surround it with a crushed rock pathway. I'm also considering supplementing the drainage somehow (either with a french drain or dry river bed) to improve the drainage in the yard. I started out hand-digging with my son to excavate but it's pretty overwhelming - so far we've just pushed the excavated dirt up against the side of the short retaining wall. We also have old roots from a couple ficus tree that we were battling. I set some stakes up in the yard and so far got the rough grade of one portion - I think it's about 1-2% where we're at that we need to roughly follow. The goal is to create an open space for the kids to run around/play but also that we can use as an outdoor dining/lounging area with a firepit. I plan to plant shrubs (lemonade berry mostly) as a hedge either towards or at the base of the berm I've built up.

Here are some pics:


Looking for some advice and pointers for the following:

1) I'm considering renting a Bobcat MT100 to finish excavating, grading the yard appropriately, and then using it to backfill with material (roadbase, crushed rock etc). Wondering if we can also use the MT100 to tear out the remaining roots/stump from the two ficus trees we had removed. The main reason why a skid steer is because I can't get any large equipment back there. A mini excavator seems like it would come with a steeper learning curve (and potential to cause more damage) as well, so kind of avoiding that. I just want to use something relatively manageable and easy to learn since I'd be operating it. Is the MT100 going to help get the job done?

2) I'm looking at excavating 4" more from where we were at (roughly 2" down from the concrete patio portion level) so that I can lay down roughly 4" of roadbase at least for the flagstone area. For the bordering crushed rock path/area, I think I don't need to excavate that deep and can maybe excavate just 2-3" down for that path (we aren't driving cars on this) - Will this be sufficient? I was considering use roadbase as a base layer for both the flagstone patio and the crushed rock path/areas too - is this the best base to be using? For the crushed rock path, I'm looking for something that can compact together easily and form a semi-solid path (so not DG but maybe like 3/8" rock and particularly the kind that isn't smooth or rounded?). The flagstones we have from another area of our front yard which I would repurpose for the flagstone patio area.

3) I'm considering adding a french drain,m dry creek bed or swale bordering the "berm" of dirt I've built up against the retaining wall. If not there then perhaps between the path and the flagstone area. I think we'll end up with a lot more dirt than I can push up against the retaining wall so will need to figure out how to reallocate all of it. If I add a dry creek bed or french drain at the base of the berm though, that might not give us much room to plant either. Would it be best to have this drainage feature between the walkway and flagstone patio then? If a french drain, I would plan to tie it in with the existing drainage line (which currently runs parallel and right next to the concrete area) in one or two places. I was thinking to use perforated triple wall for the french drain and all connections to the existing line. I'm not sure if I need to be too worried about how deep any of this would be laying btw but the existing drains are about 8-9" from the top of the concrete line - if I have a french drain close to the berm or walkway, I'd imagine the pipe is going to be exposed as it may come up into where the level of the roadbase (or whatever base I use) is.
If I were to do a dry creek bed or swale, I would probably just wrap it around and end it at one of the drains (or consider replacing one surface area drain with a catch basin perhaps). It seems like a swale might be most cost-efficient since it would involve the least amount of materials but not sure if it would redirect the water as effectively as either a drain or dry creek bed.

4) There's another connected area of the yard (side alley) where we need to figure out a solution for drainage:
NOTE: the surface drain pictured here does *not* connect to a drain that runs along this strip - this surface area drain is for the main portion of the yard and is the 'start' of the drainage run for the main drainage line.

The "planter strip" on the side is roughly 3-4" deep today and there's a small surface drain at the very far end/corner. The elevation here is pretty poor and the surface drain there is already sitting relatively high (it exits to a curb cut on the street) so we can't add a ton of elevation here if we want to reuse the existing drain (which is preferred, since you can't really lower the curb cut as that is set in place). I was planning to just pour in some river rocks in the strip and call it a day. Not sure if I need to excavate more out though, lay fabric, add a section of drainage, etc in addition.

It's a big project for sure and I've gotten some quotes/bids on pieces of it but I've already spent a ton of money (and overpaid) different contractors to do the initial demo work. At this point I really would like to just DIY the rest if I can. I figure if I have to haul dirt away though, I'll probably need to pay someone to do so unless I can figure out other creative uses (or find neighbors who will take it)
 
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Old 02-08-23, 03:27 PM
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Sorry, I fell asleep reading that manifesto, was there a question in there somewhere?
 
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Old 02-08-23, 04:20 PM
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Thanks for the feedback? lol

There are multiple things going on here so I thought it might be better to try to break it out into various segments Instead of posting in multiple threads. Maybe I need to break this out into multiple threads though (but then inevitably there's someone who comes along and says or thinks that I should have consolidated all my questions, etc into a single thread...)


But yes, I was looking for feedback and suggestions for each of the NUMBERED sections I listed.
 
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Old 02-08-23, 05:00 PM
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Yea, I kind of dozed off after a while so just one small suggestion. Rent a mini excavator w/12" bucket to do your digging after figuring out where all your lines will go. Very short learning curve. You can get them a small as 36" width.

I had about 100' of trenching/digging etc to do. First day got about 5' done with pick and shovels in hard pack dirt/rock. Rented the excavator (first time sitting on one) and finished the rest of the 100' in a day. It's also good for pushing around dirt for rough levelling. For me I think they run about $300 a day now. They make short work of any stumps (size contingent).

A ditch witch was a no go due the volume and size of rocks in the soil. I eventually purchased a BX24 w/a backhoe as it combined two tools in one (though sacrificed a little specialty from the single purpose machines)


Lastly, I got rid of my "dry creek bed" as it was a maintenance nightmare, leaves and stuff made it look like crap in a few years. Very difficult to keep clean and presentable.
 
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Old 02-08-23, 05:17 PM
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Thanks Tumble hahaha. The only issue/concern I'd have with a mini excavator is that it doesn't seem like it's also intended for moving a lot of material. I need to move a lot of this dirt to our front yard which is over 100' away. I'll also need to move all the materials (road base, crushed rock, etc) from our front yard or driveway (which is where it'll all get dumped when I order it) to our backyard. It would suck having to do all that with a wheelbarrow manually. And the mini excavator scoop doesn't look to hold as much capacity as a bucket on a skid steer. Unless I were to rent both machines, but that would get expensive. Trenching is probably secondary and at most I'd need to trench for no more than 80-100' of drainage (and not very deep either) so a mini excavator may not be as practical here. I've heard it's harder to grade with a skid steer but it's possible...

And thanks for the input on the dry creek bed. Maybe I'll just stick with a french drain. I think placement of it is the part that's tricky in my situation. Not sure exactly where I'd want it to go.
 

Last edited by jplee3; 02-08-23 at 05:33 PM.
 

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