webuser_661970833

Walkway around house - design question

Joe Macker
11 days ago

I am planning a 5' wide walkway around the house (concrete or pavers). I am wondering whether the walkway should be adjoining the house or whether it should be a certain distance away (about 3 feet) separation from the foundation of the house, with mulch in that 3 ft space.


The reason I ask is that in my old house the concrete sideyard was butting the foundation and had developed cracks starting from near the house foundation. Could that have been due to not enough expansion space for the concrete?


Any other considerations in choosing one or the other?

Comments (37)

  • katinparadise
    8 days ago

    I would think that natural drainage around the foundation with mulch would be much better than concrete abutting the foundation. Eventually, that concrete will pull away from the foundation and you'll get water in there that starts to freeze and thaw. That seems far from ideal to me.

  • Joe Macker
    2 days ago

    about 8000sqft I am quite busy so mowing is not feasible.

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  • A S
    2 days ago

    Joe how big is your yard? I really don’t get why you can’t just mow the grass.

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    Yardvaark
    2 days ago

    I think most landscape designers are fairly aware of making mowing easier in their bed layout, avoiding corners and tight turns. If automatic, robotic mowers are expected and have special needs beyond the normal low maintenance requirements, that should be brought to the attention of any designer. I'm sure a manufacturer of such mowers would provide design guidelines.

  • Joe Macker
    2 days ago

    What I meant is autonomous/remote-control mowers. A schedule can be set for them to do it automatically.

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    Yardvaark
    5 days ago

    Of course lawn mowing maintenance level is accounted for in design. That would be a basic factor. But what do you mean by "automatic" ...? Remote controlled or literally automatic?

  • Joe Macker
    5 days ago

    Do you take into consideration using automatic lawn mowers when designing landscape?

  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    5 days ago

    Mrryo Villa, start a new, separate thread with your issues. Limit the thread to one major area, such as back, front or side yard.

    For the pictures, show complete, wide views from end to end, in slightly overlapping pictures that include extra space beyond the ends, so we can see surroundings. To take the pictures, face the house squarely, lined up with the center of the view and do not move from that spot for all pictures of the view. Pan (pivot) the camera from one end of the view to the other.

  • Mrryo Villa
    6 days ago

    No it's not my house, I'm seeing many houses around where I live that have these walkways. I like it because of the clean look it gives the house, I'm more of a xeriscape/less maintenance type person. I don't think it's all that bad and if you make it at least 4 ft walkway and is slope properly with proper drainage built it. I'm currently building on a my 10 acre lot so just looking for landscaping ideas that are not too much to maintain.




  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    6 days ago

    @ A S ... Yikes. I never thought of that. Cat is out of the bag now.

  • A S
    6 days ago

    Well I sure hope the person who posted the pics doesn’t live in the house based on all these comments. Maybe they like it!

  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    6 days ago

    In the two pictures just above, everything in the pictures seem bad. It is unattractive to have all the craziness of walks going every which way, too skinny planting beds, too many different kinds of materials. It looks positively home-owner designed and in a foreign country where, because they don't have designers, people just copy all kinds of things they see without knowing what they are doing. The planting design is bad and the beds are not going to actually accommodate plants for very long.

    As far as drainage goes, as long as the walks and ground slope away from the building, I don't think it's any big deal. Where the rock/gravel mulches ares, those areas will allow more water to enter the soil, but still, I don't think it's too much of a big deal. They are small areas and a little separated from the building. Still, I'd rather not have them.

  • just_janni
    6 days ago

    It depends. I will have a 6 foot plinth around both the buildings in my project. The ground has been compacted. They will slope 1/4” per foot away from the house. Over 65% of the perimeter is under roof overhangs and we capture 100% of the water into 8” drains. The walkway will allow windows to be cleaned and prevent staining and splashing on the exterior. We will have plenty of yard OUTSIDE the walkway

    Landscaping too close to the house is bad and not recommended due to safety issues (hiding spot for thieves).

    So, as with most things, the answer is it depends and the devil is in the detail with proper execution

  • shead
    6 days ago

    I think it looks bad aesthetically and could present drainage problems if not properly sloped away from the stucco exterior.

  • Joe Macker
    6 days ago

    Why exactly is it Bad/asking-for-trouble. Please be specific. Uncomfortable-walkway/poor-drainage/...?

  • shead
    6 days ago

    Oh yuck! That's just asking for trouble!

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art
    7 days ago

    Bad? Yep, it's bad!

  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    7 days ago

    HAHA! For all kinds of reasons!!

  • Mrryo Villa
    7 days ago

    Another one


  • Mrryo Villa
    7 days ago

    So what you are all saying is that this is a bad idea then?


  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    7 days ago

    A concrete walk abutting a building wall, cross pitched correctly, is going to shield the ground from rainwater entering it. But rain will enter the ground at the outside of the walk and travel around underground to some degree by capillary action. If the walk is farther away from the building, some rain will enter the ground, but it's not that much as most of the water is sheet flowing away at the surface. Whatever enters, whether with or without a walk, the building must be protected from by foundation waterproofing and possibly footing drainage (which many times cannot be run to daylight. Often it must be pumped out by a system that is subject to failure and demands more attention than everyday gravity.) Anyway, for the purpose of drainage -- with foundation waterproofing, grading to pitch water away from the house, footing drainage, sump pumps, etc. -- it matter little if the walk abuts the building or is spaced away from it. The idea that spaced away from it the walk it would be creating a catchment area, would be true if the walk were raised and the, let's call it a, planting bed were depressed. But this is not how a properly constructed landscape is supposed to be. The planting bed should be pitched away from the house, the walk is flush with the planting bed edge and the walk is also pitched to drain, so there is a continuous slope from building wall to outer edge of walk. If the planting bed is recessed an inch or some minor amount, this is insignificant as the house is already prepared to defend itself at the foundation level against the modest amount of water that percolates through the soil from rain. The soil is always going to be some level of damp and house is going to be OK with it. What we do strive to avoid is adding large amounts of water to the soil near a house. For example, don't create a rock filled pit next to the foundation where the bottom of the pit is below the surrounding surface grade. In that case, water in the pit could not leave it by way of flowing down properly pitched grade. It could only leave by soaking into the ground along the foundation.

    While there might be the occasional reason to want a walk abutting a building wall, there are lots and lots of reasons why one would want to space the walk away from the building. A big reason in the case of homes, is that most people want and appreciate space to grow plants adjacent to the house. The foundation planting area is as common as are houses. Another reason not to place a walk next to the building is because it seems tighter, less comfortable. The same size walk next to a wall cannot accommodate the same volume of traffic as a walk spaced away from the building. Next to a wall it can be harder to negotiate as there is a wall to get in the way. A walk abutting a wall may not look as good as a wall spaced away from it.

  • One Devoted Dame
    7 days ago
    last modified: 7 days ago

    Ohmygosh, seriously, you know what's bad?!?! I just re-read my post from 3 days ago, and I already mentioned that darn sidewalk connecting my driveway and stoop in this thread. I used almost the exact same wording, too. Good grief. Folks, this is what sleep deprivation (or pregnancy? lol) does to the brain. Aaaaaagggghhhhhhh!!!!

    The mind is a terrible thing to lose, and I'm not even 40 yet. :-O

    At this rate, there will be zero hope for me when I'm 80.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art
    7 days ago

    Ms Dame, you are the best!

  • One Devoted Dame
    7 days ago
    last modified: 7 days ago

    [...] the space between the house and the walkway becomes like a catchment area for rain water, preventing it from draining properly and can cause mushy muddy areas.

    My builder -- or whomever they hired to do the gutters -- was a real genius and installed one of our downspouts so that it dumped right *into* the foundation (the downspout is on an inside corner, and we have very little roof overhang [a matter of inches] ).

    We had hired a 3rd party home inspector, who caught the design flaw, and the "fix" was a little sloped concrete basin, placed on the ground perpendicular to the spout, that is supposed to catch the rainwater and redirect it away from the house. I'm not sure how effective it really is, especially when we get like 3" of rain in 2 hours, lol, but the water goes right into my mulched flower bed, getting sucked up by the shrubs near the foundation.

    The only places around my foundation that are muddy messes are the spots where the dog and/or kids dug holes. :-/ All grass that abuts the foundation, as well as all mulched areas, are fine. In one section, I have a temporary brick border 24" from the foundation, which encloses mulch, and I haven't seen any issues with the concrete remaining wet or the ground being soggy, and I don't even have anything planted in that strip yet.

    I will say, also, that I have the dreaded concrete sidewalk that connects the driveway to the front porch/stoop, and I have no plans to wait around for it to start cracking, allowing water penetration and weeds to grow. Can't wait to demolish it, and create a more welcoming entrance from the street, so that folks don't have to come up my driveway to reach my front door.

    I realize that all of my points here may be flawed in some way, or not representative of general trends, or that maybe I just haven't lived long enough with the current conditions to experience any negative effects. That's all possible. I'm unfamiliar with any of the arguments your builder is making, and I'm naturally skeptical, but that doesn't mean he's wrong. I'd have to ask a licensed (landscape?) architect or something, lol. And your post definitely has me wondering....

    Edited to add:

    Darn it. I wrote all that, while Mr. Virgil was typing, before his post showed up for me. ;-) More proof that I talk too much.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art
    7 days ago

    That's why having a continuous concrete walk around all sides of the house is a bad idea.


    The first thing that should be done is site rough and finish grading to ensure a positive drainage away from the house on all four sides. Where this may be a problem for one reason or another, installation of a continuous French Drain along the footings of the house, such that the drainage daylights away from the house is the next requirement.


    If you really want a hard surface walk way around sides of thie house, independent stones or independent concrete squares located in the grass areas are the best answer.


    Keep landscaping close to your house, with positive drainage away from your house.

  • Joe Macker
    7 days ago

    Rain on the roof drains off the downspouts which get connected to two drainpipes that runs around the house starting at the center of the backyard, collecting water from around the house. The drains dump water in the front yard about 20 ft away from the house. All of this is in plans and is work in progress.


    I was under the impression that this should be sufficient for water drainage and that the rain water that falls directly near the house is low enough that is should drain into the soil. So I am kind of surprised with my contractor's description that even that low amount of water can seep under the foundation.


    The second point my contractors made about a hardscape walkway that is a few feet away from the house is that the space between the house and the walkway becomes like a catchment area for rain water, preventing it from draining properly and can cause mushy muddy areas. I had not thought of this as a possibility. Does anyone have any experience like this?


  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    8 days ago

    Almost 100% of homes have extensive areas around their outer walls that are not abutted by hardscape. Are foundations so fragile that all these homes are in danger?

    Where is this going with the original question?

  • socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24
    8 days ago

    Does rain drain off of your roof onto the area next to the house? What type of foundation and roof/gutters do you have? Do you have moisture problems?

    I used to have an unusual 80 year old foundation that had no footing. The rain drained off of the tile part of the roof (no gutters) then seeped under the house causing moisture problems. I had the foundation replaced with a normal foundation including a two foot deep footing. In the areas where water drains off of the roof tiles I had concrete swales added to catch the rain and direct it four feet away from the house. The swales are only about 18” wide. The dirt beyond the swales is graded away from the house for several more feet. The crawl space is now dry. I like the look of the swales better than gutters with a tile roof. The foundation company, like your contractor, did think the swales should have been a few feet wider.

  • bpath reads banned books too
    8 days ago

    How about pea gravel or the like, with metal (Ryerson, as it’s called around here) edging to hold it in place.


  • One Devoted Dame
    8 days ago

    Interestingly my contractor tells me that a anything other than a hardscape adjoining the foundation is a risk because rain water can get under the foundation.

    That *is* interesting. I know the land has to be graded, so that water runs away from the foundation, but I've never encountered the notion that hardscape is the best way to manage water. I have mulch and plants, and my plants' roots do a great job of removing rain water. :-D

  • Joe Macker
    8 days ago

    Interestingly my contractor tells me that a anything other than a hardscape adjoining the foundation is a risk because rain water can get under the foundation. Apparently even the city code says that for 5 ft near the foundation a grading is needed to keep water out.

  • Joe Macker
    11 days ago

    @Virgil Carter Fine Art the concrete/paver is just to have a walkway. Other parts of the rear yard I am planning am planning either grass or mulch.

  • PRO
    Yardvaark
    11 days ago
    last modified: 11 days ago

    A walkway abutting the house, unless it is very wide, is automatically more cramped than a same size walk that is set apart from the house. How far from the house would vary with the situation, but the space between the house and it that is created is usually reserved for the foundation planting. 3' is much too shallow for a landscape bed. A minimum would be more like 6'. But it depends on the actual conditions that are in the area. We'd need to see and understand before saying what it should be. If you come back with pics. Face the house squarely. Take a series of slightly overlapping pics that pan the area in question. (while keeping the camera at same location.) Include additional space beyond the area in question to show surroundings.

  • One Devoted Dame
    11 days ago

    I would create space between the foundation and the pathway.

    I have both situations that you describe, in my current tract house, and I can't wait to demolish the concrete sidewalk that runs right up next to the house (it connects my driveway with my covered front stoop). It feels cramped, like I'm gonna hit the baby's head on the brick as I carry him inside. And it's roughly 6' or so of walkway, so it's not like I'm making this terribly long, arduous, claustrophobic journey halfway around my house. :-D

    There are a lot of nice landscaping opportunities (beyond mulch) for a 3' space. I'm particularly fond of vines and trellises, pots, stacked pots with cascading evergreen flowering plants, well-behaved border plants (18"-24" wide at maturity) that don't intrude on the sidewalk, artistically arranged pebble patterns, etc. Make it pretty!!!

  • A S
    11 days ago

    Our old house was like you described with a concrete path adjacent to the house. This time around we did not do that. Our driveway pavers go out off the side of the house and lead to a 24x24" walk way that has gaps between each square piece. This is our side path. On the other side of the house we have a similar set up on the front crossing the house but then down that entire side of the house we have small stones and no pavers at all. There are so many different ways you can do a walkway. I wouldn't want it right up against the house again if I had space.

  • PRO
    Virgil Carter Fine Art
    11 days ago

    Why impervious concrete all around the house? Are you planning any landscaping?