Whole Garden Makeover
This project started with a collapsing swimming pool sunk four feet into the ground. The soil was thick clay which had rotted the surrounding decking into sawdust. The requirement was to utilize the hole to create a sunken garden rather than to try and fill it back up to ground level.
Each morning, the sunken area had to be pumped out before work started. The conditions for woking were grim to say the least, especially in December. The main deck had been constructed reasonably well although not enough supports were included so the surface dipped by 75mm in the middle.
Digging out the existing pool was a real challenge with the clay being so wet and sticky. The area had to be dug further back than required because the backfill around the pool was being washed into the lower area by the constant rain. This meant that the first two hours of each day was just clearing the site back to how it was left the previous day. The ramp was built to enable access and included ridges to provide the grip required to push a wheelbarrow up the slope. A mini digger could not be used because the areas around the edge of the pool were too soft to provide good support for the machine.
With the reinforced foundation installed and the blockwork taking shape, the base for the paving was added to make the working area cleaner. There is also the addition of a sump in the bottom right corner of the area which includes an automatic sump pump to remove water as it builds up. This was a big improvement on the previous temporary system and enabled work to progress at a much more satisfactory rate.
With the blockwork nearly finished, the next issue was to find a suitable weather window in late January to render the walls. Fortunately, a window appeared and although it was a close call, the render was completed under a temporary cover to protect from frost and rain. Now the rest of the garden could start to take shape.
The next area to concentrate on was the main patio which meant even more digging. Approximately 28 tonnes of soil was removed from site by hand, not to mention the tonnes of materials bought back in to replace it. Here the base is being prepared using MOT Type1 crushed concrete laid over a geotextile membrane. This membrane is very important as it prevents the granular base material mixing with the clay soil below which will cause the patio to sink. This material is then compacted into place using the vibrating plate under the barrow.
When the existing decking was removed, the fence alongside the house was only supported by the deck frame so this had to be replaced with a new fence once the frame was dismantled. A nice surprise for the customer but unfortunately these issues do arrise every now and again. After the fencing, the shed was re-erected and the paving laid. Thankfully the weather has improved but still had issues with frost as it can slow down or stop mortar curing.
Now that the paving is laid, the posts are in for the ballustrade at the top of the sunken area and the ground prepared for artificial grass to the left. The retaining walls have been backfilled with a french drain to prevent a build-up of water behind the walls (this is what pushes them over). An area of concrete has been poured ready for the installation of a hot tub at a later date. Also the planting areas are being filled ready for plants.
Now the garden is really starting to come together with the paving pointed, the grass laid, the planting done and the ballustrade complete. The render is being left to dry before painting and this will be done by the customer in due course.
The steps down into the sunken garden are lit with four brick lights alongside. The customer required smart bulbs in these lights as the entire house is controlled by shouting "Alexa"! The paving slabs used are an antique grey limestone which produced a lovely, slightly riven surface. The planted areas have been covered with a porous landscape fabric and then either bark or round pebbles to keep maintenance to a minimum.
Notice the drain cover in the top left of the sunken patio. This covers the sump and provides access to the sump pump should it require maintenance. The gravel areas (yet to be completed) around the edge of the sunken patio contain land drains that all drain into this sump where the water is automatically pumped away, preventing the area from flooding.
All in all, and despite the initial difficulties, this project has turned out really well. The customers were extremely please with the outcome and are looking forward to many years of use and enjoyment.