What was the clients’ intent for this project?
The owners of a Clarksville Residence reached out to us because their backyard was a large unusable slope and they wanted to create a space for outdoor entertaining and leisure. The couple worked high-stress jobs and wanted to unwind after long workdays, and—most importantly—enjoy time with their children and grandchildren when they came to visit.
They had a few requirements: covered space for ample usage, a wood-burning fireplace, storage for patio furniture and accessories, and a grill. With a long distance from house to patio, the clients also requested kitchen storage and refrigeration to complement the grill area. The proximity of the woods and trees behind the house made for the perfect placement in nature, but they still wanted to enjoy comforts like light, refrigeration, and a full kitchen.
What challenges were presented by existing conditions?
The existing site had a very steep hill, sloping immediately after the deck. Access was very limited, as well, because the property line was only 10 feet from the side of the house, and all materials and equipment had to be moved through that narrow, hilly corridor. A tree company removed several large trees prior to the project and left the stumps behind. Live Green was ready to take on the job but before the stumps could be removed, the first tier of a retaining wall had to be built downhill to provide a workspace that was level enough to safely operate equipment.
How were all of these issues addressed?
A retaining wall was used to create a level pad for the cabana and patio space. After the first wall was built and the stump was removed, concrete footers could be excavated and poured for the fireplace, bluestone patios, and cabana structure. The order of operations was critical to the success of this project because each piece hinged on the accuracy and stability of the piece before it. If the retaining wall wasn’t correct, the concrete footers and slab would be off. If the footers were off, the fireplace would be askew, impacting the cabana roof. Every step had to be carefully laid out and triple-checked in the field for accuracy before the team could move on to the next.
What difficulties did you face in project execution?
The limited access for equipment—and humans—meant that the pace of work was slowed down significantly. The space only permitted one piece of equipment at a time, and due to property-line constraints, we were limited to size, as well. The project was completed over the summer months. We got lucky with the weather, but even with mother nature on our side, it took a dedicated team of employees nearly 16 weeks to complete. In order to create privacy and screening for the new backyard, mature evergreen trees were brought in and planted on both sides of the property to block the views of neighbors. With limited equipment and access, root balls were reduced, pruned, and hardened, meaning extra care and attention had to be paid when planting and staking the trees to ensure they would take root. The project was completed in 2016 and, as of 2019, all 12 evergreen trees are thriving in their new home.
What is your favorite part of the project?
This customer came back to us three years after the project to thank us for their “backyard sanctuary” as they call it. The patio and cabana space are used on an almost daily basis and it’s their grandchildren’s favorite spot on the whole property.
The fireplace has a mantle that was created by salvaging a hand-hewn hickory beam from the landscape contractor’s family farm in northern Maryland. This beam became a great conversation piece during the construction and installation, and it has created a special bond between Live Green and the client. They love to tell the story of how we brought this beam from his family’s barn and turned it into the perfect accent for this beautiful project that brings friends and families together around the fireplace.