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Filling Concrete into Hedge Planters – Risks to Foundation?

This topic contains 24 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  DirtyWhiteBoy 3 months ago.

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  • #719625

    Zephyr
    Pro

    Hi All,

    We have a 4-plex comprised of 2 structures – one structure is built on a concrete slab and the other is on a raised foundation. Both buildings have hedges that are planted into planters that are 12″-20″ wide and wrap around the entire perimeter of each building. We are considering removing the hedges and filling all these planters with concrete, but I’ve been warned that the dirt compactor we’ll have to use prior to pouring concrete might cause the foundations to crack.

    Does anyone have experience with something similar and thoughts on whether the compactor would crack (A) the slab, (B) the raised foundation, or (C) both? We had 3 contractors come out to provide quotes and none of them raised a concern, but a more experienced investor friend cautioned against it.

    Our objective is to eliminate water / humidity near the building foundation and also get rid of these hedges that just trap leaves and trash beneath them. If we don’t fill in the planters with concrete, our other alternatives are to leave them as-is and fill them with gravel or decomposed granite, but the granite also has a similar compactor concern.

    Any guidance would be much appreciated!

    #719627

    DirtyWhiteBoy
    Pro
    Honolulu,, Hi.

    Why not just remove the planter boxes,, where are you located at?

    Dirty

    A Working Pro since 1988!

    Member since January 26, 2013.

    #719632

    Seven-Delta-FortyOne
    Pro
    The Emerald Triangle, Northern California

    Not sure why you trust an “investor friend” over 3 different Contractors. :blink:

    Are your Contractors where you live really that bad?

    I don’t think I’ve ever asked a Concrete Contractor for investment advice. Although I dare say a good one would know more about investing than an “investor” would know about concrete.

    As for your question, there really isn’t enough info to go on. Pics would help a lot. A qualified local Building Contractor’s opinion would be best.

    Goin' Down In Flames........

    #719635

    CB
    Pro

    Why not just remove the planter boxes?

    ^This^ x2.

    What are the planter boxes made of?

    #719638

    roninohio
    Pro
    New Franklin, OH

    I would be concerned about water getting in and freezing which would move something. I don’t know if that is a issue where you live.

    #719643

    Doobie
    Pro

    There just isn’t enough info to help you Ara. Pictures would help and also if you know how deep the planter boxes go into the ground, what part of North America you live in also. And why not just remove the planter boxes, are they made of concrete also and are part of the foundation?

    @zephyr

    #719649

    Zephyr
    Pro

    Sorry everyone, I should have been more clear. I have attached pictures here, which should hopefully clarify. The planters are “built-in” to the ground, more like landscaping.

    With regard to trusting contractors, unfortunately I find that many contractors in L.A. will prioritize their own income/time rather than doing the right thing for your property. I don’t mean to generalize, and I’m sure if you only work with the cream of the crop it would be a different story, but most contractors that are economical for a small investor tend to think about themselves rather than the client. Shows up in painting, plumbing, all sorts of places.

    Back to this project, however, we plan to remove the hedges from the “built-in” planters and cover these up with concrete. The concern was that compacting soil so close to the slab or raised foundation could cause damage to the structure. Any thoughts/advice would be much appreciated!

    ** EDIT: Sorry, photos came in too small the first time. Couldn’t find a way to delete, so I’ve uploaded twice **

    #719656

    Sprokitz
    Pro
    Eastern shore of, Pa

    I don’t see the concern. The prep needed is no different than would be needed to pour a slab(s) for a patio or sidewalk up to a structure

    #719671

    kurt@welkerhomes.com
    Pro
    Owatonna, MN - Minnesota

    I don’t think I would fill them with concrete. I would just remover the shrubs and stone. Add a little fill to keep them form holding water and install a Good heavy plastic and replace the rock.

    If you are pouring concrete, you really need to dowel the new concrete into the existing and there is not much room to get a drill between the house and the edge of the existing walk.

    Does the home have a basement. If not and it is on a slab with no crawl space, there should not be much of a problem compacting between the existing walk and the structure.

    #719758

    Seven-Delta-FortyOne
    Pro
    The Emerald Triangle, Northern California

    If a plate compactor is going to crack that foundation, then a small earthquake would do the same. I’d pass on “investing” in this unit.

    If, on the other hand, you trust the contractors you’ve contacted, go for it.

    I for one would not hesitate to compact gravel right there. I’ve done that sort of thing dozens of times. But I’m not there inspecting your foundations, either.

    If you hire a LICENSED, BONDED, and INSURED honest-to goodness Contractor, not some schmuck off Craigslist so you can get some lipstick on a pig and get this thing flipped, then you shouldn’t have a problem.

    After all, if he’s legitimate, he’ll have a warranty for his work, and if something is damaged in the process, he’ll fix it.

    The problem arises when people try to hire unlicensed fly-by-night JackWagons off Craigslist, then wonder why they got sub-standard work.

    You’ve already wasted the time of 3 Contractors. If they’re legitimate, they probably don’t want to waste anymore while you second guess them on the internet because an “Investor” told you they were wrong.

    On the other hand, if you got some names off Craigslist, and they aren’t licensed or legal in any fashion, then you’re getting exactly what you’re paying for.

    Goin' Down In Flames........

    #719760

    Miamicuse
    Pro
    Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    What is the fundamental problem you are trying to solve?

    Is the existing walkway too narrow with the hedges and you want the footprint of the planter to be part of the walkway?

    I would just remove the hedges put geotextiles down then mulch on top, the mulch can be decorative river rock stone mulch or similar.

    If you pour concrete it’s going to separate from the building wall as they settle differently and it’s going to separate from the existing sidewalk unless you do what Kurt said to do some dowels and it’s a challenge to drill the dowel holes with limited space.

    Also won’t be surprise if that space may contain drain clean out, valve boxes, sprinkler heads and other stuff you may want access to.

    Also check your building codes. Many of these planters, hedges, beds may be part of the requirements for the property to have a minimum porous and landscaped surfaces. Where we are a multi-family building needs 35% of the property land size to be landscaped and porous. Newer buildings are always maxed out already so if you fill this 30SF of concrete in one spot zoning wants you to remove 30SF at another spot like losing one parking space.

    #719791

    DirtyWhiteBoy
    Pro
    Honolulu,, Hi.

    I doesn’t look like a planter box to me. It looks like a patch of dirt between the house slab and the sidewalk. If you don’t want the shrubs just put down plastic and rock on top.

    Dirty

    A Working Pro since 1988!

    Member since January 26, 2013.

    #719795

    CB
    Pro

    It will look like a prison yard if you fill with concrete.

    If you need a solid surface, try pavers set in sand. That will perc a lot better than concrete, but still slope them away from the building toward the sidewalk, for fast shed of surface run off sheeting down the walls.

    For underground utility servicing and repair, it is a lot easier to pry out pavers than it is to break up concrete.

    I can understand not wanting decorative rocks or stones with rentals… it’s like giving kids free ammo to break your windows.

    #719813

    roninohio
    Pro
    New Franklin, OH

    It will look like a prison yard if you fill with concrete.

    If you need a solid surface, try pavers set in sand. That will perc a lot better than concrete, but still slope them away from the building toward the sidewalk, for fast shed of surface run off sheeting down the walls.

    For underground utility servicing and repair, it is a lot easier to pry out pavers than it is to break up concrete.

    I can understand not wanting decorative rocks or stones with rentals… it’s like giving kids free ammo to break your windows.

    I believe @cb has the right plan for you. I would use paver bricks or similar . All good advice here . I think concrete is a bad idea. I see a gas (water) meter there that I would never put concrete around.

    #719825

    Miamicuse
    Pro
    Fort Lauderdale, Florida

    In one of the pictures I see what looks like a downspout running down behind the hedges. Does it discharge onto the bed or connect to a French drain under the bed? Also a manifold under the mailboxes can’t tell what kind.

    That picture showing the outside table with umbrella in the middle of a concrete deck. How is that area sloped? Is there a deck drain? Or…is that deck higher in the middle and all the runoff goes to the hedged area around the perimeter?

    #719837

    Doobie
    Pro

    I can understand not wanting decorative rocks or stones with rentals… it’s like giving kids free ammo to break your windows.

    That’s funny. Never thought of that.

    #719846

    Boschmanbrian
    Pro
    Montreal , QC, Canada

    It will look like a prison yard if you fill with concrete.

    If you need a solid surface, try pavers set in sand. That will perc a lot better than concrete, but still slope them away from the building toward the sidewalk, for fast shed of surface run off sheeting down the walls.

    For underground utility servicing and repair, it is a lot easier to pry out pavers than it is to break up concrete.

    I can understand not wanting decorative rocks or stones with rentals… it’s like giving kids free ammo to break your windows.

    I think personally that’s what I would do , if you decide to go with river rock or mulch , you can always change color
    Also if you use pavers , you can add fiberglass planter boxes or cedar and remove them if necessary just to add to the decor

    I think you said LA right
    I assume you are built on slab’s and no basements

    Hope you have enough opinions to help you out with that project

    And I agree with Dirtywhiteboy and SevenDeltaFortyOne
    Plenty of other great ideas.

    Looking forward to hearing what you decide and to hopefully seeing the progress.

    #719852

    Zephyr
    Pro

    Thanks for the great feedback, everyone. A lot of good ideas here and I particularly like the idea for the paver stones / sand. Especially given the presence of other utilities / infrastructure in the area (water main, drains/cleanouts).

    If you need a solid surface, try pavers set in sand. That will perc a lot better than concrete, but still slope them away from the building toward the sidewalk, for fast shed of surface run off sheeting down the walls.

    @cb, could you please clarify what you mean by sand? Would decomposed granite work or would it need to be regular sand? I’m thinking the granite would be more stable, less likely to run off. Also, I assume we would need to put down a moisture barrier beneath the sand/pavers, correct?

    To answer some other questions:
    – The foundations of the property are currently sound and we’ve owned this property for a number of years. Precisely because this is not a flip, we like to exercise an abundance of caution to not pay a price later. We don’t NEED to cover these with concrete, so if there is risk involved, we’d find an alternative solution.
    – Our primary objectives are twofold: (1) Reduce the chance of moisture damaging the building long term and (2) Reduce maintenance costs. Since these planters don’t currently have irrigation, we would either have to install / maintain irrigation or take this approach to simplify a bit. Also, these hedges trap a bunch of debris under them. With this new approach, we would create (semi)covered flat spaces, upon which we can set above-ground planters / pots, spaced out along each wall, to have a more contained landscaping feature that’s easier to clean around.
    – The decking (under the patio table and in the other walkways) are appropriately sloped and have drain pipes.
    @miamicuse, thanks for pointing out a few of your watch-outs. I share the concern about the concrete possibly separating from the wall / not creating a seal. Unfortunately, I don’t think this sand/paver stone really solves that issue either, except for the moisture barrier to the extent that remains intact / effective.

    Looks like I should switch over to landscapers at this point, so will start working in that direction. In the meantime, appreciate all the feedback so far from this group!

    #719873

    Seven-Delta-FortyOne
    Pro
    The Emerald Triangle, Northern California

    Water on the exterior of a foundation is not an issue, if the stemwall was constructed properly.

    Is there anything that makes you think it wasn’t, i.e., water infiltration in the crawlspace?

    Goin' Down In Flames........

    #719880

    DirtyWhiteBoy
    Pro
    Honolulu,, Hi.

    We always like to keep the water away from the edge of the house. Wet ground is a favorite place termites and the runoff water causes homes to become out of level.

    Dirty

    A Working Pro since 1988!

    Member since January 26, 2013.

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