Make your backyard work for you this summer
WE’RE heading full force into summer, and for many of us, our 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 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 30 centimetres away from the foundation wall, the ground should drop at least one centimetre. So over a two metre span you should have at least a 7-cm drop. If you ever want to test it you can do a hose test. Get your garden hose and point it horizontal to your foundation wall, about 12 cm away. Turn the hose on and as the water’s running, check to see the direction the water flows. 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 are driving water directly to your foundation. Any tiny cracks will allow water to penetrate through, and if your basement is finished this can be an expensive fix. Shrubs against your foundation wall and exterior can also trap moisture against your home’s exterior when they get bigger, which could lead seek out water), and then they can grow into the pipe itself, causing a blockage and potentially a sewer back up in the basement. 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), and there are a couple of backyard projects that can help do that. As I mentioned before, you can strategically plant trees around your home to block out the heat (not too close) 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.
Watch Mike Holmes on Holmes Makes It Right on HGTV