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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Making the Grade

When designing a landscape, the elevation or grade change of the site should be aspects considered to ensure the end result is a proper functioning space. The grade of the site often presents challenging factors to address, but it also can help create a unique and intimate space. 

Even if you don’t plan to do any major landscaping, you will need to consider the drainage and water flow around the property. It always is important to get the water away from the house and to ensure there are no areas of standing water that can cause future issues. 

In our area, it is uncommon for a house and the surrounding property to be completely flat. Almost always there is an elevation change, if only a few inches. There are many ways to address the grade change and a lot depends upon the needs of the site and how you will use the space. 

I often like to design spaces that lead away from the house and into the landscape. Often the main floor of the house is higher than the surrounding landscape so it allows you to step down into a space. One of the most comforting spaces can be one in which you are nestled down within the landscape itself. Even if you only have one step down, it can add to the overall experience of the space. It allows you to break up larger areas and have some secondary spaces.  

I have worked with many clients on the installation of landscapes, patios, or pools where the elevation of their site dropped way from the house. On almost every occasion, rather than bringing in tons and tons of fill dirt to build up, we actually recommended lowering the elevation of the space. By doing so and cutting into the existing grade, it created the need for walls to help retain the hill where we cut in, but it added great opportunities for features such as seating built into the wall, waterfalls, fire pit areas, and intimate spaces that wouldn’t have normally existed if the elevation had been raised. 

Brian Wildeman is a landscape designer at Landscapes by Dallas Foster, Inc., 825 Canal St. He can be reached at 812-882-0719 and dallasfoster.com.

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