Some of the most challenging, fun, and dramatic transformations we have helped our clients make in their outdoor areas involved dropping or raising the ground levels, or grades. This type of project can be very complicated and can involve moving a large amount of dirt. That said, the results can be truly life changing for the people who occupy these spaces.
Dirt and Walls
The challenging part of a project that involves any serious grade changes, is deciding how much soil will need to be removed, or how much fill soil will need to be brought in to the area. Sometimes, it works out that imports and exports can be kept to a minimum by working only with the material on a site. When this happens, it can mean a substantial savings for the client on labor and materials.
Most projects that involve any major grade changes employ retaining walls of some kind. We have used everything from short six-inch concrete block walls to poured concrete walls that are well over six feet tall. In a city with hills like Seattle, there are opportunities to use every kind of retention.
Get Low (and Cozy)
Some of our favorite projects have included lowered grades that provide a gathering area around a fire feature. These sunken spaces give a feeling of intimacy and coziness, especially when shared with friends and warmed by the flames. Custom-built Ipé benches provide the finishing touches on a complete transformation.
Flat for Fun
Other projects have aimed to level out a sloped area to provide space for the kids to play. We can all get behind that! It has been very satisfying to see an area that had been unusable and basically abandoned transformed into a grassy lawn scattered with toys. These projects are often the kind that can end up even on soils, too. We can remove from the high area, and dump on the low. Then we hold it all together with concrete block retaining wall installed by our talented crew. There have been times when we could just finish before the kids invaded. That’s a win in our book.
One of the more dramatic projects that we designed and installed lately included poured concrete walls. The walls were used to make space in an expanded backyard, providing an area for grass and a planting bed. It completely changed the look of the space and made a lot more room for good times. We barely got our tools packed up before the first party!
Making new space with grade changes can be technically challenging and requires an extra level of planning. When it’s done well, though, it can massively improve the usability of a space.