Original sidewalk

Original sidewalk

Sorry that it’s taken so long to post, but we’ve been really busy with the house. I really thought I was done filling dumpsters with wheelbarrows of concrete, dirt, clay, and stone, but here we are again. The purpose of the drainage project is to prevent rain water from coming through the brick walls of our basement, but we’re accomplishing a lot of other things at the same time. I was planning to do this project after the house was done as part of landscaping, but after having moving into the basement and getting water every time it rained, we knew we needed to do something about it.

More dumpsters with concrete

More dumpsters with concrete

We got a dumpster delivered into the back yard (I believe this was dumpster #10) and broke up the sidewalk between our house and our neighbors, which runs from the front of the yard all the way to our basement steps. Technically, it keeps going to the back of the property, but that can wait. Under the sidewalk, on the side closer to our house, was a layer of asphalt, and under that was even older sidewalk. Under that was a really loose, oily black soil that I think might be fly ash or something. We couldn’t dig a trench in it, so I dug it all out and we filled the dumpster.

The result was a very uneven excavation down to the clay, but since we discovered that the yard slopes to the front of the house, while the drainage tench needed to slope to the back, we dug deeper in the middle and built up the side against our house. I used the laser level to keep things correct, with the typical drainage grade of 1″ every 8′. Factoring in the added slope of the yard, the end result was a trench close to two feet deep. Sarah’s brother, Will, took a crack at the trench digging, helping us knock out the last ten feet or so of trench, including the old concrete porch footings.

Will breaking up concrete

Will breaking up concrete

We also took off the concrete “apron” that ran along the front of the house around the bay window. Under that we discovered the original window sills. We’d had new sills put in by the brick tuck pointers last year, and they were in pretty bad shape having been buried in the yard. The front window sill in particular came apart with the concrete, leaving a gaping hole in the first wythe of brick. Sarah and I filled that in with bricks from our chimney and a judicious amount of mortar. Once that was set we back-filled with dirt and dug a small trench abut five feet out across the front of the house. We’ll have a front porch eventually, and this trench drains into the main trench under the sidewalk.

The next step was the rest of the front yard. We’d let it get overgrown with weeds and the two evergreen shrubs had gotten out of control over the years. I chopped both of them down and pulled out the root balls (pro tip: sledgehammer). The rest of the weeds came out as we I re-graded the whole yard to slope to the front. The next step was to cut the path the walk will take as it bends across the yard to meet the front walk. I used landscaping edging to mark it and then excavated everything. By this point we’d made a pretty big mess, and it was time to start putting it back together, but that can wait for the next post.

Laying out the path

Laying out the path

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