Tiny House Discouragement :(

enigmaquandryJune 22, 2010

Hello all! I'm just looking for a little boost from someone who lives in a really small house. Ours is a cape cod cottage, about 1,200 sq ft. with two tiny bedrooms (currently den and office) and the master bedroom upstairs in the attic, with one tiny bath (5'/6.5') on the main floor. It is just the two of us and right now it fits us perfectly, but we do want to have one or two kids eventually.

I am one of those people that gets really really attached to where I live. We bought this house because we liked the area and it was virtually our only option to get out of our apartment. We viewed it as a starter house, which it really is, but now that I've lived here a while I really don't think I could move out. There is no space on either side of us or in back to build any additions in the future, but we are considering a long dormer in the back of the A-frame second story to give us a little more room. So we're really having to decide if this is going to be where we stay in order to justify the expense.

I don't know anyone living in a smaller house than we are, and I get the idea that a lot of people think it's impossible to raise a family in one this size, I know it can be done, but I'm not sure if I'm just forcing the issue because I love my house or if I need to be more open to change...

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Your house is not the smallest by a long shot. I have less than a thousand square feet and I raised 2 boys with no problems. In fact, my boys each had their own small bedrooms, but they had friends from larger families who had multiples sharing a room. They all turned out fine.

Don't let the hype convince you that your home is a 'starter'. Every home does not have to be traded in on a larger one. Large homes are fine, but they don't gaurantee happy families.

I have a mantra 'do what you can and be content, until you can do better'.

The size of your house has nothing to do with raising happy, healthy children. Me and my siblings were raised in a very small house (my brothers slept in the living room) and I can affirm that we are all happy and well-adjusted.
I think the important thing when raising kids is the emotional support you give, not the material things.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 1:14PM
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So true. I think a lot of us grew up in small houses, and I think the main difference between then and now is the amount of stuff we have now. When I was growing up, we just didn't have a lot of clothes or a lot of toys. Our house was crowded though because my mother is one step away from being a hoarder and was a "collector" even then.

We lived for several years in a 2 bedroom house that was 900 sq feet with 2 kids. It was cramped, but really only because we had moved from an 1800 sq foot home and thought it was just going to be for a few months so we didn't get rid of anything.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 1:34PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

EQ, I think I've said most of this in other threads, but when we first saw our house, the original part was ap. 900 square feet with a lovely front porch and a 6'x24' enclosed back porch. The PO had added on a 'wing' with a bedroom, two small baths, and a tiny laundry room, which also housed the water heater. It had two tiny rooms upstairs, and attic space over the new wing. We had three small children (ages 10, 8, 4), who were old enough to sleep upstairs, so we made a central hallway upstairs, an opening through the roof, a tiny half-bath dormer (that we affectionately dubbed 'the outhouse', because of the way it juts out from the roof), finished the attic space for a third bedroom, and moved in. A few years later we added a larger laundry/storage/computer/sewing room onto the back of the house, using the existing laundry as a short hall-way and pantry.

Our home has been a wonderful place to raise our children, even with the small bedrooms, one TV in the house, and no big 'game room' that other kids may have had. (One recently separated from her husband, and moved back, with her two-year-old, so the house is starting to seem smaller!)We have three acres, a detached garage, a barn, and wonderful rural neighbors.

We are currently adding on again. Not one room that we've added has ever been completely finished--my husband has ACADD (Adult Construction Attention Deficit Disorder), and I am afraid to get out most of the power tools, and create more chaos. LOL, that's the only drawback to DIY remodeling.

My point in all these ramblings, is that you can make your house work for you. If the schools, the neighborhood, the yard, and the style are right for you, then build on (or UP, as the case may be.) You already know that your house can accommodate a dormer, via your neighbor, and the best time to build on is before the children are here.

If you are worried about over-improving for the neighborhood, for resale purposes, that is something that you will have to consider. But, you are young, and I think that you should consider the many years of function and pleasure that you will achieve by building on. (And, for my money, not having to move from a house and an area that you already love.)

Another thing to consider, is the cost of remodeling vs. the cost of a larger home. It's much better to have a smaller home with a manageable house payment, than giving yourself ulcers worrying about finances.

And, before you know it, your future children will be grown and gone. With the existing bedrooms and bathroom on your first floor, you can keep your home functional as a retirement home--just close off the upper storey until they return to visit.

LOL, I hope I've managed to cover everything and encourage you, too. Best of luck with your decision and your (possible) remodel.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 1:48PM
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idie2 and mama have covered it really.
do you have a basement?

my sister lived in a cape cod like that w/3 kids. it was tight but they stayed there until they saved up enough to move. then shortly after the move they divorced...

my gf had her 3 kids in 1000 sf ranch. 3 bedroom 2 bath (small rooms!).

I grew up with 3 sisters and mom and we never had more than 1000 sf or more than 1 bathroom. sometimes gramps lived with us too. we slept 2-4 in a bedroom depending. kids will survive w/o a room of their own. the only kids I knew with rooms of their own were only children or brother/sister combo.
i do agree that adding on before you have kids would be more ideal. that's stressful enough w/o adding a kid in the mix! and with finances - it's not worth stressing financially either. so many have done that and have or are in process of losing their home now.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 4:02PM
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Enigma, lift up your heart, lady, you are in a good house and also in good company. A cape is one of the most expandable and redo-able houses on the continent.

Get the book by Jane Gitlin, CAPES: DESIGN IDEAS FOR RENOVATING, REMODELING, AND BUILDING NEW. It is in the series Updating Classic America published by Taunton Press. Check your library, but it is also available from Amazon.com.

The shed dormer on your second floor would be a classic expansion. I bet you could minimize cost by positioning an upstairs bath right above the main floor bath. And, is the basement finished out? Have you posted any photos of your house front and back? Is the garage attached (or is there one). And when was the house built.

What you are mulling over sounds just like the circumstances that my DH had when he bought his 1948 cape back in early 1960s. True to cape traditions, he added on to it little by little, and now more than 45 years later he is considering selling it next spring so we can live in Alabama year round. I am sad about this, because so much of his life is represented in the many additions he did himself.

I am pleased to note that you are a young person yet to have your family. So many of us are at a different point in our lives, and have been through all the stages you will soon deal with. Consider that my DH has only lived in two houses all his life--his childhood home where he was born, and the cape where he raised his family of three kids. He too is someone who is attached to his home.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 6:54PM
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mama goose, I just died laughing when I read your sentence with ACADD, and dh was behind me asking what was so funny so I read it to him. He laughed too and said we've got that too. But I'm working on it. I soon hope to have at least one room completely and totally finished!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 7:15PM
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Mama, ACADD is a good one. SO representative of the challenges we face when we tackle DIY.

I love the way you keep on going though. Your kitchen may not be quite finished, what with the marble counter top baking center still up in the air, but the rest of it is so beautiful most folks won't even notice.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 1:00AM
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Enigma, I think years ago 1200 SQ FT was a normal sized house for families. I know how you feel in loving a house and not wanting to move away. We have had several houses I put my heart and soul into. Was so hard to move away. So I am with the others. If this is the house for you, you can make it work. The future kids will never know the difference. They will be used to their space as just right.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 9:25AM
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True enough, what Shades says. A 1200 sq foot house is a lot bigger than the one we are living in now. And, of course, we have the problem of dealing with two houses 1500 miles apart. It is a very debilitating thing, to be working on two places. Plus, it gets expensive. And, I've wondered just how folks who live in multiple homes do it--HOW can they be committed to a sense of HOME. That is basic to my nature, to devote myself to a specific HOME. Otherwise it is HOUSE. Whatever space I'm in, I want to feel that it embraces me. Then I can give it the best in me too.

Another thing I've wondered about, when I watch the HGTV House Hunters shows, is about those soaring cathedral ceilings. No one ever comments on the COST OF HEAT AND A/C with such spaces. Or the sound proliferation when kids run around and play. A nice 8 to 10 foot high ceiling is quite good enough, thank you. Except maybe for a small entry area which could be used as a heat storage area and locked off from the house during the day, but opened to radiate the stored heat at night. Those big soaring unusable spaces are not a GREEN concept in my book. In our smaller homes, it would be great to reclaim some of that air space and turn it into another room. Even building a LOFT out into such an area would be nice...and give the room beneath it a better sense of enclosure.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 12:40PM
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Thank you everyone for your encouragement. I am just surrounded with friends and family in larger homes (not extravagant, just bigger:) who don't understand my affinity for smaller spaces. I would be really unhappy in a big house, but it is a little challenging fitting all of our needs in this tiny space (I own two businesses and help with a third so I have to dedicate parts of the house for these).
I have taken all the rooms that I really didn't like when we moved in and made them just how I want them, but honestly I think my biggest disappointment with the house is the backyard, it is small and really steeply inclined toward the house. It's really unusable right now and I'm the sort that wants acres and acres around me.
Does anyone else's small house also have a small lot? What do you do to make something like this charming???

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 1:34PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Hi, enigmaquandry, we live in a rural area on 3 acres, but we've had small yards in the past. A small yard that presents so many challenges would be a deal-breaker for me. In our area we don't need building permits for construction or landscaping, except for septic systems, so I haven't had much experience with restrictions imposed on home improvements (other than budgetary, of course).

It seems that improving a house would be easier than doing a major overhaul on a yard, especially if you have to get approval from a neighborhood association, consider neighbors' drainage issues, etc. With a house you can build up, but in a yard you are constrained by property lines and terrain, in your case a steep incline. If acreage is your ideal, you may want to consider this a starter-home, and make home improvements with that in mind.

For pics of a lovely back yard, check buddyrose's pics in this thread:

Here is a link that might be useful: idie2live's thread

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 4:56PM
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OH I would LOVE to have just a small lot. I love my yard but would rather have just a tiny space to landscape and make gorgeous to sit in and enjoy and not have to look at and see all the work that still needs to be done.

I have worn myself out with large lots from this half acre up to 100 acres spread across a 1/4 mile. We did not have much choice when we bought this place. It is a half acre and some of it is not even usable as the hill is so steep I can barely climb it. And I did get up it part way yesterday to knock down the thistles. And it also slopes towards our house. I have about 30 foot from the house to the base of the hill. I planted four pine trees up on the hill and letting the rest stay in it's natural grasses. There is a clump of wild roses on one end. Some Really Tall grass clumps and the four pine trees.

The rest of the yard I turned to lawn with flower beds along the long sides of the house and plants on the bank around the back side dogs yard. I know the lawn is not as "green" and not as in the color green as some really want. But it is easy upkeep for us. Water and mow it call it good kind of thing. The court yard area is where I spend my gardening time.

If you can show some pictures I am sure we can charm the heck out of your small yard. :^)


    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 5:02PM
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Enigma says: "I think my biggest disappointment with the house is the backyard, it is small and really steeply inclined toward the house. It's really unusable right now and I'm the sort that wants acres and acres around me. "

What I'm reading is that the lot is HIGH at the back property line, and slopes downhill toward the house?

That is exactly what my DH's lot is like up north. IF that lot slopes toward the house, and yours is also a cape, you might approach the back yard as a terracing project.

Create a level patio area adjacent to the house. Then a few steps going up to a second level which is marked by about a one or two foot rock wall (rocks unearthed from the lot not bought, in the case of DH's yard). If there is another rise of ground which cannot be leveled, then at the very back, another rock wall near the property line which can look like a raised flower bed to front a 4 to 6 foot tall privacy wooden fence. I always think of a cape as being in a colder climate so if I'm wrong in your case, you might plan on covering the fence line with some tall skinny growing Italian cypress or pencil hollys. I think arborvitae will get too fat, although they are evergreen. You want plants which will not bulge out into your yard space. Draw your house on its lot and show all the directions--NSEW--so you can get an idea of sun exposure.

Our yard here in Alabama is quite small too, but since we have added a privacy fence down both sides, and are next week adding the final pieces of privacy fence to the "BACK FORTY" (also a 7' tall chain link across the back which I will plant star jasmine on to cover it in 2 years), we will feel that we live all OVER the lot. The yard outside the bedroom windows on the side yard, is now an important spot which we did not use before--all we did was cut it and never sat there. But with the fence, I've added a wrought iron table and umbrella where DH eats his lunch and looks at the raised beds of his veggie garden. If I can find them, I'll show a few of the photos of my DH's terraced back yard.

This one shows the upper row of terracing, and then a tiny one next to the arborvitae--no fence and also behind his lot is a rock outcropping that the neighbor owns but cannot use, so it is a woodland walk for us and the neighbors.

Then this one, is the lower terrace with 2 wide steps, and those are old blueberry bushes on either side. The steps are in the center of the yard, and a cement block patio is below the wide steps. Not a big patio, just room for a few chairs when the weather is right. The Blessed Virgin is a very small statue at the end of the sight line, which makes the distance appear greater. Remember to use small leafed plants away from you, like the fine tracery of arborvitae (no worry here about the neighbors caring if it hangs over into their unusable rocky area) or maybe the Italian cypress or something else that grows well in your area.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 9:58PM
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WOW ML What a gorgeous yard. Our hill is hot and dry. Some day the pine trees will grow up but they are close to the bottom. I could not plant up too high the hill is too steep and I had to plant where I could get water to the trees.

Enigma I just went out and took some pictures of our hill from the house door and some other yard pictures while I was there. The link is to my album and the first picture is out the window of my sewing room but the rest to the end are the courtyard tonight.


Here is a link that might be useful: Steep Hill towards yard

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 12:04AM
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Nice going, Shades. I love your courtyard. And you are right to call it that, and by naming it you created it. In your case, the geography is so massive, that this small space is much more personal and enclosed. It is a nice personal scale.

So when Enigma has a small space, it is much like the private courtyards you see tucked away in the French Quarter of New Orleans. I absolutely ADORE a courtyard garden. Also, think of the walled gardens behind some townhomes.

In my little CasaDelSol in Alabama, I salvaged the bricks from our destroyed river house, and paved an area in the back yard created by our 7 foot privacy fence. It is under the shade of some large ligustrum hedges which overgrew their hedge status, now they are trees.

Even if you have to terrace your yard, Enigma, you can also create a courtyard. Shades reminded me of that. How about posting some pics of your yard? Take one from the back door looking straight ahead, then one down the left side of the house, and one down the right side of the house. If you can give some dimensions of the space, it would be easier to get the feel of what you are dealing with.

In my New Orleans style courtyard, this is what it looked like before last winter. It is getting back to that again. Plants are so resilient.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 1:20PM
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WOW!!!What an inspiration. Beautiful gardens.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 3:02PM
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Thanks, Sandy. When it comes to gardening, I just throw in everything I like and hope it lives. I've learned a lot by trial and error. But mostly I've learned what I LIKE.
And I've learned how to control the view from inside the house as much as I can.

Like Judith makes such lovely interior vignettes, I like to do the same in my garden. But I'm not a perfectionist. I like RECKLESS ABANDON. hehehehe

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 8:35PM
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We'd get along just great, you and I! I garden the same way. I can't wait to get my house built so I can plant things around it. Most of the time everything works out nicely and looks good where I plop it. Once in a while I have a day where I just move holes around, it seems.

I'm not doing much at all outdoors right now. It's been very hot, and I'm waiting for an area that I used RoundUp on to finish dying off so I can plant a few of my antique roses. It looks like I'll have to do a re-treat on some of the grass. It yellowed and is greening up again in spots. They must have made the stuff not work as well.


    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 10:29PM
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If you have something called bahia grass, it can run under the pavement and come up the other side. It also can make a shoot and seed in about 2 days. My daddy called it "smut" grass, because you walk thru it and it leaves black smears on your pants, he said. Good luck killing that stuff. Each node can make a new plant. I always called it "highway grass" because it was along roadways.

If you get the Roundup ready to spray, it is already diluted. The really strong stuff is more expensive for a container of the same weight. You have to mix it up yourself. I am always very careful with any chemicals since I am sensitized to many chemicals, and I always destroy the spray bottles which have contained any chemicals. I have a fear of someone using a spray bottle for something hazardous and not RElabeling it, and then it being used to mist my parrots or my house plants.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 2:28AM
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I'm not a big fan of chemicals either. Don't normally use them in fact. However, this grass is awful, and well, I have roses to plant there! It's some form of Bahia "pasture" grass. It has rhizomes:((

I bought a Gilmore hose end sprayer, and from some of my rose buddies that spray, has received good reviews for accuracy. I used it and it seems to be doing a good job, but I do need too re-treat the grass. I think once more will do the trick. I sure hate spraying.

I really miss the man that mowed most of the yards where I used to live. He liked me, even though I mowed my own lawn, so I could get him to spray the areas I wanted killed. Never charged me much either.


    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 3:42PM
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moccasin - that's an awesome back yard you have up north!

and courtyard in the south. wow to both of them!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 5:37PM
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I took some pictures of the backyard today (sorry, they're just with my computer and aren't very good!). Once again I've had the opportunity to see more of the houses in my neighborhood (I have absolutely fabulous neighbors!) and my dream house (which yes, is only five houses away...taunting me:) also turns out to have my absolute dream backyard. It is a double lot that has so many trees at the back it looks wooded, it slopes down to some shallow terracing down to an expanse of flat yard framed by gardens. There is a patio by the sunroom with an arbor with wisteria growing on it and a greenhouse behind the garage, of course everything complete with flagstone paths, climbing vines, lanterns and picket fences... I wish I had pictures to show you guys but I would feel strange asking ...

This is my backyard from the house...
From Stonegate Cottage From Stonegate Cottage From Stonegate Cottage From Stonegate Cottage

These two are the yard from a top corner toward the house. From Stonegate Cottage From Stonegate Cottage

Does anyone have a genius idea for taking this baked, super steep hill with an ugly french drain and a poured patio into a cozy cottage garden???

I have looked into the timber and stone retaining walls for diy-ers (can't afford it otherwise...) and I think the timber will be more cost effective, I'm just afraid that it would take at least two terraces to get any part of the lawn flat and that by the time you've taken all the room for the terraces there will be no lawn left! Anyone have these problems???

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 5:46PM
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I'm in central Illinois (zone 5), and the french drain flanking the patio does not have to have rocks in it, that's a product of the previous owner...

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 6:01PM
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Oh my, do I ever love your house! I've never terraced anything so can't help you there, but I have some friends with a steep slope down to their house and they made the neatest waterfall there. I wish I had a picture of it. I love your front yard, it is just so perfect! Can you tell me about the open cabinet next to your refrigerator? Is it open all the way back or is there something else behind the open cubbies?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 6:59PM
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marti8a, Thank you :) The open cabinet next to my refrigerator is something that I made, since I couldn't find or afford a real cabinet that size! It goes all the way back to the wall (with a back board on it)...It's built into the wall so it's not going anywhere!

I also forgot to thank everyone so far for their advice/encouragement and pictures! I'm loving seeing these yards...I feel like I could design this yard if it didn't belong to me, but something about it is just totally stumping me! I'm so thankful there are so many generous and talented minds on here!

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 9:46PM
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OH DOH on me I did not put this together with the darling house from the name your cottage thread. I can be so dense sometimes. Now I am going to have to go back through all your pictures.

I think your back yard just needs a couple more trees. Can you tell up the direction your house lays. Like the back fence is North South East West kind of thing.

I can understand the need for the French Drain. Will keep the run off from getting your house. Terraces would help that. BUT I have concerns how you would get the fill that might be needed to make those terraces and can you even get equipment back there to make a terrace or are we talking all dirt work has to be done by hand?

You have it nicely planted to lawn and I can see you mow it straight across so trees in there will mess up that.Some shade would be nice. I planted some aspens here to give quick shade. Then the pine trees will take over eventually. At our last house the pines grew to 20 foot or more in 10 years. So I planted the same kind here. And bought good sized ones to start with. The lady at the last house started with 6 inch seedlings. Mine here were almost three foot and are over 4 now in two years. The first year they were not planted until August or so. Do not really remember.

Going to have to look at this some more. Maybe you can do just one terrace a few foot wide. Shrubs along the back of the fence. I would not really want to mess up your erosion control you now have with the grass planted.

Actually I think your yard looks nice just needs something to look at.I do not remember your zone number. What will grow there depends on that. Were me I would plant lilacs along the back fence.Or some pretty shrub. Plant the same things your neighbor has in her dream yard. Some trees grow pretty fast.

Now I am going to go drool over your house pictures again. Your front yard is so pretty.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 12:34AM
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Enigma, tell me a couple of things about your house:
1. Is there a basement?
2. How do you drain the groundwater at the foundation of your house? Where does the foundation water go when it drains?
3. Does the french drain in the back yard do that job?
4. How DEEP is the drain dug behind your house?
5. Do you have a garage?

You are in zone 5 so you must have a foundation which goes down about 4 to 5 feet to get below the freeze line. That means you must have some way of keeping the groundwater from that land which slopes toward your house, from getting into the basement or from damaging your foundation walls.

When I have an idea of the mechanics of that, then I can make a suggestion about the french drain.

Your back yard is very neat. I think your DH cuts the grass pretty low, which makes it hard to survive in the hottest weather. We raise our cutting blades down here, because the extra height shades the roots and prevents the grass from getting stressed in the heat--also we don't need to run the sprinkler as much. I haven't done that all summer in AL, but up north it is dryer this year. I think DH is running the sprinkler, since he is on well water there. When we had a drought a while back, I watered the lawn, we don't have any restrictions on that in Mobile. But the water dept called me to ask if something was wrong, maybe a busted pipe, because the bill was going to be $500. I almost fainted. Our water fee is only 1/3 of the bill, the sewer treatment fee is 2/3...so it paid us to get an "irrigation" meter put in. Since then, I have used it only a couple of times. Yeah, no more drought, instead we are mostly having our traditional summer weather pattern of "scattered/isolated afternoon thunderstorms." But no more big water bills.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 12:39AM
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Shades - I love the idea of terraces...can you plant trees in them? How wide do they have to be? Would the roots come out the retaining wall? I definitely want to add lots of trees but I don't know how to arrange them with terraces... I also want to find something that grows quickly but doesn't get too bushy at the bottom. Since the yard is so small I want to keep the heaviness of the trees high so I still have all the space underneath them. Of course there's also a power line running along the back fence as well...a friend suggested pear trees because they are a good screen and stay compact but I really don't care for pears, at least not the ones that grow here (zone 5). Also to answer your question, looking at the backyard the top left corner is full North, since it is an incline though it pretty much gets full sun all day as the house's shadow doesn't cover much and there are no trees in the yards around me that provide shade.

Moccasin - To answer your questions:
1. Yes we have a basement
2&3. I believe the French drain is what drains water at the foundation, it directs it around the house to I believe the city drains...
4. I'm afraid I don't know, the entire drainage system was put in by the previous owner (THANK YOU PREVIOUS OWNER!!!).
5. We do have a garage, you can see the back of it in the second to last picture, it's the thing that sticks back into the yard the farthest.

Our entire neighborhood was built over 50 years ago in a lake bed that was drained (who thought this was a good idea?). The city more recently replaced the storm drains since apparently years ago there would be so much water running down the road it would wash away parked cars! Our house is actually next to the lowest house in the entire area, they have terrible water problems but they do not have a drain and they are about 4 feet lower than us. We have been having torrential rains this year and we have never found any water in our basement, so I guess the drainage system is working well!

I hope this answered all the questions...the more I think about it the more this backyard is stumping me :(

Thank you everyone for your thoughts.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 11:38AM
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Moccasin, you're absolutely right about the grass. My DH borrowed a mower from a neighbor and the blades were set really low...I'm afraid he may have killed our front and back lawns. I'm not sure whether to water it or not...eek!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 11:45AM
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Enigma, if it isn't raining this week, water it gently. Do it early early in the morning, Stop when it looks like you have runoff.

I will think about the yard situation and write again later when my ideas are better organized. You sure do not want to mess up the drainage system, since it is working so well for you. The PO must have had to deal with flooding a lot to spend a lot of money on such a non-decorative high dollar project. The payback has to be worth every penny.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 12:01PM
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enigma, you have such a darling house!

As far as any advice I could offer, I think there is a lot of untapped potential in your basement. We turned ours into our main living area (and rarely use the living room because of it). We were able to turn ours into a tv room with a small office and a half bathroom. We would have made it our master bedroom, but the cost of making our windows proper egresses was not in our budget and DH really wanted a basement tv room (less tv glare). Ours looks to be similar size to yours, so you can probably get 1 bedroom with bath and maybe even a small office area.

I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 12:16AM
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Still thinking on a plan. My thoughts not stringing together so will just make a list.

Concerns for erosion so would not want to break down your hill side.

Concerns for the difficulty in mowing on the slope. I am assuming it is a push type mower and not riding. Will DH be upset with having to dodge trees?

Wondering what is under the large rocks over the french drain? More rocks? A grate of sorts. Some sort of landscape cloth. Can not tell what is there but I think I can see something. I know you said the rocks do not need to be there.

Some sort of zig zag path up towards the back fence but nothing that would come down directly at your house. Back to the erosion thing again.

I am picturing planting pockets of trees and shrubs along a path going side to side across the yard. Just can not quite put it together.

I know the experts always say to have a plan and follow it. I have never been able to do that other then an over all vision for basic and then embellish on that.

I would love to see something like what Buddy rose did in her yard only across your yard and not up and down.

How much work do you really want to spend in your yard on a weekly basis. That is a big consideration too. I totally love cottage gardens with no lawns. I have had them at several of our houses. Now I do not want to have to do that much work with all the weeding and dividing of the perennials replanting all the time. I even decided today to remove one flower bed I tried to do because it is too much work to take care of. Round up to the rescue. Then mulch and call it good. It too is up a hill and too steep to stand on easily and too hard to pull the weeds on my hands and back.

Still thinking on this. Come on ML I am sure you have something good in mind.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 1:04AM
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I have a somewhat similar, but less, situation. My neighborhood is built on a hill which was semi-terraced into building lots. Ours is the next lowest on our block and I have seen several neighbors totally mess up their drainage by adding landscaping. One hauled in tons of dirt to level their yard and that house has flooded ever since. Last year new people bought it and have done a lot of work, added French drains themselves, etc. and it still floods.

I think I'd consult an expert before touching it. If you aren't having problems, you don't want to mess that up.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 1:16PM
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marti8a, eek! I figured that a 3 ft. retaining wall that helped level the yard would actually help a drainage situation...maybe I'm wrong! The house next door did put in a similar wall to help their problem...though of course, they are still having water...

who do you call for something like that?

Shades, we don't mind mowing around trees at all, I think they're going to be necessary for some shade!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 5:17PM
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I think it might be a landscape architect or engineer. You might try on the landscaping board on GW too. Some one there might be able to give you a direction to go to to find some one skilled to ask. I totally have Marti's concerns with the water and erosion. Some one in the know really needs to be consulted.

For us I am leaving the hill as it is. I did dig in the four pine trees on the lower edge. Our hill is very steep then levels off a bit then steep but only a few more foot down. It does slope to our house but at the base of the hill it drains away off the property and the court yard is also sloped away from the house towards the base of the hill. A person can see the slight ditch that was here on the property when we bought it and was preserved during all our construction dirt work. My husband used a builders level to be sure we were keeping the proper slope. The whole piece of our property is two terraces and the hill.

I had to work today and could not give this much thought but will keep working on it. Then I have to figure how to get it to show up on the computer.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 5:58PM
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Just playing and not really paying attention to your lawn or the rocks on top of the French drain. The gray round things are stepping stones and to keep the lawn would require edging and a pain. they would have to be set flush with the ground so they could be mowed over.

The tree in the north corner is an ever green and tree by the patio is a flowering whatever to help shade the patio The program did not have very many options. I am not sure if tree roots would interfear with your French drain or foundation so that would need to be checked out.

I was not sure how deep or wide your yard is so none of this might fit.

The round circle is a fountain. Would be nice to listen to the water noise.There are ferns and lavender around it. They might not be friends or grow together . Any plants would do. Again not many choices.

there are vines on the trellises but I have no clue what. Would have to be sure not to plant something so invasive it would attack your neighbor on the other side.

There is a bench or destination on the top right corner.

This is where I did the playing.

Click on plan your garden you have to sign up but you do not have to buy the magazine or anything just go to the plan part. I had to click around to get there.

This could be done in stages possible eliminating the lawn all together. Or use a more squared paver instead of stepping stones. I did not add a patio on the narrow end because I was not sure that bit if fence is a gate or not.

Dang power is starting to bump we are getting another storm. I am out of here.


Here is a link that might be useful: Just playing.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2010 at 10:24PM
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Shades, that does help! I like where you've put the trees, and I like the vines on the fence...I'm still struggling with the slope.

I took measurements of the whole yard but couldn't find a (free) program out there to make a template to post here. The Home and garden one is too small to make one to scale...I have such a mental block with this silly yard!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2010 at 11:47PM
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Enigma, I'm adding something here to boost your morale.
In the NYTimes, it notes that the biggest defaults on mortgages are among the rich, with mortgages over a million.
And I am assuming that means they have those big McMansions?
Not anyone of us in Smaller Homes forum with a house big enough to have a million buck mortgage.

They say the rich are defaulting at a much greater rate than any other demographic. You might point that out to your mom.

I'll put the link below, so you can go read it.

Here is a link that might be useful: NYT article re rich mortgage default rates

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 3:05PM
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I agree the BHG site really is too small to get much of an idea. And I do not know your exact measurements. Was a fun time to play. Would love to get our yard nicer too. Some day.

Maybe you can fine graph paper in an office supply store. Make your own yard plan and cut out some other pieces with your trees and plants art work.

I really do not know what to do with your hill because I would be afraid most of breaking it down and causing neighbors fence to fall over or a mud slide towards your own house. Might be worth while getting a professional. OR at least some advice from a professional.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 3:23PM
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you can print graph paper off of the internet. just google 'graph paper'. I saved one as a doc file to use for reprints.

you need to hang out at HD looking for the guy on yard crashers... i think that's the name of the show.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2010 at 2:42PM
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