Best practices for flood mitigation

Ewing Hardscape Supply’s Matt Hulsey shares common practices to prevent flooding in clients’ landscapes
Resilient design can help protect homes and landscapes from water damage. (Photo: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz, Dreamstime)

Whether flooding on a client’s property is due to heavy rain or a broken irrigation system, smart hardscaping can help protect the home and landscape from water damage.

Homeowners in the wildland-urban interface, where residential building intermingles with forested land, increasing their risk of damage due to wildfires, may also face damage from resulting flooding.

“This certainly should be a topic that we discuss in Colorado and other areas going forward because of the fire issues; there’s just nothing to retain the water as we’ve seen here,” according to Matt Hulsey, regional manager of Ewing Hardscape Supply in Littleton.

[Related: Defensive design for resilient landscapes]

Resilient design principles work with nature instead of against it, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects. Resilient design layer multiple mitigation strategies so that if one fails, it’s not the only thing protecting a client’s home from serious water damage.

“For the most part, there are really savvy contractors out there,” Hulsey told Colorado Patio & Landscape. “Where you might see more challenges is with a more mature home or landscape that is not a new build.”

Hulsey said the key is protecting the home’s foundation.

“For us it really starts with your home and proper grading away from the home for flood mitigation,” he said.

Landscapers can use road base or fill to ensure they have proper flow and drainage away from the home, according to Hulsey.

“Once you have that grade defined, I always suggest aggregate around the foundation, whether that’s crushed granite or cobble,” he said. “A lot of homeowners put mulch around the foundation, but mulch soaks up moisture, which is the opposite of what your intent would be.”

French drains and swales are common ways to manage water runoff, Hulsey noted. Swales control where water runs to and can be used in a number of ways, he explained.

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“You can build a swale with topsoil, road base, fill dirt, and you can cover it with turf. You can cover it with artificial turf. You can use aggregates or mulch to cover the swale as well, and then within the basin, you can use cobble to create a dry river bed.”

Catch basins and wells are popular tools for flood mitigation, he added. For example, some projects may have a swale with a catch basin at the outlet of the swale with pipes carrying the water off the property.

“We had a homeowner recently in Littleton that had a small well that led into piping that actually drained off the property,” Hulsey said.

Permeable pavers are popular ways to prevent water from collecting on patios. Catch basins are useful here, too, Hulsey said. They can “be used in conjunction with channel drains around your permeable paver patio. That’s definitely an accessory for flood mitigation that’s very popular.”

Permeable pavers with catch basins or channel drains, “whether it’s around the exterior patio right outside your home or somewhere else in the backyard, that is definitely going to help create a natural flow for water to go away from the home,” Hulsey said.

Hulsey recommended Basalite and Pavestone products as high-end options for residential and commercial clients.

Beyond hardscaping, Hulsey recommended xeriscaping as a way to control water.

“Anytime you can xeriscape, where you can add mulch or aggregates to a large area and plants and shrubs, and then heavy mulch in those areas,” is a common strategy to prevent water from pooling. “Heavy mulch is going to retain moisture, which is always a good thing. It’s going to go back into the soil and provide more moisture to the plant.”

 [Related: Great, wide, open: Bringing the great outdoors to homeowners’ doorsteps]

Danielle Andrus

Danielle Andrus was previously the managing editor for Colorado Builder, and is currently Editor for the Journal of Financial Planning.

Danielle Andrus has 343 posts and counting. See all posts by Danielle Andrus

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