Yard Works.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Apologies for the MIA going on in these parts.  I ended up working not only on Patriot* but also other gigs every day last holiday week.  Then Mike took Monday off this week making it a too-rare glorious three days off in a row.  Oh that was fabulous.

So, heh, Mike....him and his unpredictable-ness sometimes....

As it turns out, the neighbor to the east mentioned his water woes to Mike before he mentioned them to me.  So, and not to beat up on Mike at all, that's why the guy has gotten as upset as he has.  I had no idea.   No judgement-passing on Mike here y'all.

But since the neighbor's most recent visit, we've got a course of action going, balls in the air, discussions abound, determination boiling.  We cannot solve his water issues and we know we are blameless, but we're fixing things in our yard that affect us, that will ultimately also show him it is not us as words do not work.

Mike took the lead here which hey is great and fun for me because it's one less thing I have to do!  Heh.  He called a bunch of landscape companies and the majority of them said they don't deal in drainage.  Which is crazy.  In a city with water problems.  Baffling.

Anywhooo, he found one and set an appointment.  But that left us with two weeks of wait time which, of course it's us, we then chat and discuss, I research, read up, share.  We chat, think, end up making decisions.

I had sent many sites to Mike, we talked about a dry well and agreed it made good sense.  Then Mike got a fire up his butt and decided let's get that done.

After emailing with some college kids about digging two giant holes for us, Mike woke up Monday and, here comes that unpredictable-ness, said "hey, we can do this.  Let's just do this."

I seriously wasn't sure what he had done with my real husband but gamely, confusedly I said ok sure babe, uh yeah let's do it!  Looking at him all suspiciously.  Where's my real husband?  On his once in a blue moon three days off in a row?

After some further discussion while shovel shopping at Menards, we opted for one dry well to start instead of two.  Ah, my real husband was returning.

Next we rang up a local place that sells gravel and they said they'd be out the very next day with our order.  Wow!

Thankfully the guy on the phone talked me out of  4' x 4' x 48" deep; we went with 36" deep instead.  Thank you genius man at Crawford Materials!  I should send him flowers or candy or something as a thank you.

So!  Heh.  Ok!

yard before dry well
Hey look, it's a before photo!
We picked a spot in the yard that tends to collect the most-ish water, that seemed the lowest of the low points.  I measured out our four foot square and Mike hopped in with shaving off the grass to start.

dry well digging yard dirt
Go baby!  Go baby!  Go!
Heh.  He finished that, plopped down, and said "wait, why are you and I doing this?  I'm done already."  Ah, husband has fully returned.  I queried, "are you sure those kids would be out tomorrow?"  He replied, "I haven't heard from them since Saturday."

dry well area digging dirt backyard drainage
Break time.
Poking away at the dirt I said "ok, well, this isn't so bad if we go slow and take it easy."  With a sideways glance Mike said, "if we go slow we'll be digging 'til next week."

But we kept going.  Mike kept saying I can email those guys.  I said it's not so bad, poke poke.  Repeat conversation, dig, repeat, repeat.

dry well dirt digging wheelbarrow backyard water drainage
Finn is all um, what are you doing to my bathroom?
Oh speaking of, here's what Finn was doing while we were digging.  So helpful.  Captain Spoiled.  He didn't even have to get up to sip his water either.
"I can email them.  Here, I'm gonna email them."  Emails them.  Digs some more.  "Should I check my email?"  No return email.  Dig dig dig.

Until we dig to the point where it would have been pointless to have them come out.  So we kept going and going and going and I swear my tape measure has three feet wrong on it.  Lies.  It lies.

The clay kept getting heavier and wetter and heavier and heavier.  We were grunting and groaning, creaking and cracking as we got deeper into the ground.

It was quite the archeological dig.  No Jimmy Hoffa, no Santa, just items you would not expect to find underground.  Because idiots apparently don't know how to use recycle bins.

plastic crates milk jug cartons trash in yard dug up
Gallon water jugs, a crate, belt buckles, glass, pottery shards, etc etc etc.  What a collection.  All in that hole.
buried wire garage power dry well plastic crate
Oh.  Right.  We found the original garage wire.  Barely not even a foot deep.  No wonder.  Also?  It was threaded through the plastic crate.  I sh*t you not.  Through the crate.  How....?
But I'll tell ya though, there ain't nothin' like Chicago clay.  Wow.

dry well hole ground dug dirt water drainage backyard
Unbelievable.  We did it.  4' x 4' x 36" deep.  Pass out in 3, 2, 1....
The very next morning my phone rings.  "Hey, I'm in your alley."  Whaaaa?  An hour early!  And suddenly we had about two tons or so of gravel in our alley, two cubic yards.  Waiting for us.  To dig up and dump.  After all that joyous digging yesterday.

gravel dry well backyard water drainage issues
Um.  Who's gonna move all this?
Ya know.  You just get to a point where you're all, well, here it is, it's gotta get done, deep sigh, buck up buttercup, let's go.

So we did.

First we lined the massive pit to hell in landscape cloth.*  This keeps the dirt out of the gravel.  After all that damn digging, the last thing you want is dirt seeping back into your fancy abyss and undoing the whole point of this thing.

landscape cloth dry well liner hole dirt water drainage
Yep, landscape cloth.  Looks creepy to me for some odd reason.
Time to shovel.

gravel hole dry well drainage water backyard yard problem area
Fill 'er up.
About half way into refilling our giant mine, the landscaper guy arrived.

The guy from the landscape company, very pleasant.  Rattled off all these things we could but should do in the yard which included regrading, several underground tanks throughout the yard, and by several I mean at least six to eight fifty five gallon-ers (thankfully he approved of our dry well but he clearly prefers his tanks), concrete along the side of the garage where the gate to the alley is, ripping up the sidewalk along the back of the house.....

concrete walk broken back door yard
Here's the west half of the back door "walk."  This does need to go.
......and the biggie (hold onto your seats people), rip out the entire fifty some feet or so gangway, excavate three feet deep, add some sticky waterproof membrane thingie stuff that forces water straight down, backfill with now I can't remember, then pavers and pea gravel.

He didn't offer us the winning lottery ticket nor did he crack a smile like he was kidding.  Mike and I kinda just stood there and stared at each other like uhhhhh whaaaaa?  Sounds fabulous but uhhhhh.....

But.  He did confirm the theory, much like Leo the plumber, that the neighbor's downspout is overwhelming his catch basin therefore causing his basement flooding issues, thereby he is causing ours.  Landscaper guy unequivocally stated that he saw nothing in our yard that would even suggest that we're causing the problem.

So.  Whew.  That's 2-0.  Therefore I'm letting the full-panic sewer crack conjecture go.  Thank all mighty goodness get out.

Guy shook our hands, said it'll take him a week and a half to get our quote together because it's uh yeah so lengthy.

Bewildered, we stumbled around the yard for a good twenty minutes after he took off but I said I'd see if I could find others to come by as well which was enough to get Mike on track again.  Back to dig, dump, tamp, dig, dump, tamp.

A few hours later and finally, FINALLY, gravel's all in.  Whew.  Wow.  What a feat.  Oh my goodness.  Talk about two achy people.

gravel dry well hole filled backyard landscaping water issue
Ta da!
The redemption of the two day trial came when we heard the neighbors returning home.  Mike caught the guy, asked him if he had a few minutes, please come over.  I had to remove Monster Dog to indoors so I wasn't privy to the conversation but I heard laughter from the neighbor so whew, I was tentatively feeling better.

After he left Mike looked relieved, the toil was worth the effort.  He said the neighbor is happy to see we're in-process, that we're addressing things.  Neighbor is happy.  Happy.  Whew, what satisfaction.

In the mean time, we're waiting for rain a.) to see the darn thing work and b.) to settle the gravel some so we can finish up.

Yeah, we opted to wait putting the sand on top and replacing the grass until the gravel settles a wee bit since we filled this puppy to the brim.  There was a hefty quantity of small grained stuff within our gravel so that equals plenty o' settling.

So now I wish it'd downpour on us which is an odd feeling after not wanting that.  C'mon rain!  C'mon!!

But man, I feel like I have so much catching up to do.  Clean the house, this that the other, finish the patio table (almost there!).  We picked up drywall this morning for the first floor bathroom.  That....heh....that I had no idea, wait, that 1/2" drywall tapers to 3/8" on the edges.

Um.  I feel like a major major buffoon.  And almost gave Mike a heart attack, that we'd have to return it and get new stuff after the hassle we went through to get it in the first place.  Yikes.

So uh, yeah, on that note, ahem....I'm hearing rain now so I am off to the dining room window to anxiously peer into the yard!

*The Patriot and landscape cloth are Amazon affiliate links.  Man, watch that show, it's good and is only going to get better.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.


  1. Hello. I just stumbled across your blog. It has probably been a very long time since you created your dry well, but I was wondering if it worked (and if you did the other drainage work)? Thanks so much! Signed, Soggy in Nothern Virginia j

    1. Hi my soggy Northern Virginia friend! it has been a while on this project but I am happy to report it does work. One tip for you: be sure to get clean gravel unlike our cheapest gravel option purchase.

      We didn't do anything with the incredibly expensive drainage guy but we did replace the concrete at the back door (https://www.flippingtheflip.com/2018/10/concrete.html). We also ripped out the entire gangway and the concrete guys re-graded it towards the front (https://www.flippingtheflip.com/2019/07/pack-of-variety-kind.html) but we did not dig down and do all sorts of extra drainage stuff.

      For us, the dry well was enough to make things much better and the sum total of all three projects (though all three were for us rather than the neighbor really, not to sound unneighborly) was enough to get our neighbor to take some of his own steps. Wishing you all the dry-out best wishes!


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