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The Green Scene in Watershapes, June 2010

Planning for a Rainy Day
By Scott Cohen

In most backyard swimming pool projects, we install the drainage systems for decks after the swimming pool's plumbing, basically because the pool plumbers use big trenchers that will likely destroy the small drainage plumbing if it's already in place.

That sequencing, combined in one instance with bad timing and a minor lapse in common sense, led to an enormous problem in one of our recent projects. It happened in a side yard where the plumber had just dug trenches for the pool's lines but we had yet to address issues of sheet-flow and rainwater drainage.

Scenario: As bad luck would have it, the evening after those big trenches were dug, the skies opened up with unusually torrential rainfall. Not only was the side yard completely unprepared for rain, but also the trenches and the spoils dramatically aggravated the problem because the trenches were oriented in such a way that they blocked the water's exit from the yard.

Hindsight is 20/20, but basically, when you dig a trench and then pile up the spoils beside it for later removal, you might inadvertently be creating an absolutely perfect structure for making sure water stays right where it is. In our case, the trenches collected the water, caused it to stop flowing and enabled it to saturate the ground as well as the linear pile of dirt, making it act like a dam.

The impromptu pond that formed in the middle of the night was bounded on one side by an exterior living room wall. Topping it all off, the living room was recessed inside the house: It's floor sat right on grade, forming the lowest point in the house.

Early the next morning, we received a call from the client letting us know that there was an inch of water in the living room. It had flowed up through the weep screed, over the foundation and into the walls, ruining the carpet and damaging some very nice, very expensive furniture.

This is, of course, the kind of thing that will upset even the most temperate of clients — and will set emotional ones into states of pure panic. In this case, the clients were cool people who let us work out the problem in ways that involved minimal hassle.

To read the entire article, buy THE CANDID CONTRACTOR: Lessons Learned From The Construction Defect Expert Witness Files of Scott Cohen

Contractors and homeowners will save thousands of dollars with this new book from Scott Cohen of HGTV fame. Cohen pulls back the veil on common construction mistakes with pools, ponds, decks and associated structures, explaining how to remedy them when they occur – or, better yet, avoid them entirely.

Scott Cohen is president and supervising designer of The Green Scene, an outdoor design and construction firm based in Northridge, CA. He provides consultation for clients nationwide and gives seminars on designing landscapes, swimming pools and outdoor kitchens.