Need advice for back yard

Hi all,
I have a small 1000 foot house that seems to be sinking a little... The back yard has this wooden wall or bench(?) around it. There metal os sheeting about a foot high covering the length of the back of the house. I think the previous owners had water problems and this was their solution.
Can anyone recommend something that would be more attractive than this? The space between the wall and the house is about 18" or so, and it's filled with weeds etc. If I plant something there, wouldn't that create another water problem next to the house? If I remove it, we'd have the water problem.
One contractor suggested putting concrete there, having it slope away from the house, which sounds pretty ugly. Here are the pictures. It's in San Jose, CA. ANY suggestions are quite welcome!!
http://www.kodakgallery.com/ShareLandingSignin.jsp?Uc=tn8tdv.a7qiyrpv&Uy=-kqdvw5&Upost_signin=BrowsePhotos.jsp%3FshowSlide%3Dtrue&Ux=0
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I don't see the metal sheeting in your photos, but I do see some problems with the grading of your lot. I like to see at least 6" of clear space from the ground level to the lowest portion of the siding. If you're in an area with termites, etc., then you need even more -- check with the local building codes people. At any rate, I'd be pulling out that raised planter.
In addition to the 6" vertical clearance to the siding, the ground should slope away from the foundation at least 1" per foot for the first 6 feet, and the drainpipes should discharge as far away from the house as possible.
In areas with very expansive soils and cycling between very wet and very dry, it may be necessary to put in a drip irrigation line near the foundation to use during the dry season, to keep the soil from heaving the foundation.
The other common mistake people make is to plant too close to the foundation of a building... especially when the shrubs look so puny when you transplant them. But they do grow and spread, and if you don't plan for the spread when you plant, you've either got an endless round of pruning, or you wind up having to take them back out when they get bigger and rub all the paint off the siding, or knock against the raingutters, or... or... or... It's just a whole lot easier and cheaper to set up the area around the building properly to begin with than it is to have to re-side the house, or deal with termite damages.
You can use low water groundcovers and mulches right up next to a house to "dress" the area. Remember that areas under eaves don't get much water naturally, unless the grading is wrong.
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Kay Lancaster Wrote:

I find that I agree with Kay on just about all points. I don't thin that's a raised bed along the house though. It appears to actually b lower then the soil extending away from the house. Those barrie things need to be removed and the soil graded so that the water an slope runs away from the house.
It's also best to have the grade of soil at least 8", 12" is eve better, below the bottom edge of your siding.
It also appears that the gutter in picture 3 just dumps the water ont the soil. I think I see alot of splashed soil on the foundation. There needs to be an elbow, and even an extender to move the water awa from the house. I can't tell if you have a downspout at either end o the house, but if you have water cascading over the gutters in a heav rain, then consider adding one at each end. That would be alot o water for just one downspout to handle for the length of run across th back of the house.
If you decide to plant shrubs and plants along the back of the hous once the grading has been done, allow enough room behind what you plan so that it leaves room for air circulation once they reach mature size. You should have at least 12" of space between the plants and th foundation. You don't want the moisture against the house. Here's helpful site about drainage issues.
http://tinyurl.com/6gyux
New
-- Newt
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You all have been helpful - but I've gotten some quotes to put cement down (ugly but the cheapest) and put in a 'french drain' thing, it's like $1700.
What do I do when the water goes down the length of the middle of the yard? And, the cement would have to stick out about 3 feet away from the house, right?
Can you think of something that isn't that much money?
-Laura Newt wrote:

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