Hurricanes, floods, wildfires and mudslides brought an onslaught of weather-related destruction in 2017, resulting in a record-breaking $306.2 billion in damage. Fortunately, there are smart landscaping techniques that homeowners can implement to help minimize some of the damage caused by extreme weather events.
Protect Your Home from Flood Damage
Flooding is an expensive natural disaster that has increased in frequency over the past decade. In fact, flooding caused more than $60 billion in damage last year alone. The increase in severe storms has made even more properties susceptible to flooding as 100- and even 500-year flood events have become common around the world. Homeowners can take steps to help mitigate some of the damages with these landscaping designs to help maximize drainage away from their property.
1. Install a French Drain System
Landscapes that help divert excess water away from your home’s foundation provide an easy solution to protect your property from flood damage. A simple surface drainage system, such as using piping to carry rainwater from downspouts and garden beds away from your home, can keep water from pooling. Consider installing a French drain system by creating a trench, lining it with landscape fabric, a layer of gravel and running perforated piping along the drain, with the holes facing down to redirect water from a specific area (i.e. the foundation of your home). Finish by wrapping the fabric and gravel around the pipe and filling it with decorative rock, gravel or sod. Note that this system requires a slope of at least 1 percent.
2. Use Dry Streambeds, Catch Basins and Swales
A few other simple methods for redistributing rainwater away from your home are dry streambeds, catch basins and swales.Dry streambeds can be aesthetic and serve as a natural path for water to follow, which requires a slope in the yard to create a flow. Catch basins are above-ground and can be used at the edge of your driveway, patio or lawn to prevent water from pooling where you don’t want it to—next to your home. These also employ the use of underground drainage pipes. Swales are depressions in the landscape that direct the flow of water and channel it elsewhere. If you choose to use a water diversion method, make sure to divert the water to a well, retention pond or garden bed with proper drainage.
3. Plant Rain Gardens
Rain gardens can be used to soak up overflow. These type of gardens are built in depressions or low points and swales can be used to channel water from other parts of the yard to these gardens. The shallow depression is populated with plants that have a high tolerance for damp or wet soil.
Hardscaping to Deter Wildfires
Wildfires are now becoming year-round threats in many areas of the United States, especially in drought-ridden areas such as the western U.S. Here are a few hardscaping tips to help protect your property from fires.
1. Establish Fire-Safe Zones
One way to help stop fire from spreading to your home is to create barriers in your property that make it hard for the flames to spread. Clear dead branches, underbrush and leaves, and use stone walls, roadways, gravel or other hardscapes to create fire-safe zones within your yard. Consider creating at least a 4-foot hardscape perimeter around your home with pavers, gravel or decorative stone. Do not plant trees within close proximity to your home.
2. Use Fire-Resistance Plants
Select high-moisture plants that will be more resistant to fires and plants that have less resin or sap—a fire accelerant—in them. Avoid conifer trees like fir and pine, and opt for low-growing manzanita with five to six feet of clearance around it and no dead branches, cherry, poplar or maples – hardwood trees that have less sap. Choose fire-resistant bushes like, lemonade berry, yucca, woolly blue curls or other shrubs that can help decrease the spread of a wildfire. Consider planting fire-retardant succulents in place of grass as well.
Guarding Your Property against Mudslides
Mudslides are another danger that homeowners need to protect themselves against, especially in drought-prone areas. Mudslides often happen in wildfire burn areas when severe storms drop heavy rains on slopes with no plants to soak up the water and keep the soil in place. Here are a few preventative mudslide mitigation measures homeowners can take to protect their property.
1. Plant Trees and Other Vegetation
Planting native shrubs and trees on hillsides can actually help stabilize the ground. Keep in mind that root systems take time to develop, so allow a couple years for this to be effective. Planting mature trees can help expedite the development of larger root systems.
2. Build Channels and Retaining Walls
Building channels in mudflow areas can help direct the flow of a mudslide around buildings and divert mud and debris. If your property is sloped, create retaining walls below hillsides to hold back potential slides. Use the biggest stones for the bottom and smaller stones for the top (or use solid, pinned blocks if desired).
Drainage and Erosion Assessment
Consider hiring an expert to conduct an assessment to evaluate your property’s drainage and state of erosion. Drainage is important to prevent flooding and landslides. Unseen erosion and unknown instabilities on your property could spell disaster. An assessment will allow you to determine any weaknesses and address them ahead of time. Engineers will be able to develop the appropriate plan to handle your needs. If you hire an outside contractor or gardener for any of the jobs, be sure that they carry their own insurance.
These preparations will go a long way to mitigate the potential damage severe weather can inflict on your property.