- Bob Vila TV Shows >
- Basement Finishing and Family Space > Episode 9: Low-Maintenance Landscaping, Gutters, and Pantry
Replacing the Gutters, Trimming a Tree, and Creating a Low-Maintenance Front Yard
Bob is in Melrose, where seamless aluminum gutters are extruded and installed to pitch the water toward the front of the house and away through storm drains. A Norway spruce is limbed to bring air and sunlight to the tree, making it sturdier in wind and snow. In the front yard, the focus is on low-maintenance landscaping with pachysandra that will spread to cover the ground, holly, rhododendrons, spring bulbs, and a red Japanese maple. In the backyard, low-maintenance solutions include reclaimed granite steps, built-in sheds for gardening, toys, and tools, and a field stone and pea stone terrace that backs up to the stone retaining wall, plantings, and white cedar fence. Bob learns about no-pesticide weed control under and around the fence with a durable rubber weed inhibitor and admires the craftsmanship on the tongue-and-groove, lattice-topped gate. The final outdoor touch is the multi-stranded, soft, artificial grass that is installed for a lush, no-maintenance side yard. Bob shows us that the tiny back door has been replaced by a triple slider and the cluttered mudroom has become an organized pantry space with a counter, storage, recycling, and drawers for snack bags, utensils, and lunch gear.
- Part 1: Replacing the Gutters, Trimming a Tree, and Creating a Low-Maintenance Front Yard
- The Melrose home had only one gutter left on the front, which had been neglected and was clogged with muck. In the back of the home, a vinyl gutter had been installed by the homeowners. New England Gutter Kings were called in to install a seamless aluminum gutter system. The old gutter was removed and the lengths were carefully measured. Heavy-gauge sheet aluminum was measured and extruded right out of the truck in front of the house. This 32-gauge aluminum holds the profile of the gutter well and will stand up to years of abuse and cleaning. It also gives the profile of the crown molding. Only about eight feet of fascia board needed to be replaced, so western red cedar was used before the gutter was installed. The installation required three people and is set on a slope to drain the water out to the street and sewers. Many of the projects in the Melrose home fall under the category of safety. The big Norway Spruce tree on the left side of the front yard was limbed by Tree Tech. Using a cherry picker and a little chainsaw, they cut off the necessary limbs so light and air could come through the tree. This is important because in case of a blizzard, if a tree is very dense it is in danger of falling onto the house. The side of the home has been fenced in with a white cedar fence from Architectural Fence. This fence has been designed with attached sheds to create a bin for garbage, a stall for gardening equipment, and an area for a potting bench. Recycled granite from the Danvers State Hospital was used here to provide some steps. The granite was cut into lengths of four feet using wet saws equipped with a water attachment and diamond blade. The cut ends of the granite block are given a rough finish with a torch and chisel. The pea stone used for the walkway is a good color match with the fence. Pea stone is easy to maintain because water drains right through. Three steps were constructed using the granite blocks, all of differing widths, which creates a pyramid effect.
- Part 2: Hardscaping, Selecting Plants, Installing Artificial Grass in the Backyard, and Preventing Weed Growth
- Part 3: Creating a Lattice-Top Gate and Converting a Mudroom to a Pantry
Also from Basement Finishing and Family Space
<p>In Melrose, MA, a family with two young sons needs extra room and looks to Bob and his team to repurpose their damp basement for expanded living space. Homeowner Sarah Monzon shows Bob the backyard of the 1921 gambrel with a stone retaining wall they created to manage the slope for the kids’ play yard. She explains how the exterior has water intrusion and moisture buildup problems. Inside, Cyrus Beasley rips out the under-stair closet and assesses the stair support required while the plumber disconnects the old soapstone sink. The Monzons then clear out years of junk and demolition waste before calling 1-800-Got-Junk to stack, sort, and dispose of everything to donation centers, recycling sites, and the dump for a set price. Larry Janesky of Basement Systems reviews the exterior drainage problems of the home with Bob and then explains how they will reduce moisture on the inside. The crew breaks up the concrete floor to create an interior drainage trench, applies Clean Walls to isolate the stone walls and send moisture runoff to the drainage trench and sump, installs Thermal Dry radiant barrier behind finished walls to prevent moisture transfer, and creates a hole for the sump.</p>
<p class="MsoNormal"><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:DocumentProperties> <o:Template>Normal.dotm</o:Template> <o:Revision>0</o:Revision> <o:TotalTime>0</o:TotalTime> <o:Pages>1</o:Pages> <o:Words>221</o:Words> <o:Characters>1265</o:Characters> <o:Company>Blue Iceberg LLC</o:Company> <o:Lines>10</o:Lines> <o:Paragraphs>2</o:Paragraphs> <o:CharactersWithSpaces>1553</o:CharactersWithSpaces> <o:Version>12.0</o:Version> </o:DocumentProperties> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG /> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves>false</w:TrackMoves> <w:TrackFormatting /> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:DrawingGridHorizontalSpacing>18 pt</w:DrawingGridHorizontalSpacing> <w:DrawingGridVerticalSpacing>18 pt</w:DrawingGridVerticalSpacing> <w:DisplayHorizontalDrawingGridEvery>0</w:DisplayHorizontalDrawingGridEvery> <w:DisplayVerticalDrawingGridEvery>0</w:DisplayVerticalDrawingGridEvery> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables /> <w:DontGrowAutofit /> <w:DontAutofitConstrainedTables /> <w:DontVertAlignInTxbx /> </w:Compatibility> </w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]-->Bob and Larry Janesky of Basement Systems review the work being done to cut a drainage trench in the concrete around the perimeter of the basement floor. Water will be channeled through the trench to a sump – dug at the lowest spot in the basement – where it can be pumped out of the home. <span> </span>A triple safe power pump protects the home even if there is a loss of power.<span> </span>Bob reviews the work done on the existing plumbing once all the waterproofing and flood-prevention measures are put in place in the basement. Al Leone of Leone Plumbing Corp. first cut the pipes into sections for easy removal and demonstrates some of the specialized work he does to install the pipe, including using oakum, a joint runner, and poured hot lead to form a joint seal. Old brass water pipes are replaced with PEX tubing, creating more headroom in the basement and the sink and laundry lines can be easily relocated.<span> </span>Bob talks with Dan Driscoll of Rinnai about the new on-demand water heater being installed. The heater is a whole-house system sized for a three-bathroom household, laundry, and cleaning. An on-demand, tankless water heater saves basement space <span> </span>and is energy efficient because it does not store hot water. Driscoll opens up the water heater to show how the system works. Once the water is turned on, sensors detect the amount of water being used and the temperature of the incoming cold water. The on-demand system is about 40% more efficient than gas-fueled tank water heaters and 70% more efficient than electric tank water heaters.</p> <!--EndFragment--> <!--EndFragment--> <p> </p>
<p>Bob is in Melrose where John Ambrosino of Total Temperature Control installs the new heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Because of clearance issues, the unit is installed horizontally and tied to the joists with steel rods. Ambrosino explains how the unit pulls air in for exchange, to be heated or cooled, then pushes it through a fan and into the ducts for circulation. The 16 SEER unit is very big for maximum efficiency, quiet operation, and up to 45 percent savings over current energy costs. Mark Hagan shows Bob the Trane CleanEffects whole-house three-stage air-cleaning system that cleans the air of 99.98 percent of particulates, filtering first for large particles, then charging the small particles and capturing them in a collection filter for healthy indoor air. Don Adams of Bond-Tite Tank Service shows Bob how they move the oil tank, reattach it, set it in a trough to catch leaks and drips, and apply Tank-Guard to isolate condensing water and prevent tank corrosion. Bob talks to Howard Brickman about how to control squeaking floors either by drawing the wood floor tight against the subfloor with screws, connecting blocking to the joists and subfloor from below, or shimming the space between the subfloor and joists.</p>
Our basement re-finishing project is really almost finished, and today we're spending a lot of time outdoors. We're putting in some plantings in the front lawn, ground covers, bulbs and stuff.
We've also put in some new gutters on the house that we'll show you. And we're putting in a new type of lawn that does not require any mowing. Lots of stuff for the kids to play in. And we'll install a new kitchen pantry. Stick around. It's good to have you with us.
This eighty-five year-old house had only one gutter left on the front. And this one had been sorely neglected, and was full of muck. On the rear, the homeowner said try the do-it-yourself job with some vinyl gutters, but we called in the big guns New England Gutter Kings do a seamless aluminum gutter.
Once the old gutter was removed the crew measures carefully, and then extrudes the length they need from the heavy gauge sheet aluminum right out of the back of the truck parked right in front of the house.
They cut mitered corners, but they don't skimp on the gauge of the aluminum because flimsier material usually is more difficult to work with. This three-two gauge holds the profile of the gutter well and it'll stand up to any abuse through cleanings and work on the house or the roof over the years. It also gives the profile of crown molding up there.
We were lucky that only about eight feet of fascia board had to be replaced, so we used some of our Western Red cedar before installing the new front gutter.
The installation is a job for at least three people, lifting together and getting the pitch needed to the channel water towards the down spout.
Because we have this house sitting on a, on a slope, and we wanted to avoid all that water from the backside of the roof accumulating on the back yard. We sloped all the back side gutters and carried the water to the front where it can drain off towards the street and the sewers.
Well, it started raining all of a sudden, and rain is a good thing when you're putting in a new garden in New England. Autumn is the best time to do it. Now many of the improvements that we already made to the house, were things that really fall into the category of safety.
This tree behind me is a big old Norway Spruce, and we limbed it. We had our friends from Tree Tech come in, and in a matter of minutes they got up there in a cherry picker with a little chainsaw, and carefully took out necessary limbs so that enough light and air can come through the tree.
That's important because when you have a blizzard coming through, if a tree is very dense, it's in danger of falling onto the house. Now, in the last couple of weeks, part of the landscape on the front of the house has been replaced. What we had here was just a very scruffy front yard that sloped right to the sidewalk.
And the main improvement has been to put in this beautiful, recycled granite stone curb along the front of the house, and it acts as a retainer wall but it's also a beautiful accent. And it also gives us two steps here back down to the side-walk.
But I'd like to say hi to our friends Ruth Foster and Nick who have been doing the installation from Atlantic. Hi, guys.
Don't you love the weather?
Now let's talk for a second about what the garden scheme is here, Ruth. What was your idea, in terms of the whole design.
The idea was that this should be a low-maintenance garden, and we took the lawns out all over. This is a busy household with children and mowing grass is the highest maintenance thing you can do. Putting in ground cover.
So what's the ground cover that the men are putting in right now?
This is pachysandra which is very easy to take care of. It takes a year or two to get going but it will be all filled in.
Now how does it grow? What does it just send out roots and rhizomes?
And send up new little plant-lets?
Oh, OK. And do you have to worry about fertilizing and?
Nothing, I like that.
That's why we put it in.
So Nick, is the soil condition that we have here, is that something that you had to amend?
Yeah, we filled in what was previously our slope, and then we retained it with the antique granite, and then we filled in about 18 inches here of new screened loam.
Okay, and what's the tree that you've put in right behind us there.
It's a Red Japanese maple.
That will be beautiful.
How big will that get?
It will probably get to about 30 feet.
Wow. So, that's something that you would have to think about limbing also down the line.
Yes, and then Ruth you choose some evergreen shrubs, right?
What are they?
Well, we chose lovely holly and lovely rhododendron because they bloom, and there's a succession of bloom here so that even though we've tried to make it very low maintenance we have bulbs in the spring.
We have rhododendrons, we have the berries on the holly. You can see them now.
And the whole thing kind of moves along without a lot of work from the homeowner.
What kind of bulbs are you putting in?
We put in two kinds of daffodils. There are early daffodils and late daffodils and we put beautiful blue
Muscari. It's lovely little blue flowers along the wall.
So, they'll be a blue and yellow accent in this Spring.
Yes, there will.
That sounds wonderful. Well, I think we should go go around the back of the house and see the plan there.
Okay, and of course the rain is slowing down now, and the side of the house has been outfitted with a wonderful white cedar fence from Architectural here in the Boston area, and what they have done is not just fence, but create a bin for garbage, and an area for storage and garden tools, and even this fantastic little potting bench.
Did you have anything to do with that?
I designed it.
It's just a perfect little thing.
And Sarah, the home owner, has already put some of the things that I guess she's trying to save through winter.
But let's talk about the materials, Nick, because again, here, you managed to find some use for recycled granite.
Again, the same recycled granite from the Denver State Hospital. We cut it into lengths of about four feet.
Now, the cutting process can't be easy.
Well, what we use are the wet saws with a water attachment and a diamond blade. and it cuts through fairly easy its a little loud and sometimes a little bit messy , but it cuts through the granite and we dress up the sawn ends with a torch to give it a thermal rough finish.
That's right. That's great.
And then the material that you have chosen here is, what size is this?
3/8 inch pea stone.
So it's a pea stone.
It's a pea stone. It's traditional that the composition, the color is nice, it goes with the fence.
And it's very easy to maintain and you never get a water problem in this 'cause it drains through.
It drains right through exactly. And then what I love is the transition you've made over here where they are 3 steps, but they are differing widths.
We cut each step a little shorter as we got towards the top, sort of the pyramid effect with these stone blocks.
Beautiful. Lets take a look around back. So as we enter the backyard Nick, the the choice of hardscape material changes. What did you use here?
We used these natural, flat field stones because of the relaxed natural feeling back here. This loose retaining wall was was already installed and existing when we came, and we wanted to do something sort of relaxed to go along with the feel of the backyard as it is.
And so the shape of... I mean this is primarily a functional area to have a table or for kids to play with Tonka toys or whatever. The shape of it is sort of defined by the slope you're saying?
We've kind of kept it free form just like the wall is against the slope.
And, they are just laid in stone dust?
There's no real concrete or cement involved in any of it.
It's all dry laid materials with the compacted stone dust underneath everything holding it all together, and then a layer of the pea stone again on top.
But the choice of the pea stone is one of the important things too, because sometimes you just say get me half inch gravel and whatever, and it's blue-grey, what is this mixture?
This is a natural bank run mix that's screened. So it's got all the natural colors from the native area. It's not crushed. You can see that it's still sort of smooth pebble instead of a crushed aggregate, which is smaller pebbles from the crushings of larger stones.
It's a great, great choice. It's a very good collaboration between you guys, congratulations. Let me ask you one last question, Ruth, in terms of your plant material choices here. It's autumn, a lot of things are dying back, but what's the logic in terms of what you've put on the bank?
This is, we got all of these plants from Monrovia. They're one of the largest plant suppliers to local nurseries all over the country and they have a number growing stations where they grow very specialized plants. They're absolutely beautiful plants. I was here earlier in the season with some blooms of the hydrangeas so we could work in the colors.
So our cedar will weather and we will have all the beautiful growth of the flowers.
Thank you both. It's a beautiful job.
Now, all this natural stuff meets high tech stuff on this other side of the garden. And we've got two interesting products that have been used here.
The first one, is a product that we've installed along the perimeter of the fence.
OK, so we're gonna look at a product that's been developed to help control weeds along a fence line. And Jack Shriner's with us from Bruckman Rubber Company out in Nebraska.
Now you guys were what, the government asked you to develop this?
Well the Department of Environmental Quality in Nebraska had asked us to start developing products that would utilize some of the scrap tire to clean up the environment. So this is one of the products, the Weed Seal, that we developed that utilizes about 50% scrap tire and 50% virgin material special formulas. So it allows it to seal together when you install the pieces.
So it's basically 100% rubber?
100% rubber with fiber reinforcement. And tough.
So the idea is that you just lay, we interrupted you here.
But you're just laying it down along the perimeter of the fencing.
Yes, we'll lay it under. We'll cut the sections for between the posts and we'll lay those sections between the posts.
Yes. 1.6 pounds, so it won't blow away.
It won't blow away.
It will stay here. And you can can see by the density of it, nothing's gonna grow though it.
Well, what I like is the concept is that you're not gonna be trimming or edging with a weed whacker and banging up the nice cedar fence.
We even had the EPA talk to us, but, you know, so much spray goes down that harms our environment and gets down to our groundwater when people spray their fences. And this gives a...
Oh, with pest with a weed controlling chemical.
Yeah, it's the very dangerous stuff that gets put on our soil.
What are these prevents that.
What are these square ones for?
These square ones are what we call our post protectors and they 're designed to go around, to... We have we what we call a slitlock device, designed to go around the post on an existing installation. Say that you can put it on there.
This particular one here had a conduit coming up so we required another cut on it, so...
An extra notch on it.
Right, a notch on it. But, this is put in. We can slip this around there, and then go around the other side and...
So you're not gonna have have anything seed itself at the post either?
Well that looks great. It's a terrific product. Thanks, Jack.
You're welcome. Thank you.
And at the other end of the little back yard, we've got a totally difference concept.
Greg Gaiter is with us from New Grass, and when we started this project back here, and remember, this family has two little kids, four and five years old, and they are rough on it. But there are also two big trees back here lots of shade and you couldn't grow grass. So, that is the reason that you're seeing new grass going down here, and Greg, let's talk about it, because a lot of people have a stigma for artificial turf products, and that it's kinda rough on your knees, or you think about it in terms of football fields.
This is a new approach isn't it?
Yes it is Bob, the new grass product we're putting in here features two different types of blades, we have a soft mono-filament, and a twisted fiber that adds a little cushioning to the product. It's soft, it's durable.
It is, yeah.
Children love it, pets love it.
You don't have to mow it.
You don't have to water it.
Yeah. Now, what is it made out of?
The fibers are polyethylene and the back in is a urethane. It's very durable. It has a UV coating that has a warranty of ten years.
And what about water puddling on it, do you have to worry about, I mean does the water filter through it?
It filters through it rate of 30 gallons per hour.
Oh, so that's not a problem.
Now we're going to lay out the new grass. Cut it to shape. We're going to have one seam that's nearly invisible upon completion.
Then we'll stake the perimeter so it doesn't lift up. Broom up the fibers. And you're set for 10 years or more of a beautiful new grass lawn.
Does it come with a warranty?
It does, yes.
OK, well Greg, this looks like the regular kind of seaming process that you do with wall-to-wall carpet inside the house.
Yes, it certainly is. So we're getting it prepared to do our initial seaming of the two pieces. Now, with the pieces put together, you can see we have a nearly invisible seam. Once we do the final brooming, it will be nearly impossible to see what work we've done.
Greg, what about the cost of this?
The cost for this new grass rye is $4.99 a square foot. Installation is customer project specific.
Well, this is a very specific project and it works really well. Thanks a lot.
Thank you very much.
OK. And what a wonderful maintenance-free backyard. Let's come over to the other end of the garden now and say hi to Jay Torantafila from our Architectural Fence.
Hi. How are you, Jay?
And you are putting the finishing touches on this entire fencing job, with what has got to be one of the most elegant gates in this town. Tell us about it.
Thank you, Bob.
This is a void bottom with a lattice top gate, Bob. It has a tongue in groove sheathing that we used.
And above you see this lattice which is a what we have a half lap lattice.
Half lap because, well how is it constructed?
Each piece is individually cut, so that it makes a half lap. So it fits in and makes a smooth finish.
So you run it through a table saw with a dado blade?
And then the arch?
The arch is a laminated cup above so it bends with the curve.
And the construction of the gate is really well thought out. I mean this is one sturdy item.
Very, it is very well made. You have the half lap frame on the side style. That makes it rigid. Very rigid.
Very rigid. Yeah. And then of course it's the same white cedar as everything else throughout here. So it's going to weather.
It's gonna turn nice and gray.
It will silver.
Excellent. Thanks Jay.
It's a beautiful job. And one of the interesting things that we did to the back of the house is to modify the entrance. There was just a single little back door into a tiny little mud room, if you will.
And by inserting this big trio of patio doors, not only have we given them a view of this new garden from inside the kitchen , but we have also turned that little mud room into a terrific little pantry that we have outfitted with California Closets.
Well, at California Closets, we come to each person's house after they call us at the office and set up an appointment. We take a look at at the space, and see how the person needs help, or if they have a special vision that they'd like to do.
In Sarah's case, it was an old house with sort of an extra walkway. There was a door right here, where the window is right now, and there were lots of hooks with things hanging on them, it was sort of cluttered, and it felt a little bit dark.
So what Sarah told me is that she needed a space for growning families, for her family that's growing, and to make a lunch. So what we've designed here is a butler's pantry style with some little drawers going in. It's going to be very quaint.
A deep counter top with some space up above for snacks and crackers. The drawers will have little baggies, maybe some spoons for yogurt and things like that. And then underneath, some open space for recycling storage.
This is the rail here, this is the backbone of whole closet system. What we do is we attach this side of the rail to your wall. It will fasten into the studs with those screws.
Also then we, when you take your hanger, the hanger sits onto the rail like this, which allows the partitions to be solid . It allows partitions to go up and down, and you can basically stand on it. It will hold any amount of weight that you want to put it onto the system.
Alright, here's the last of the four drawers. They all come complete with full extension drawer runners. Down bottom you've got a couple compartments, the one on the right side can be used as your recycling bin.
Up top's great because it's got wide open space on both sides for your kitchen appliances. We also have dividers in there which made great use of your cookie trays and muffin tins.
So basically, what we've done here is we've just taken a jumbled up mud room and we've converted it into a useful pantry for your kitchen.
And that's what it looks like moved into. Not bad, huh? We're outta time. Join us again next week and we'll give you some tips on exterior paint jobs and how best to accomplish them in cold weather. Also, we're installing a trellis out of western red cedar and and ipe decking.
So then, I'm Bob Vila. Thanks for joining us.
- 15 Old House Features We Were Wrong to Abandon
- 17 Tiny Bathrooms We Love
- 20 Insanely Easy 60-Minute Home Improvements
- 70 Gardening Tricks and Ideas for Total Beginners
- 16 Inventive Beds You Can Make Yourself
- Top 10 Classic DIY Projects for the Outdoors
- 15 Once-Popular Household Items That Are Vanishing
- 159 Smart Storage Ideas for the Whole House
- 30 Things Every Adult Should Know How to Do
- 10 Wise Ways to Get Rid of Pests and Critters
- Before and After: 9 Totally Amazing Mobile Home Makeovers
- Top Tips for Keeping Countertops Like New
- 15 Amazing Things You Can Make with $0 Scrap Wood
- 14 Ways to Get More Kitchen Counter Space
- Assembly Required: 15 DIY Kit Homes
- 18 Bathroom Updates You Can Do in 1 Day
- 9 Tried-and-True Methods of Eliminating Weeds
- 15 Fast Fixes for Your Home Facade
- 11 Clever Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinets
- 7 Easy Budget-Friendly Backyard Makeovers