5620 West Birch Harbor Drive, Wasilla, AK 99623
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21 Aug 2017

How to Stop Hillside Erosion on Your Property

Are you tired of watching all your time and money get washed away by a heavy rain?

Hillside erosion is a destructive and costly problem for many Alaskan homeowners.

You know how it goes.

After a storm or snowmelt, your landscaping is ruined.

Your yard is muddy.

Your basement is flooded.

Your foundation is cracked because of water damage.

And in the end, you are left with the cleanup and cost of repairs.

You’ve tried everything.

Or have you?

It turns out that one structure can dramatically reduce soil erosion on the steep slopes of your property.

That saves you time and money!

Today, I’m going to show what that structure is and how it can stop hillside erosion.

What is Soil Erosion?

Before I talk about the structure that can prevent hillside erosion on your property, let me share some quick facts about soil erosion in Alaska.

According to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, “erosion is the detachment and movement of soil particles, rock fragments, or solids, by the action of wind, water, ice, or gravity.”

That is pretty straightforward.

The displacement of soil is often increased or accelerated by natural forces and as a result of human activities.

Natural Forces That Accelerate or Increase Hillside Erosion

Although soil erosion is a naturally occurring process, its rate and magnitude can be increased by intense natural forces such as rainfall, slope gradient, vegetation and climate change.

> Rainfall

Severe rain can loosen soil particles and transport them downhill.

In Alaska, the chance of rain increases as the summer progresses.

By August, the chance of rain is over 50%.

As a result, soil erosion can increase or accelerate during the summer months.

> Steep Slopes

The steeper a slope, the harder gravity pulls soil and water downhill.

“Angle of repose” is a landscaping term that describes how steep a slope is based on a ratio of rise to run.

  • 4:1 – This angle of repose is an ideal slope for homeowners because it can be easily planted and absorbs water well.
  • 3:1 – This is typically the maximum angle of repose allowed by city or county codes. This is the steepest incline allowed because lawn mowers cannot safely be used on this angle of repose.
  • 2:1 – This is the steepest incline capable of supporting plant life. Erosion can be more severe on this angle of repose because water flows down the hill rather than soaking into the soil.

> Vegetation

Soil that lacks vegetation is much more susceptible to erosion.

Plants prevent rain drops from freely falling onto the ground and they hold the soil particles together with their roots underground.

Vegetation can increase slope stabilization.

> Climate Change

Sudden changes in the climate can increase or accelerate soil erosion.

A drought dries up the land and makes the soil susceptible to sudden rain and wind.

Changing winds can expose previously sheltered areas.

Human-Induced Soil Erosion

Human activities can accelerate soil erosion, including:

> Deforestation

Like we talked about previously, large root systems hold the soil together and help prevent erosion.

Thus, deforestation exposes the land and greatly increases the chance of soil erosion.

This is especially true when no reforestation efforts are made to combat the cutting down of large forests.

> Intensive Farming

Excessive plowing and fertilization can cause the land to become dry and barren.

When farm land is not allowed to lie fallow between crops, the soil is not able to produce humus.

Humus is an organic material that forms in soil when plant and animal matter decays.

Without this humus, the soil will lack the nutrients and minerals that keep the land moist and aerated.

This makes the soil more susceptible to water and wind erosion.

> Construction

Housing development and the building of roads are massive earthworks that leave the soil bare and loose.

Without careful planning and attention, the soil can be eroded by wind and rain.

The result could be more frequent landslides and flooding near the area of construction.

Overall…

These factors, whether occurring naturally or due to human activities, are the cause of hillside erosion on your property.

Hillside Erosion + Destroyed Yard & Foundation = Lost Time & Money

  

Hillside erosion is a destructive and expensive problem.

Don’t believe me?

Most homeowners spent between $1,480 and $5,328 to install landscaping on their property.

Consider all the extra money you have spent on maintaining your landscaping annually.

And let’s not forget about the cost of any special landscaping projects you have completed over the years.

It really starts to add up.

Think about all the time you have invested too.

Each week, the average American spends 14 hours tending to landscaping and gardening.

That’s nearly 728 hours every year!

Depending on the size and needs of your property, it could be more.

Now imagine all your hard work and money being wasted and washed away because of hillside erosion.

Maybe you don’t need to imagine it, because it has happened to you.

Now hang on… it could get worse.

Soil erosion is also a main cause of foundation cracks and flooded basements.

Hillside erosion prevents a protective layer of topsoil or vegetation from forming on the ground surrounding your home.

Without this layer, the soil is unable to absorb water effectively.

The soil is forced to expand and contract to absorb the water.

This expansion and contraction puts severe pressure on your foundation.

This pressure can crack the walls of your basement and could eventually cause your entire foundation to fail.

It can cost between $1,859 and $6,314 to fix a cracked foundation.

Major repairs can set you back $10,000 or more!

 

Moreover, water that cannot be absorbed by the soil around your house will rest against the foundation and flood your basement.

Depending on the size of your basement and the extent of the water damage, repairing and renovating a flooded basement can be costly.

On average, homeowners paid $2,435 to repair water damages.

Altogether, soil erosion could cost you tens of thousands of dollars!

But don’t worry. There’s a solution for controlling hillside erosion.

The best way to stop soil displacement is to hold it in place.

It’s that easy.

All you need do is have a Natural Rock Retaining Wall installed on the steep slopes of your property.

Stop Soil Erosion on Your Property with Retaining Walls

The concept is simple.

Retaining walls are protective barriers that are installed at the bottom of a slope to prevent soil displacement.

Farmers, engineers, landscapers, and homeowners alike frequently employ this structure to effectively control soil erosion.

Plus, retaining walls enhance the beauty and usability of your property.

While it sounds straightforward, designing and installing a retaining wall is a difficult and complex project.

In order for a retaining wall to successfully prevent hillside erosion, landscaping specialists and engineers have to consider a variety of factors.

Some include: the retaining wall angle, height, material, construction design, water flow and drainage, building codes, ground conditions, and much more.

Wood & Concrete vs. Natural Rock

Many landscaping companies use wood or concrete to build retaining walls.

This is the problem…

Water, gravity, wind and the freezing Alaskan temperatures wear away these man made materials.

Wood or concrete retaining walls require the installation of drain rocks and perforated pipes to catch and direct water.

Without this drainage system, water will collect behind the wall.

This collection of water will freeze, expand and put pressure on the unnatural wood and block materials.

This will cause the manmade retaining wall to warp and eventually fail.

You need materials that have stood the test of time and endured the harsh Alaskan elements.

Rock Landscaping specializes in designing and constructing Natural Rock Retaining Walls.

We use natural stone from the local area and environment to build our retaining walls.

Why?

Unlike wood or concrete, the natural stone has survived Alaskan weather for millions of years.

Natural rock lasts for more than a lifetime!

Additionally, natural rock retaining walls do not require a drainage system.

Like it has been doing for millennia, water naturally bleeds through the rocks and is diverted away.

Natural rocks constructions also allow for water expansion and contraction without damaging the retaining wall.

How Can You Use Natural Rock Retaining Walls to Control Hillside Erosion (Case Studies)

Natural rock provides our landscapers and engineers with unlimited design options.

Every project has called for a unique solution, and we deliver!

Here are a few projects that showcase our most common natural rock retaining wall designs:

> Small or Large Single Retaining Wall – Eagle River, AK

Because 80% of homes in Eagle River are located on hillsides and switchbacks, many of our landscaping projects utilize a single natural retaining wall to combat soil erosion.

For these projects, Rock Landscaping began by excavating a portion of the slope suffering from soil erosion.

To protect the customer’s landscaping and foundation, a natural rock retaining wall was installed to keep the steep slope from encroaching on the property.

> Tiered or Terrace Retaining Wall System – Wasilla, AK

When Rock Landscaping was initially commissioned for this project, the customer’s front yard was a slope of mud due to hillside erosion.

Because Wasilla has especially hilly terrain, our team of retaining wall experts had to create two flat tiers in the middle of the slope.

  

Our retaining wall engineers and landscapers constructed two natural rock retaining walls to hold back the soil.

Rock Landscaping also created a rock bed at the bottom of the slope to effectively absorb water flowing down from the first and second terrace.

The lawn was finished with hydroseeding.

Since the installation of our natural rock retaining walls, the yard has not been washed away or flooded.

> Retaining Walls Integrated with a Natural Rock Stairway – Matanuska-Susitna Valley, AK

For this project, a downgrade on our client’s property was directing water and soil toward the foundation.

This steep slope also prevented an attractive, usable yard.

First, our landscapers graded the slope and created multiple terraces that would eventually become flowerbeds.

Natural rock retaining walls were constructed to prevent hillside erosion and effectively direct water away from the home and yard.

Finally, we created a natural stone staircase in the middle of the slope and retaining walls for quick maneuverability up and down the hill.

The natural rock staircase also increased soil stability on the slope to further control erosion.

In the end, our customer’s foundation was no longer at risk of damage and the yard became a usable space on the property.

Get Your Own Custom Natural Rock Retaining Wall

Stop wasting time and spending tens of thousands of dollars on ruined landscaping, flooded basements and damaged foundations.

A natural rock retaining wall will prevent soil erosion and let fully you enjoy the beauty of your Alaskan property.

But remember…

Building a natural rock retaining wall is not a DIY project.

Successfully controlling hillside erosion requires an expert who understands soil erosion, retaining wall construction and the unique Alaskan environment.

If you are considering installing a retaining wall to stop hillside erosion on your property, hire a professional.

It’ll all be worth it.

This is where I tell you about what Rock Landscaping has to offer.

Feel free to stop reading, if you are happy with your current landscaping and soil erosion control strategy.

Here’s how we stand out from other landscaping companies:

We use Natural Rock when constructing our retaining walls. They don’t.

With over 30+ years of knowledge and experience, our soil engineers and professional landscapers find custom natural rock retaining wall solutions that work for you and last forever!

Call or contact Rock Landscaping.

There is no obligation.

Feel free to ask us any landscaping or gardening questions and learn more about our natural rock retaining walls.

We look forward to speaking with you!


References:

http://www.plants.alaska.gov/SoilSedimentControl.html

http://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/landscape/#closing-article

http://time.com/money/4214377/reader-poll-how-much-spend-gardening/

http://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/foundations/repair-a-foundation/

http://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/disaster-recovery/repair-water-damage/

08 Jul 2017

Can Your Deck Survive the Alaskan Elements?

With regular maintenance, wooden decks across the United States have been made to endure the extremes of heat, rain, snow and ice. But could a wooden deck survive in Anchorage, Alaska?

Anchorage is known for its subarctic climate with long winters and pleasant summers where a wide range of wildlife can be observed. Could a man-made structure withstand the harsher side of the Alaskan elements?

The answer is yes…

…but it takes a solid foundation, good materials, basic deck knowledge and a meticulous maintenance schedule.

A Solid Foundation

An outdoor deck built in any climate would see decay if it were not built with the right materials. At Rock Landscaping, we are willing to build your deck out of any material of your choosing, but we normally recommend Trex deck material.

Unlike other deck builders, Rock normally recommends pile driving construction over Sonotubes.

And we hire the best contractors with the most experience. This ensures our customers receive the highest quality finished product.

Contact us for more information.

anchorage deck builders

Basic Deck Knowledge

Before you can properly protect your deck from the elements, you need to know which elements can damage your deck the most.

Water

Water is the enemy of a long deck life.

When water sits on your deck for too long, the moisture buildup causes the wood of your deck to expand and then contract when it finally dries out. This continual shift can cause warped, cracked or split boards. In the worst case scenario, your deck will begin to rot and eventually turn to mush.

If there is one element you must absolutely protect your deck from, it’s water!

Sun Exposure

The sun’s ultra violet rays can cause deterioration by breaking down the bonding between wood cells. This type of damage can result in faded, dried out wood that is vulnerable to soaking up moisture.

Fortunately, sun exposure only damages the surface of the wood, which makes it infinitely easier to protect!

Pests

In Anchorage, the vibrant wildlife on display is both beautiful and a nuisance. Let’s take a closer look at the damage that insects and rodents can do to your wooden deck:

  1. Carpenter Ants: Although termites aren’t a problem in Alaska, carpenter ants can cause just as much structural damage to your wooden decks. They build their nests in several types of wood, but they do not use wood as a food source.
  2. Carpenter Bees: Similar to carpenter ants, carpenter bees merely bore into wood structures, but do not rely on wood as a food source. Nevertheless, they can cause substantial structural weakening to your wooden deck.
  3. Powder Post Beetles: These wood-damaging insects are known for infesting wooden structures with their larvae which then eat away until they become adults, finally reducing wood to dust.

Larger pests that may cause damage to your wooden deck include mice, rats, shrews, voles, chipmunks, and squirrels. While these pests do not burrow through wood, they are known for gnawing through whatever they must in order to find shelter for the winter.

The good news is you can prevent this both insect and rodent damage through simple deck maintenance!

anchorage deck builders, alaska

A Meticulous Maintenance Schedule

By following this seven step maintenance schedule, you can protect your deck from the long-term damage caused by the Alaskan elements and keep your deck looking effortlessly pristine year round.

Inspect

When the season for using your deck arrives, the first thing you should do is take a walk around your deck to examine every joint, frame, beam, stair, post and ledger for all types of damage, including:

  • Warped, cracked or split boards
  • Broken nails
  • Loose boards, nails or railing
  • Rotting wood
  • Bored holes or sawdust
  • Mildew growth
  • Rusting

Make sure to listen for squeaking and feel for soft spots as you walk. These are both signs of deterioration!

As you walk, make a list of the items that need replaced or repaired.

Repair

Once you’ve made your list, start your repairs as soon as possible. Perform plenty of research before beginning to ensure you are executing safe, precise repairs that will last.

If your deck is severely damaged and you cannot fix the problem on your own, call the real experts at Rock Landscaping.

Summer Upkeep

During deck season, follow these simple steps to keep everyday wear and tear from triggering permanent damage.

  • Use a broom or leaf blower to remove debris on a weekly basis
  • Mop up or sweep away standing water and dirt
  • Keep shrubbery trimmed back from your deck by 12 inches to prevent it from laying on the deck surface or rubbing up against the railing
  • Use cinder blocks or another equivalent to keep potted plants from sitting directly on the deck surface
  • Clean up food stains or bird droppings as soon as you find them to prevent lasting stains from developing
  • When grilling outdoors, use a grease catcher to prevent grease stains
  • Rotate deck furniture occasionally to avoid deck discoloration

Not only do these tips keep your deck looking spotlessly clean, they make your deck a less welcoming environment for rodents who may be seeking shelter nearby.

Wash

The most important step in protecting your deck from the elements is to wash and seal it once a year. You should complete this project when temperatures are mild.

Before sealing or staining your deck, you need to follow these directions to wash your deck:

  1. Remove all deck furniture and potted plants.
  2. Protect nearby shrubbery by covering them with plastic sheeting.
  3. Remove debris from the deck surface and between deck boards.
  4. Choose an appropriate deck cleaner for wooden decks and follow application directions closely. Deck cleaners may include one of these active ingredients:
    • Chlorine Bleach (called sodium or calcium hypochlorite): While this product does a great job of removing mildew, it fails to eliminate other stains. The most effective way to use this product is to mix it with an ammonia-free detergent that can properly eradicate other stains.
    • Oxygen Bleach (called sodium percarbonate): When this chemical is mixed with water, it is suitable for removing dirt and mildew.
    • Oxalic Acid: This chemical, found most often in deck brightening solutions, is effective in removing tannin and iron stains that commonly occur on cedar and redwood decks.
    • Tri-Sodium Phosphate (TSP): This simple detergent is very effective in removing deck stains, but needs to be used in conjunction with a bleach mixture to properly eliminate mold and mildew.
  5. After using a standard deck cleaner, thoroughly rinse your deck with a standard garden hose. Make sure to read the cleaner’s directions for rinsing. Some cleaners need to be immediately rinsed off as they can erode wood when left on for too long. If you choose to use a power washer, only use the lowest pressure setting to ensure you do not accidentally damage your deck!
  6. Wait at least two days after washing your deck to begin the sealing or staining process.

Stain/Seal

Annually sealing or staining your deck is the most trusted method for keeping your wooden deck safe from water, sun, and pest damage.

Before learning about the sealing and staining process, you have to understand what options are available to you. There are four basic types of sealants and stains:

  • Clear Sealer: This is a non-pigmented finish that provides basic protection from splitting, cracking and warping while allowing the wood’s natural color and grain to shine through. Expect to reapply this product annually.
  • Wood Toners: This is a slightly pigmented finish that provides similar levels of protection as a clear sealant, but it adds a hint of color to refresh the natural beauty of the wood. Expect to reapply this product annually.
  • Semi-Transparent Stain: This is a moderate pigmented finish that adds an understated tint to the wood while allowing some of the wood’s grain to stand out. Additionally, this stain provides added protection from sun exposure. This product can be reapplied as needed, but it is safe to reapply every other year.
  • Solid / Opaque Stain: This full-pigmented stain adds a vibrant color to the wood while still allowing a small amount of the wood’s grain to show. This stain provides the most protection from weather damage. This product can be reapplied as needed, but it is safe to reapply every other year.

Additionally, you can choose whether you want your sealant or stain to have a water or oil base.

A water-based sealer or stain is usable in damp conditions and is generally easier to clean up if spilled, but it has a shorter lifespan.

An oil-based sealer or stain is not usable in damp conditions and harder to clean up if spilled, but it provides superior, longer lasting protection from the elements.

Now that you know what types of sealers and stains you can pick from, here are the steps you must follow in order to apply the stain you’ve selected:

  1. Choose a two-day period when you’ll have clear skies and moderate temperatures to work in.
  2. Lightly sand the entire deck with a pole sander to remove any roughness or fuzziness that may have resulted from washing.
  3. Cover up nearby plants and shrubbery with plastic sheeting.
  4. Apply your sealer or stain using a variety of tools, including a pump-action sprayer, paint rollers and paint brushes. Usually the best method is to initially coat your deck using a pump-action sprayer and then using a paint roller or brush to spread out any puddles remaining. Depending on the stain you use, you may need to apply one to three coats. If more than one coat is required, make sure to apply subsequent coats while the first coat is still wet.

Make sure to wear a safety mask, eye protection and gloves when applying sealers and stains!

Winter Upkeep

When it is time to bundle up for the winter months, follow these simple tips and tricks to keep your deck just as protected as you are from the Alaskan elements:

  • Place deck furniture, potted plants and outdoor grills into storage
  • Do not attempt to remove ice with an ice scraper, salt or other ice melting products. This will only result in a damaged or discolored deck!
  • Only shovel snow off your deck if you are making an exit pathway or there is more than 3 feet of snow on your deck. You deck is built to handle the weight of snow to a large degree, but if it gets higher than 3 feet you should shovel it as a precaution. Contrary to common belief, snow will not cause much damage to your deck’s surface…it is standing water that wreaks havoc on your deck’s foundation!
  • When removing snow from your deck, use a corn broom, leaf blower or plastic snow shovel and shovel parallel to the deck boards to prevent scratching and gouging.

By following this meticulous annual maintenance schedule, you can keep your deck properly protected from the Alaskan elements and looking beautiful year round!

At Rock Landscaping, we strive to build our customers decks that will survive even the harshest environments. Contact us today if you are interested in a wooden desk built to last!

Resources:

http://msatterw.public.iastate.edu/ENG%20250%20Readings/OutdoorFinishes%5B1%5D.pdf

http://www.alaskahomemag.com/_pages/outdoor/outdoor_checklist.html

http://home.howstuffworks.com/5-ways-to-protect-your-deck.htm

http://www.bhg.com/home-improvement/deck/building/protect-your-deck-from-the-weather/#page=1

https://www.angieslist.com/articles/10-tips-keeping-your-wooden-deck-looking-new.htm

http://www.exteriormedics.com/blog/bid/332833/6-Ways-To-Protect-Your-Deck-This-Winter

https://boston-decks-and-porches.com/2011/01/11/will-snow-damage-my-deck-this-winter-tips-for-clearing-snow-from-your-deck/

http://deckandbasement.com/news/item/254-protect-your-deck-during-the-winter.html

http://blog.fenceauthority.com/the-safe-way-to-remove-snow-and-ice-from-your-deck/

http://dsbahr.com/the-dos-and-donts-of-winter-maintenance-for-wood-decks/

http://cottagelife.com/diy/protect-your-deck-tips-for-keeping-your-deck-looking-new-summer-after-summer

https://www.houselogic.com/by-room/yard-patio/deck-care-and-maintenance/

https://www.lowes.com/projects/porch-deck-and-patio/deck-maintenance/project

https://www.bobvila.com/articles/deck-maintenance/#.WULHz1Xyv_8

https://www.hometips.com/repair-fix/deck-maintenance-wood.html

https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/go-old-deck-to-new-4-steps

http://www.decksgo.com/annual_deck_maintenance.html

https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5315942.pdf

22 Oct 2015

We Won The ‘Best Landscaper Company’ Award

Yesterday we were awarded with the ‘Best Landscaper Of The Country’ award. These award of excellence were awarded for projects we designed and installed. This awards reflect our commitment to creative design, ongoing excellence in engineering, and our ability to produce beautiful and functional outdoor living spaces of which people are proud.

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20 Oct 2015

Ask Jennifer: Your Gardening Questions Answered

I would like to grow some “barometer plants” to use as an early warning system for my garden. What plants are first to respond to frost, first to bolt and first to wilt? Is this a waste of time? It’s not a waste of time, but I’m not sure you’d have to invest in any particular variety. I would use half-hardy annuals that are sensitive to frost, such as cosmos lobelia

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15 Oct 2015

What You Can Grow In Shady Spaces

All shade is not equal. Some shady conditions will yield much more produce than others will, while some areas are better left for hostas and moss. Gardeners should be familiar with the different types of shade, but should also keep in mind that measuring how much shade your garden gets isn’t always easy.

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