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  1. Cracked FoundationBasements are an essential part of homes in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They get turned into recreational rooms for the grandchildren, small apartments for graduate students, and even storage spaces. So when one of them gets water leaks, it is a very discouraging and expensive mess that no one looks forward to. Because of this, it helps to know a few things about basement leaks that can help prevent some of the damage from occurring.

    The Correlation Between the Seasons and Water Leaks

    Basements can leak no matter what the weather is outside. However, the spring is the most common time of the year for this catastrophe to occur. Michigan gets a huge amount of snowfall and ice each winter, which usually won’t do any damage until the warmer weather hits. The increase in the temperature outside makes the wintery mix melt. When the extra moisture is mixed with heavy spring rains, it pours through the basement walls rapidly if they are not properly cared for.

    Why Leaks Happen

    A poorly constructed basement will not block out water as it is supposed to, so this is often the most likely cause of the leaks occurring. However, even new bricks, mortar, and cement can all begin to crumble if they are exposed to too much moisture for too long. So the next common cause of basement leaks is poor drainage. Water has to be diverted away, so the house will stay dry. And the last cause has to do with the plumbing. If water or sewer lines going to the house happen to break or leak, they can cause water to seep through the walls too.

    Water Damaged BasementPreventing Leaks

    Ann Arbor, Michigan residents have unique challenges when it comes to home maintenance. The spring is the most common time of the year for leaks to occur, but there is little that can be done to fix this problem in the winter season that happens beforehand. It is just too cold and wet outside to do any repairs. So this means that work done to prevent leaks usually has to happen in the summer or early fall seasons. Some of the preventative repairs that can be done during this time include:

    -Digging French drains to trap water away from the home
    -Inspecting the outside of the home for signs of cracks or loose bricks where water could get through and repairing any that are found
    -Installing eave spouts to divert rainwater away from the foundation
    -Inspecting and repairing plumbing lines that are inside the home

    Landscaping and Basement Leaks

    The last area that should be considered to protect the basement from leaks is often the one that is the most important, and that is taking care of the landscaping. Landscapers can build beautiful retaining walls that block water from over-saturating the ground next to the home. They can also plant trees, shrubs, and other plants that can help to absorb some of the extra water from the ground. Once the warmer, dryer weather begins, they can maintain these plants and the rest of the lawn too.

  2. DrainageAlthough the good weather might seem like a relief, especially after winter or a heavy rainstorm, the probability of storm water damage is just beginning. Runoff water often overwhelms natural and human-made systems quickly, causing flooding and property damage. Taking the necessary measures to prepare your yard and home for proper drainage helps you to avoid costly, and time-consuming repairs after the bad weather.

    In a natural environment, runoff water usually is absorbed by the soil, flows into water bodies such as streams, rivers, and lakes, or evaporates into the atmosphere. However, recreating this natural environment on your property to address runoff water might be necessary. The measures to take include planting different types of vegetation such as trees, building rain gardens, and installing cisterns or rain barrels for roof water collection.

    How can you protect your Michigan home from storm water this fall?
    Understanding the unique features of your property is the key to developing and implementing a suitable and effective yard drainage system. Going outside during a storm and observing how the water flows by taking note of the different slopes and gradients as well as whether or not they divert water from your home is important. Look for low spots pooling or collecting water and for steep slopes with signs of surface erosion.

    You should consider the measures necessary to protect your home from water runoff. Rainwater falling on roofs, patios, driveways, and other impervious areas usually moves across the ground surface at high speeds. As such, the property near such areas often is more susceptible to stormwater damage. Because it prevents the absorption of water, frozen soil increases the risk of damage. Replacing the impervious locations with porous surfaces such as pavers or permeable paving stones might also help. Some of the other questions to consider include:

    Is the stormwater falling on impervious surfaces diverted from your home?
    Impervious surfaces include patios, walkways, driveways, and roof gutter downspouts. You should direct the runoff water from such surfaces away from your house and to the areas capable of absorbing or slowing the flow like landscaped areas.

    Is there a stream, pond, or lake nearby?
    It is vital to consider the floods potential and how it could impact your property. You can research your local flood maps since they usually entail the flood water levels of various storm events.

    Impervious surfaces
    Whether or not any impervious surface in your home has a negative pitch back
    The installation of area drains or trench drains helps to prevent pooling and also diverts water away from your house.

    Stone wall

    Do you have retaining walls?
    If your property has retaining walls, having a drainage system installed to alleviate pressure behind the wall is important. You should also clean weep holes periodically to ensure they do not clog. Do not allow the surface water to cascade over your retaining walls. Divert the water around or to the end of these walls instead.

    Is any part of your house below ground level?
    Ensure you properly seal any foundation cracks and plumbing lines penetrating subsurface walls. Install a water collection system like a sump pump if your basement is prone to water intrusion.

    Although preventing against all potential damages resulting from storm water runoff during heavy acts of nature is almost impossible, the measures mentioned above can help you to protect your home whenever the storms hit.

  3. Maple tree foliage in autumn.Trees that stand up to the pressures of fall seem to be deciduous trees in temperate climates. These are trees that lose their leaves all at once during the fall and live in areas where the differences between the seasonal temperatures are not extreme.

    Why Do Deciduous Trees Lose Their Leaves?
    Botanists believe that deciduous trees lose their leaves so the energy that would normally be used to support the leaves is returned to the branches and twigs. The energy can be stored in the bare branches until the next spring. Losing leaves all at once also lets the tree conserve water during the winter, as water passes from the leaves into the air through transpiration. Whether a tree is deciduous or not also depends on the hardiness zone. Trees that lose their leaves in temperate climates might keep them in tropical or semitropical climates. This can be seen in trees of the oak family. The willow oak is deciduous in the northern part of its range, but at least semi-evergreen in the southern part of its range.

    Many of these types of deciduous trees have spectacular fall colors because of these processes. The vein system in the leaf stops receiving nutrients and water, and the chlorophyll that made humans perceive the leaves as different shades of green starts to breakdown. This reveals other colors like yellows, oranges, reds and purples. These colors are created by pigments called anthocyanin, carotene and xanthophyll.

    What About Evergreens?
    Spruce Tree Isolated On White BackgroundEvergreen trees also do well during the fall. These trees also lose their leaves or needles but not all at once. They withstand the coming cold weather because the leaves have a tough layer of cells that protect them. Evergreens with needle-like leaves such as pines have less surface area that allow them to withstand very cold temperatures. This is why conifers can grow at elevations that broad leafed deciduous trees usually can’t. Broad leafed evergreens tend to grow in climates that are warm all year.

    Some deciduous trees that can endure the fall are:

    • Oak Trees
    This is a huge family of trees. Many of the members, like the English oak, can live for hundreds of years. They are known for their acorns, which develop from the female flowers. Male and female flowers grow separately but on the same tree in the oak family. The wood of many types of oaks is used in construction and furniture making.

    • Maple
    Maples can be trees or shrubs. The deciduous plants have opposite leaves, which are sometimes deeply lobed and sometimes toothed. The fruits are the familiar “keys,” which are blown away by the wind or carried by flowing water. Like the oak, the maple’s wood is used to make furniture, flooring and musical instruments.

    • Birch
    The birch is grown as much for the beauty of its trunk as well as its leaves. Like the oak, the birch produces male and female flowers on the same tree, though the males come in the late autumn and only release their pollen in the spring. At that time, they form catkins called lamb’s tails. The female catkins are smaller and are found above the male catkins.

    • Horse Chestnuts and Buckeyes
    These deciduous trees are known for their beautiful “candles” of white or red flowers that appear in mid-spring. The fruits are the popular chestnuts.

  4. drainage - does your yard look like thisThe not so heavy rainfall that usually occurs in autumn softens the ground, which makes regarding much easier in the fall compared to the other seasons, especially when combined with autumn’s cool temperatures. Re-grading to alter the slope of your lawn provides an excellent drainage solution to drainage issues, and you can usually accomplish such alterations by redistributing the soil in your lawn. You will, however, need the right types of soil, materials, tools, and instructions to be sure the changes you effect on the slope of your lawn solve your drainage problems. Below are the steps you should follow to effectively re-grade your yard during the fall.

    You will need a shovel, wood stakes, a backhoe, and string.

    Identify what is causing the drainage problem
    Before you alter the slope in your yard, examine the lawn for depressed spots in which water might pool as it drains. You should also assess the subsoil and topsoil in your yard to determine the soil’s basic composition. Water usually flows much faster on clay-based soil than it does on sand-based or loam-based soils. If adding soil to alter the slope in your yard is your intention, it is important that you settle on a type of soil that creates the right drainage.

    Locate your utility lines
    Check for telephone, electrical, water, sprinkler or sewer lines before you start digging up the yard to remove soil from higher areas. Some or all of these utility lines might be buried in your yard, which means you can damage them while digging. Use colored flags to mark any lines you find buried in your lawn and try to determine how deep they are buried. You can check with local utilities or even have their technicians locate these service lines for you if necessary.

    Determine the degree of your slope
    Start by determining the high and low points of the drainage slope. The lowest point should be where water drains into a storm sewer, gutter, or holding pond while the high point should be near your home’s foundation. At each point, drive a stake into the ground and tie one end of the string to each of the stakes. Remember to ensure the string is taut. Measure the sloping degree starting from the high point to the low one once you are done tying the string. The slope should drop at least 12 inches every 50 feet. Ensure you tie the string at the same level from the ground for both stakes.

    Alter your slope
    Depending on what you find more practical, you can do one of the following to alter the slope in your yard and create better drainage:
    • Remove soil from the lower point.
    • Add soil to the slope’s high point.
    • Move the existing soil from the lower point to the higher point.

    If you will need to bring in more soil, try to choose a type similar to the existing soil since this ensures the drainage will be consistent throughout your yard.

  5. bigstock-132133316

    The various species of the ancient boxwood family have become so familiar to us that it’s hard to imagine a border or garden bed, whether traditional or modern, without at least a few of these beautiful shrubs. Being evergreen, they add a touch of color during the long winter months; slow-growing, they become beloved members of a familiar landscape.

    Hence a new enemy in the form of boxwood blight has become a cause for considerable concern. This virulent fungal disease made its first appearance in the 1990s in Great Britain and quickly spread to Europe and New Zealand. It has since arrived in North America and Canada, first cropping up on the east and west coasts. It seems quickly to be moving to the Midwest; Ann Arbor Michigan had been spared as of May 2015, but this fungal blight is still a real cause for concern.

    What is Boxwood Blight?

    Cylindrocladium buxicola (the “buxicola” name speaks volumes: it means “living on boxwood”) first becomes apparent in the spring when new growth ensues. Small brown spots appear on a plant’s leaves, which quickly yellow, wither, and drop off. The spots then appear on the stem. Young plants die quickly; older plants may succumb; all are severely disfigured. The fungus that causes boxwood blight spreads through spores remain on the dead leaves. The spores can be scattered further by wind and rain, by animals and people brushing against them, and by infected plants not yet displaying the symptoms of the blight introduced to the garden.

    Is the Blight Dangerous to the Landscape?

    Fortunately, the extent of the damage caused by Cylindrocladium buxicola is limited to boxwood. The natural plant life in the area is not harmed by the fungus. But gardeners and horticulturists are rightly concerned, as are home gardeners who rely on boxwood hedges, topiaries, and other garden elements featuring many of the beloved boxwood species.

    Is There a Cure for the Blight?

    Not really. Massive doses of a general fungicide may retard its spread among individual plants. So far the Ann Arbor MI horticultural authorities have been concerned primarily with detection and quarantine.

    What Can Gardeners in Ann Arbor Michigan Do?

    There are a number of steps the home gardener can take to prevent the spread of the Cylindrocladium blight. Here are some important ones:

    Vigilance is the key word. If boxwood species make up any part of your landscape, keep a close eye out for the symptoms of the disease. If you have a substantial portion of your yard and garden planted in boxwood, arrange with a professional landscaper in Ann Arbor MI offering winter services to inspect your plantings.

    Be especially attentive to yellowing leaves. Don’t let the blight masquerade as ordinary winter damage; again, contact a professional in the Ann Arbor Michigan area who offers winter services.

    If you’re buying boxwood, be sure that you’re dealing with a licensed nursery. Isolate new plants for at least a month to be sure that you won’t introduce the blight into your garden beds inadvertently.

    Contact Twin Oaks Landscape today if you have the slightest suspicion of an infestation in your garden.

  6. img_8026Home patios seem to really shine their best during the fall, most likely due to the vibrant colors, cooler atmosphere and shorter days. On the other hand, fall can pose a few problems for one’s patio, including a pile of leaves, overgrown weeds, stained surfaces and other things of the like. Check out these five great fall patio maintenance tips to get the patio looking back to its best.

    1. Weed Removal

    During the spring and summer, weeds grow at their fastest rate, leaving a mess in the patio by the time fall comes around. Fortunately, a majority of these weeds should die off by the first frost. Better yet, spray some weed killer to prevent future weeds from growing. However, don’t wait until then, as removing the weeds now will leave room for an awesome autumn patio.

    2. Damage and Misalignment Repair

    Continuous freezing and thawing in the Fall causes bricks and concrete to warp. In many cases, one’s concrete patio floor will become warped and distorted, due to the ground freezing and expanding. A permanent fix for this would be to create a solid border around the perimeter. This way, the ground won’t have any room to move and warp. This border can be constructed out of strong wooden planks. Shattered bricks, on the other hand, will need to be replace entirely.

    3. Surface Cleaning

    Because leaves drop most during the fall, all surfaces, including concrete floors, become stained in a matter of weeks. In some cases, moss may develop. Fortunately, a solution of bleach and water will kill all algae and other fungus. As far as dirt stains go, a strong solution of water and soap should do the job. For really heavy stains, one can use a strong acid, such as hydrochloric acid. Do be careful with this stuff though, as it’s really corrosive.

    4. Filling the Gaps

    This fall patio maintenance tip goes together with the weed cleaning tip, due to the fact that grown weeds tend to leave gaps between bricks and other concrete structures. However, this can easily be fixed by filling in these gasps with either concrete or some other filler. Fortunately, there are plenty of gap fillers on the market today to choose from.

    iStock_000013954017_Large5. Sealing

    Sealing will go a very long way in preventing future damage to concrete and brick floors. Adding an acrylic sealer to a cement floor will prevent all water from seeping in, effectively preventing damage caused by freezing. On top of that, it will block UV rays from the sun.

    There are plenty more things that one can do to improve the appearance of their fall patio. However, following just these five fall patio maintenance tips will make a drastic difference in the overall appearance of one’s patio. Above all, make sure that these tips are done well before winter starts, as it’s very hard to do any maintenance during the harsh winter.

  7. IMG_5750When it comes to keeping rising waters out of your home, whatever surrounds your house often is just as important as the building itself, which is because your common basement flooding issues may stem from your landscaping plan. Below are seven lawn care tips to stop basement leaks before they start.

    1. Change the grade of your slope
    To stop basement leaks before they start, make sure the surrounding soil pitches away from your house, sloping at least a quarter of an inch per foot to ensure water drains towards your yard and not the foundation. You can change the gradient of your slope by adding soil and raking it smooth until the grade at the perimeter of your house is higher than the rest.

    2. Keep trees in check
    Your basement might develop leaks as a result of cracks in the foundation of your house. To protect the structure and avoid such cracks, plant every tree that has aggressive roots such as silver maples at least 20 feet away from your house. Comparatively smaller species such as white fir require 10-15 feet of clearance.

    3. Grade your lawn in the most suitable direction
    Landscape slopes running towards your house as opposed to away from it usually result in basement leaks. To fix this issue, you can dig a dry creek in your yard and fill it with cobblestones or river rock, allowing the water to bisect your lawn and then flow around the sides of your house instead of towards it.

    4. Leave a gap between siding and mulch
    Because moisture usually wicks up from mulch beds to rot the siding, it is important to keep the mulching materials away from your siding and leave a 6-inch gap when mulching your landscape. Your mulch can touch blocks or bricks, but not the siding.

    5. Use grass barriers to redirect the floodwaters
    Go outside and examine the basement when it’s raining to determine where the leaks originate from. Because the overflow into a nearby ditch might not be enough to prevent flooding, you may see pools of water, a clear sign of drainage problems. As such, you can build grass barriers to redirect the floodwaters away from your home. You can also create a drainage path for the water.

    6. Direct downspouts away from your house
    To keep the water farther away from your house, extend your downspouts away from the structure. If you have the room, allow at least 20 feet from the house and ensure the gutters are clear so that water flows through the downspouts. Some yards still get erosion whenever gutters fail to handle the water volume even with redirected downspouts. In such cases, you can use decorative rocks such as river stone to ensure the water hits and splashes instead of digging holes in the soil.

    7. Install a French drain
    If you do not necessarily want to splice your yard, you could install a French drain, in which the water will flow into a gravel trench and then a pipe. In addition to a French drain, you should also ensure your sump pump runs far enough away from the house. If it does not run far enough, you should extend the drain lines from your sump pump and downspouts.

  8. Lawn Care Riding MowerYou are probably not thinking much about your lawn with winter fast approaching. However, autumn is the latest time you can perform lawn rejuvenation. With its considerably cooler temperatures and occasional rainfall, autumn is the perfect time to prepare your garden for spring.

    Although you might think your garden requires less care in fall since the grass grows slowly, just the opposite is actually true. In preparation for the usually dormant winter season, grass absorbs energy, moisture, and nutrients during autumn. By giving your lawn a little attention in the fall, you will most likely have a lush, healthy lawn come spring. Below are steps to ensure you properly rejuvenate your lawn this autumn.

    Keep mowing
    You should keep watering and mowing your lawn throughout autumn. However, dropping the blade to the lowest setting towards the end of the season for the year’s last two cuttings is important. By cutting low, you allow more sunlight to reach the crowns of your grass. However, you should not trim off more than a third of the grass blades at any given time.

    Aerate the soil
    Autumn is also an ideal time to aerate your lawn, which ensures oxygen, water, and fertilizers reach the roots of your grass easily. You can use a gas-powered, walk-behind aerator to quickly punch holes into the soil in your yard and extract plugs of dirt. You can hire the machine if you do not have one or engage the services of a landscaping contractor to aerate the soil in your yard.

    Gardening JobsRake the leaves
    Removing fallen leaves from your yard as soon as possible is important, which means you should not wait until all the leaves fall from the trees before you start raking. If you wait, the fallen leaves will most likely become wet from morning dew and rain, sticking together to form an impenetrable mat that can suffocate the grass or breed fungal diseases if left unmoved. You can also use a lawnmower that features a collection bag or vacuum system. Regardless of method, ensuring you remove the fallen leaves before they turn into a soggy, suffocating mess is important.

    Fertilize to ensure future growth
    If you only fertilize your lawn once every year, it is best to do it in autumn since although the rhizomes and roots of grass continue to grow at a rapid pace, grass blades grow at a much slower rate as the weather turns cool. Applying fertilizer in autumn ensures the availability of essential nutrients, which allows the grass to grow deep roots now while preserving nutrients for a healthy start come spring. It is best to wait until mid-to-late autumn to apply a dry lawn fertilizer, being careful not to miss any area. Although using a walk-behind drop spreader takes a little more time, particularly on hilly yards, it is the best way of applying an even and consistent layer of fertilizer.

    Fill in any bald spots
    Autumn is also the best time to fix any bare or bald spots. Using an all-in-one lawn repair mixture is arguably the quickest and easiest way to fill in bare spots. This ready-to-use mixture contains organic mulch, grass seed, and a special quick-starter lawn fertilizer. Using a garden rake, scratch the soil at the bald spot loose and then spread a thick layer of lawn repair mixture over the area. Thoroughly water the area after you lightly compact the mixture. Keep watering the area every day for two weeks.

    Weed control
    Autumn is also the perfect time to fight back any weed that might have taken over your lawn. Like most plants, weeds enter the energy-absorbing mode in the fall, and they take in everything they come across, including weed killers. Applying herbicides in autumn ensures weeds do not return come spring.

  9. Maple tree foliage in autumn.Depending on the particular individual, the goal of incorporating both flowering and non-flowering trees and plants of all sizes, also referred to collectively as softscapes, might be the simple desire for beauty or to provide a challenging hobby like topiary or fruit production. Not all of these softscape projects will have widespread appeal if the home ends up on the market. Many people prefer landscaping that doesn’t have a lot of work attached to it. To get an idea of which additions fill this description, check out the list below.

    *Shade Trees
    *Ornamental Trees
    *Rain Gardens
    *Native Flowers

    Shade Trees
    So long as the numbers are limited to a couple or three, full-size trees add quite a bit to the resale value of a house. The presence of a tree in the front lawn breaks up the horizontal lines of the home and routine hardscape assets like a walkway, fence, and driveway. The practical value of trees come from the cooling shade they provide and their ability to absorb excess rainwater. They also help reduce the impact of high winds sweeping through the yard. The basic rule anywhere in the county is to select native trees since they need the least amount of maintenance and po
    ssess the greatest resilience to the local climate. They’ll also have an historical and cultural importance that non-native trees lack. In the Ann Arbor MI area, maples and oaks stand out as favorites.

    Ornamental Trees
    This term provokes the image of small flowering trees, but a noted exception would be evergreens like the eastern white pine. As the official state tree of Michigan, this species supplies a distinct pyramidal shape. Among flower trees, dogwoods can succeed as well as crabapples thanks to the somewhat mild climate of the Ann Arbor MI region. While dwarf fruit trees might seem like they could fill this description, keep in mind that most people don’t want the required upkeep. They also won’t look forward to the rotting fruit strewn on the lawn.

    Garden Pond With RaindropsRain Garden
    These softscape features are gaining in popularity due to their practical side. With or without a tree or two included, masses of shrubs and flowers are placed in a low spot in the yard where rain and snow melt normally collect. This arrangement will only work if the plant choices involved are perennials and have deep root systems. Rain gardens allow excess water a place to settle instead of flooding into storm sewers or the home’s basement. In the process, the extensive root systems help filter the water to keep contaminates from finding their way into the groundwater supply.

    Native Flowers
    As part of the local ecosystem, native plants offer the best chances of success with the least amount of work. They can thrive in the regional climate and handle native pests and diseases. This isn’t always the case, so a little research should be done before choosing. These selections are also appealing because they tend not to be invasive.

  10. Lighting_largeMany homeowners give little to no thought to their outdoor lighting. However, this is an aspect you should give considerable focus to, as the lighting to your yard area can serve a few important purposes. Outdoor lighting added to your Ann Arbor, MI home can make all the difference in the world. Think about how it can add to your property.


    Safety is one of the most important things to consider when it comes to adding outdoor lighting around your home. Adding lights along the pathway leading to your door as well as porch lights creating a well lit area can make all the difference in the world. It keeps things illuminated enough that you are able to see where you are going after dark, allowing you to avoid any obstacles that might be in your path.

    A lit pathway that leads to your door can also add safety for anyone who is visiting you after dark who is not fully familiar with the landscape. It looks great but also gives your guests a warm and welcoming feeling.


    Every home should have outdoor lighting for the sake of security. Having a timer on your lights or a sensor that detects the movement of passersby can created an added sense of relief in the event an intruder tries to approach your home. You may even find that a would be burglar would prefer just passing your home by instead of attempting to break in when there is sufficient outdoor lighting as it can make them that much more noticeable.


    Outdoor lighting is the perfect addition to your home when you plan on entertaining outdoors on the porch or in the yard. Perhaps you would like to have a barbecue after dark and eat on your patio — this is far more affordable than going out to dinner to a restaurant, not to mention much more comfortable. In addition, you can take pride in showing off your home to your guests, and what better way to do that than with outdoor lighting that showcases the landscape? If you have a pool, you will certainly want to add some lights around it, even if you aren’t inviting guests to take an evening dip.

    Front paver walkway with garden and lighting.


    Finally, a big reason to have outdoor lighting set up on your property is for landscaping purposes. In addition to the landscaping you do that involves plants, lighting is a great way to beautify the exterior of your home, and it can even help to increase your property value. Landscape lighting can highlight specific plants in your front yard or garden, making them appear even more beautiful and lush.

    With outdoor lighting, it is important to select just the right type of lights for your home. You will want to ensure that you don’t choose lighting that is too harsh, but at the same time, avoid lighting that is too dim as well. You may also want to purchase all new lights for the exterior of your home instead of keeping whatever the previous homeowners had. Fortunately, there are many options available, so be sure to do your homework before undergoing your lighting project.