Sunday, August 7, 2011


We were contacted by a client from Holt, MI recently that had 2-3" of constantly standing water in their backyard.  Please see the picture below.
The homeowners had a beautiful inground pool installed last summer (2010) and the pool installer had suggested alleviating this water problem by using a trencher to install a drain tile 280' to swamp on the back of the property.  I was contacted and showed up a year later and they still have standing water in the yard.  The homeowner and I had a great conversation and I worked out an estimate for their drainage job.

I chose to use the E-Z Flow System from NDS and create a 'fish-scale' system that would drain to a main line of 4" slotted sewer pipe with a filter sock, and would include drainage vents/ports in any standing water areas, as well as possible future maintenance of the french drain system.

We hired our good friend and excellent excavator operator Jim Plesscher to excavate the trenches.  We need to point out that we do not use trenchers to install our drain tile.  Trenchers generally leave very loose soil in the bottom of the trench that is often not hand shoveled out by the installers and can allow the pipe to go up and down similar to a rollercoaster.  The loose soil will absorb water, especially during the spring thaw and this will further cause the drain tile to move up and down even more.  This up and down motion interrupts the ability of the pipe to drain and will hold large amounts of water in the pipe.

We are committed to installing our pipe on a solid base (no loose soil), whether we hand dig the trench or use an excavator to do the digging.  We are also committed to excavating the trench with the proper fall which is a minimum 2" fall every 20' (the trench in the picture was draining the entire time we were excavating it).  We installed drainage vents/ports to the surface every 100', as well as in any areas of standing water such as where you see the white Dodge pick-up parked in the pictures.  Our systems are able to be either router-rooted or water-jetted if the need ever arises.  This is done so that are systems are installed with the intent that they can drain forever!

After this system was installed, our area over the course of 36 hours received approximately 9.5 inches of rain.  I visited the system to look at some additional work the client wanted done, and was extremely surprised to walk up and down the length of the area that we had excavated and backfilled for the trench, and it was extremely firm to walk on.  That was an immediate indication that the french drainage system was performing perfectly.  The homeowners were trying to get this area drained properly so that they could proceed with installing a rather large paver patio.  As long as they used a layer of GeoTextile and built the base material out of rock, they had my blessing to proceed with their patio installation plans.

I would have to say that this french drain project was working better than even I had anticipated...I expected due to the composition of the clay soil for the drainage of the area to be a little slower.  Although, I can't argure with the smell of victory over another homeowners drainage dilemma!

Thank you and STAY DRY!!!

Downspout Drainage Job Profile - Plymouth, MI

On Sunday, July 31, we received a website submission from a distressed homeowner who had just had an extensive downspout drainage job completed by his irrigation company the day before (Saturday).  He started asking me questions about drainage and the way we design and install our downspout drainage systems.  He noticed on our Drainage and Grading Web page on our Landscape Labor Solutions website that we installed our systems a bit differently from the competition.

Over the past 23 years we have constantly evaluated and improved the design of our drainage systems.  We have gained a lot of experience from removing existing systems that other companies have installed.  One problem that we keep seeing over and over again continually, is that the drain tile is always 1/2 to two-thirds full of mud or sediment.  This compromises the integrity of the drainage system.

We have nicknamed a lot of the companies who claim they install drainage as "slap and dash" because their philosophy is to install some 4" Black Plastic Drain Tile and a few parts, drain it out to the yard, and call it good.  They do not tape any of the joints, which allow a tremendous amount of sediment and ersoion back into the pipe and eventually fill it up.

They always end their downspout drainage in the yard with some type of catch basin that continually holds water (it will never fully drain!).  We install a simple 4" mini drywell as deep in the ground as we can vertically dig with post-hole diggers.  Sometimes we excavate 1' and sometimes we are able to dig as deep as 4'.  This mini drywell will allow the water to seep directly into the ground during light rains or it can fill and flood to the surface and eventually recede back into the drywell during a torrential downpour.  We install on average approximately 65 mini drywells a year and have had not problems since we started using this system design in 2000.

The gentleman who called us from Plymouth, MI wanted every downspout removed that his irrigation company had installed just a few days before.  We talked extensively on the phone to answer his questions and educate him on why we install our systems the way we install them.  We also e-mailed him several pictures that demonstrated our systems (we have a gallery of 1000's of drainage pics to pull from),  as well as took a mandatory road trip down to Plymouth, MI to meet with the homeowner and estimate the job correctly.

On Friday, August 4th, we took the crew down and spent the day removing the "old" drainage systems and installing the new systems.  It was a hard days work, but both the homeowner and our crew can rest easy at night that a high quality system was installed correctly for longevity and performance, as well as ease of maintenance of the system in the future.

Below, we have included several pictures of our Plymouth, MI job so you can view  what we completed that day.  I hope this blog about this job helps you make a decision about the drainage around your home.  On the outside of the home it is one of the most important things to consider...water can very quickly destroy or erode things and create multiple problems for a homeowner.  These problems can be extremely costly to repair, and often when it is repaired it is done with a band-aid fix.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010-The Year of Drainage Problems Continued

After the excavation and demolition were complete, Paul and I proceeded to set grade and design the gravity drain system, as well as the downspouts from the corners of the building were installed underground (but kept separate) with the gravity drain system.  Drainage behind the retaining walls had to be installed, as well as a sump crock and sump pump were installed under the walkway.

The entire walkway that was removed was re-located and re-constructed out of brick pavers.  The base material for the pavers was designed and installed as a permeable paver system, although it is important to note that we did not use actual permeable pavers.  We used traditional Holland brick pavers because of the smaller joints that would be less maintenance in the long run for the property owner.  The maintenance of the 'permeable paver' system would consist of a Spring cleaning of the leaves and then a vacuuming of the joints with a shop vac.  This procedure would also be completed in the Fall, after the leaves had fallen.

The base material under the brick pavers, 6A clean Limestone was installed starting at a minimum depth of 6" gradually creating a depth of approximately 3'.   The 6A was installed in 4" lifts and compacted.  Once the grade and slope of the handicap ramp were set, the entire brick paver area was screeded with Crushed Peastone for the leveling course of the brick pavers.  The Holland pavers were installed, all cuts made, soldier course cut and installed, and the brick pavers were compacted several times.  The brick paving portion of the job was complete.
Towards the end of the project, we experienced several all day rains where the mid-Michigan area received approximately 1" to 1-1/4" of rain.  The gravity drain system worked flawlessly.  The drainage system also helps to clean the water that drains down from the parking lot, collecting a good portion of the oils, salts, dirt, residues, contaminants, before it drains out to the pond behind the property.  The concrete sidewalk that was removed from the project was broken up and moved to the back of the property where it was re-utilized to build a retaining wall along the entire back of the property where it has been eroding for several years, helping to make the project sustainable.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2010-The Year of Drainage Problems

The 2010 landscape season has been extremely interesting for Landscape Labor Solutions.  Several of our larger hardscape projects revolved around extensive drainage dilemmas that had to be corrected.  One of our projects in Holt this Summer included relocating a handicap ramp to a lower level doorway at a commercial building.  During the Spring rains in April, the basement of the building had suffered extensive damage from a flood caused by an abundance of rain and a failed sump pump.  The building owner had specific requests - fix the drainage by installing a gravity drain, relocate a handicap ramp, re-install a retaining wall, and add a set of steps.

After extensive design and collaberation with the building owner, the demolition and removal of the retaining wall and sidewalk began.  After 2 1/2 days of demolition and excavation, we removed approximately 20 cubic yards of treated timbers and approximately 65 cubic yards of excavated soil.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Give Knock-Out Roses a try this Spring!

It is not very often in the landscape world that a plant is developed that everyone already loves and is improved to require little care.  The Knock-Out Family of Roses was developed to be easy to grow and ot require specific care.  They are the most disease resistant rose on the market today.  They have a stunning flower power with a generous bloom cycle (abou every 5-6 weeks) that will continue until the first hard frost.
All Knock-Out Roses are self cleaning, so there is no deadheading.

 The Knock-Out Family of Roses can fit into any landscape.  They say this rose suits every garden and every lifestyle.  You can plant them individually among shrubs, annuals, and perennials in mixed beds and borders.  You can plant them in large masses or you can plant them as flowering hedges.  You can also plant them along a foundation to provide a bright border.  This Spring when you are visiting your favorite garden center looking for plants to add to your landscape, do not hesitate to look at the Knock-Out Family of Roses.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Adding Curb Appeal to Your Home with Brick Pavers

Many older homes throughout America have an aging asphalt or concrete driveway that probably needs replacement.  If you are looking for an aesthetic change, or to replace broken asphalt or concrete, brick pavers offer an excellent alternative.

There are so many options that one should consider when replacing their driveway.  There are the old stand-bys of asphalt and concrete, which are the most often selected and economical choices.  Concrete can be installed with different textures, but if not properly installed concrete can eventually crack.  Repairing these cracks is extremely difficult, and often unsightly.

Brick pavers, whether clay or concrete brick pavers, are excellent alternatives to asphalt and poured concrete surfaces.  The brick paver option available today seem endless; it is becoming easier to match color, texture, and style of brick to any design of home.  If careful design choices are selected, a brick paver driveway can really increase the look, style, and value of a home.

Brick pavers distribute energy and pressure laterally, which means less pressure per square inch.  Brick pavers are great because they are manufactured with a greater psi (pounds per square inch) than say a concrete slab.  Concrete often has a psi of 3,000-3,500, whereas brick pavers often have a standard of  8,000-9,000 psi per brick.  Brick pavers have a long-standing history, and have been utilized as paving for roads for as many as 2,000 years throughout Europe with great success.

Another wonderful feature of brick pavers is their ability to breathe during seasonal temperature changes; asphalt and concrete do not have the ability to expand or contract which is why cracks will appear after a year or two in cold climates.  If there is damage to an area, brick pavers can simply be lifted and re-installed with minimal work or cost.  Repairs to asphalt or concrete often look like patchwork and can be very costly.

Installation of brick pavers is often more expensive than asphalt or poured concrete.  Although, if the brick pavers are installed correctly the first time, their investment will pay off over the long run.  Pavers are in place forever.  Brick pavers usually have an estimated life cycle of 40+ years.  During the lifetime of an average brick paver project, it is possible you will have to re-pave asphalt or re-pour concrete two or more times to maintain the neat appearance.

Another paver option that has been around since the early 1970's is "Permeable Pavers."  Although this brick paving system has been around for over 3 decades, because of LEED building guidelines and the sustainable environmental movement, permeable brick pavers are enjoying a belated acknowledgement and recognition, and starting to gain in popularity throughout Europe and the United States for their sustainable attributes.

The design of permeable pavers allows water to pass through the permeable brick pavers and permeate down into a specially designed bed of drainage stone.  This permable system allows the rainwater to re-charge the natural groundwater and is considered a sustainable practice.  We are starting to see permeable pavers used more and more in cities who are having problems with an overabundance of stormwater that is washing contaminants and pollutants into our lakes, rivers, streams, oceans and watersheds.
Permeable pavers are being used for driveways, patios, additional parking areas, parking lots, streets, sidewalks, alleys, etc.  Millions of square feet of permeable brick pavers have been installed throughout the United States alone.  Permeable brick pavers have been most widely used in commercial projects, but are starting to be utilized by homeowners as an excellent alternative for driveways.  We urge you to research and become an informed  consumer with the various paving options available to today's homeowner.

The pictures that you see accompanying this post are pictures of one of our completed driveways that was installed with Belgard's 'Subterra' Permeable Pavers.  If you are considering brick pavers for your driveway replacement or you are installing a new driveway, Landscape Labor Solutions representatives would love to introduce and educate you on the various options available today by todays manufacturers.  Call (517) 646-8990 to schedule your brick paver consultation today.  Landscapes Labor Solutions is a company committed to installing sustainable landscapes whenever possible.  You may also view other pictures of this completed sustainable project at

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reapiring and Recoloring a Faux Bubbler Stone (Post #1)

This weeks project is repairing a faux Bubbler Rock/Water Feature.  The faux rock made out of foam was starting to show some chipping and discoloration, as well as the faux concrete coloring was starting to flake off of the stone.  I brought it back to our shop in late November when we cleaned up the homeowner's garden.  This faux rock was originally designed to be just that, a fake rock to cover up something.  We decided one day approximately 8 years ago to turn it into a water feature and a focal point outside the homeowners bedroom window.  We drilled (2) holes and ran the plumbing, as well as faux finished the entire fake rock with concrete and then faux finished the fake stone with concrete colorant to make it appear more natural.  This will actually be the 2nd time that I have completed this process.

This was back in the day before the water feature/fountain manufacturers had created the fountain basin or reservoir that we now have today.  We created the fountain basin out of a 33 gallon pickle barrel cut in half, the one that we selected was very thick plastic and would never break if water froze in it.  One of the first things we did was take and create a metal mesh system to act as re-enforcement and help stabilize the plumbing to keep it from moving during normal maintenance of the bubbler water feature.  We cut into the stryrofoam side of the fountain with an angle grinder with a metal blade.  This allowed the pieces of metal mesh to slide right in to the foam side of the faux stone.  The metal mesh was then filled with foam and allowed to cure.

Next, we took and used a metal brush and cleaned off all of the loose debris-concrete, algae, sealer, etc.
We then blew off the outside and inside of the faux rock with an air compressor.  We then took and vaccummed all of the surfaces, inside and outside of the faux stone.  This would make sure all dust and debris was cleaned from the surface so that on the inside we did not have a bond breaker for the foam.  The outside of the stone was also vacuumed so that we did not have a bond breaker on the outside for the concrete.  Next we took and mixed a high strength concrete and mixed it a little wet.  I then took a cheap china bristle paint brush and stippled the entire faux rock with concrete.  A stippling technique was used so as not to show brush marks, but still allowed us to get concrete into every nook, cranny and crevice and still maintain a textured, authentic rock look and feel.  This completed our first day of the faux stone water feature rehabilitation.