My home, my castle: Backyard renovation - Day 1

A 40 foot elevation difference from the back of my house to the property line along with 30+ trees creating too much shade fostered an environment that was very conducive to mosquitoes and erosion while not being very useful or kid-friendly. The shade made it nearly impossible for grass to grow, resulting in a lot of dirt and weeds. A deck on the back of the house was in an advanced state of deterioration, and because of improper grading, the area under the deck had become a breeding ground for mosquitoes as well as an impediment to permanently solving the problem of water seeping (sometimes gushing) into the basement during heavy rains. Several years ago I "temporarily" dug a trench which has kept the basement dry, but it's an eyesore.

This spring we decided to do something about the backyard after I finished remodeling the living room. Our needs were simple; we wanted the following for our backyard: grass, a lot more usable space, some trees removed, the yard graded, a retaining wall built, a playground for the girls, and a patio installed.

With the living room 95% complete (I still need to install the travertine around the fireplace), my wife started making calls. Over a 6-week time, she solicited bids from 7 different landscaping companies, and we settled on 3. One dropped out of the running, and we asked the two finalists to return so that details could be discussed. Experience, cost, and the ability to start immediately favored one of the companies, so we scheduled the job.

Getting the equipment in was a challenge. Because the front yard is steeper than the back, we got permission from neighbors behind us to allow the equipment to cross their property and enter through the rear of ours. The crew of 8 was able to take down 11 trees, a job that would have taken me every weekend for a month.

So at the end of day 1, the trees are gone, a huge pile of mulch is waiting to be spread, and some grading was done. It's amazing how much brighter the yard and the rooms facing the yard are.