Revamping a Sloped Yard for Active Kids

Materials: Lumber; Exterior Door; Stone; Gravel; Concrete; Landscape Lighting; Pavers; Wall Block; Fire Pit; Soil; and Seed.

Artificial Turf in the Backyard

Today, I want to share with you the incredible transformation we made to a mom’s backyard. She had two young kids, but her yard was just not suitable for them to play in. We had a bit of a challenge on our hands, but with some creative problem-solving, we were able to give her and her family the backyard of their dreams!

Turning a Grassless Yard into a Kid-Friendly Haven

So, let me fill you in on the details. Our original estimate for the job was $23,000, but by the end of the job the total cost came out around $27,000. Throughout the course of this project we realized there were a few things that needed to be addressed. First, the access point to the yard was only 48 inches wide, making it difficult for us to stick to our original schedule. Additionally, the turf we had initially laid down wasn’t soft enough for the kids to play on. We had to think on our feet and revise our plans to make sure we delivered the perfect backyard for this family.
The yard itself sloped straight down into the woods, and the previous homeowners had built some pretty big wooden retention walls to create a raised patio. The walls were backfilled with soil, followed by a regular paver base and approximately 2,000 square feet of pavers. These pavers created the only flat surface in the yard, which meant the kids were constantly tripping and falling on a hard surface. It just wasn’t ideal for their active lifestyle.

Pavers or Turf? Exploring the Best Solution

When I first spoke with the mom, we explored two main ideas to solve this problem. The first was to replace the old pavers with a different type of paver with a designated play area filled with river rock or pea gravel. Think of it as a sandbox, but without the sand. The second idea was to remove all of the pavers on the upper part of the patio and install synthetic turf instead. Now, I know some of you nature lovers out there might cringe at the idea of turf, but trust me, there are proper applications for it.
Artificial turf is perfect for busy homeowners who simply don’t have the time or physical ability to spend hours on lawn maintenance. With artificial turf, you can enjoy the beauty of a vibrant, green lawn year-round, with very little effort required. Plus, it adds a touch of greenery to your outdoor space, creating a welcoming and visually appealing atmosphere.

Proper Base Preparation

Before committing to the turf option, we wanted to ensure that it would be a long-lasting solution. We noticed that the existing pavers were starting to heave and move, which meant the base underneath had shifted. So, the first thing we did was remove all the settled material from the surface. Then, we excavated the sub-grade and installed a layer of fabric, followed by #8 gravel and a four-inch drain tile. This drain tile allowed any moisture to escape without going through the walls, preventing soil erosion and further settling of the patio.

Turf and Gator Base for Added Safety

Now, I have to admit, I was a bit unsure about turf at first. But the mom’s idea of protecting her kids’ heads from hitting the pavers again and again won me over. I’m a father of four myself, so I know how unpredictable kids can be when they’re running around. That’s why I wanted to find a solution that would ensure their safety and put the mom’s mind at ease.
After the turf was installed, we realized that it didn’t have the softness the mom was looking for. So, we decided to go back and add something called Gator Base. This material, made of styrofoam, provided the padding we needed to give the turf the right feel. Now, if a wild two-year-old were to take a tumble, they would have about an inch of styrofoam to cushion the impact. It turned out to be a fantastic solution, even if it did increase the overall cost of the project.

How the Project Budget Evolved

Speaking of cost, you might be wondering how we ended up going from $23,000 to $27,000. Well, let me break it down for you. The original estimate covered the cost of the turf, which is relatively inexpensive per square foot, and the labor involved in creating and laying the turf. That also went towards the gravel, drain pipe, fabric, and some other minor improvements we made on-site. The additional cost was added to cover the last-minute addition of the gator base. The material itself cost us roughly $2,800, which we charged directly to the client. We also asked if they would be okay paying an additional $600 for labor to install the gator base, which they had no problem with. ​

A Mini Putting Green for Dad’s Enjoyment

Now, I have to mention the little surprise we included in the space – a mini putting green! I had the idea to add this feature during one of my conversations with the dad. It’s a fun little addition that allows him to enjoy some leisurely putting while the kids play.

A Safe and Beautiful Yard for the Whole Family

Overall, this backyard transformation was absolutely phenomenal. We were able to create a safe and beautiful space for this family to enjoy. The mom is thrilled, the kids can play without constantly tripping, and the dad has a putting green to practice his golf skills. It’s a win-win for everyone!
​So, my friends, remember that with a bit of creativity and some practical solutions, you can truly transform your backyard into a functional and inviting space. Get outside and start creating a beautiful and vibrant life right in your own backyard!