Minimalism is the new black

I’m weeping over my new landscaping.

Or lack thereof.

And shocked at how quickly a 60 year old English Garden could disappear. Ok, so it was more like an English Jungle, but still. It had nice bones and with a little bit a lot of  hedging anything is possible. But the problem is roots…and damp and giant metal supports just nailed into the only thing standing between the weather and the lime plaster inside: antique wall mortar.

So while they were fixing the drain problems they also fixed the damp problems. And the landscaping around the house was a big problem.

So it went.





I have to think of this more as a tabula rasa stage as opposed to a stopping point: a clean slate in which to proceed.  In the After photo you can SEE the damp issues we were dealing with in the walls. In some points the darker bricks (i.e. damp) goes up almost to the second black brick line. No good.

One of the biggest issues for the damp was that side passage through the beat up gate there on the left.

Check out the before:


All that white on the brick is efflorescence salts…it basically is telling us that water is moving through the walls…which is good in old buildings like Laurel, but usually if the building is functioning as it should be this should only be about two bricks high.

In Laurel’s case it should stop showing this heavily before it ever meets the first row of black bricks. Not those rows…further down. By the sidewalk. Two bricks below that. Wait, what two bricks? There in lies the problem.

Damp problems have been a big issue here for a very long time, you could tell because they just pasted a vapor barrier piece of plasterboard (think: shiny metallic sided) to the inside wall right under the window. The fireplace, which would be to the right of this window from the outside (or to the left if you were standing inside the room), was also not closed properly. There were no air bricks. The skirting/base board on the inside was rotted and the wood pieces inserted into the wall in order to hold the skirting boards in place were disintegrated and now a very fine compost.

It was ugly.

I had my theory.

See this sidewalk? It was designed to allow water to run away towards the front and back of the house. It also bridges the black bricks in the center, basically inviting moisture into the walls. This wasn’t working right. It was barely ever dry, even when it hadn’t rained in a while except for about 8 inches closest to the walls…where the building was basically drawing the water up like a sponge and right into the kitchen.


The wall of the garage on the other side of the sidewalk…you can see the bottom row of bricks has long since broken down and been replaced by…Portland Cement. No bueno.


So it all went.


And a bit more. This is the remains of the old firewood shed in the back. Boys and big toys.


They brought in a ton of gravel and took out a ton of rubble. They installed a new drain for the downspout as well as a french drain a few inches from the house, leaving some hard compacted soil between the drain and the house wall as a barrier to the water running back into the walls instead of into the drain channel. They did this along the front and around the side of this part of the house. They connected both to the existing drain system on our side of the property.


We ran a dehumidifier for a week or two and viola! This fixed the damp issues in that room and the drain issues we were having in one fail swoop. It took longer for us to dig around trying to unclog a completely back filled terracotta drain pipe than it did to call in people who knew what they were doing and have them do the job right.

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the barren gravel pit remaining.