Did My Builder Forget to Put Grass in the Backyard?

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If you are purchasing a newly constructed home, you expect grass in the yard. A builder may place grass in the front yard, but what happened in the rear yard?

As I am performing my home inspection, different crews are busy around me. They want the house to be ready for the final walk-through with the buyer. This is an amazing process. When I come to the house, you can tell that this is a real construction site. By the time that I am leaving, the lawn has been laid and the interior cleaned. Various stored items have been picked up. The house looks like a home. My client arrives, and she comments on the backyard. Where is that grass? That crew has already left.

    Did you understand your contract with the builder? I see this happening with new construction: a buyer thinks that items are included, but they are not part of the agreement in the contract. I have never sat down with a builder planning a newly built home, but my clients offer similar descriptions of the process. You are presented with a host of options that you are expected to check when you want that for your home. Some things are standard. Other items like a garage door operator are optional. You may not realize it, but the lawn in the backyard is often an optional item. The builder will want landscaping in the front yard, because that effects the look of the neighborhood, and he will want the home to look good to convince others to purchase from him. The backyard is hidden by a fence, so he is not concerned. The front lawn is part of the price of the home, and the rear yard will be an additional cost.
    What do I need to do when I do not have a lawn in the backyard? The first thing that you should check, and the builder should do, is to check the grading. This is part of my job as a home inspector, so your inspector should check this. The soil should slope away from the home. The soil should not be too high against the foundation. The yard will slope up towards the rear in many cases as well. The plan is to have water flow away from the home, and towards the street. A gully, low path  in the soil, will form along the backyard, directing water along the sides of the home to the street. The builder will do a rough grading, but some fine tuning will be needed. The big concern will be if they moved heavy equipment through the backyard, which could effect the grading.
    After the grading, we are ready for the lawn. Laying sod is the fastest method for appearances. The problem with any grass method is that you have to plan the time of year that you put down the grass. Summer heat can kill grass. Sod can be kept watered to keep it alive. Seed broadcasting is better in the fall. You can buy a bag of seeds, and simply throw them around the yard. There are firms that bring in trucks that broadcast the seeds with fertilizer by spraying them with water across the yard. This method also uses a colorant to let you know that the seed has been placed all over the yard. A method that most homeowners do not consider is leaving everything alone. A few of my clients did nothing, and they had a lawn covering their backyard in about a year. The grass from the neighboring yards grew into their yard. They watered the edges of the approaching grass to encourage growth.
    What you may want to consider is other plantings. I ave little grass in my backyard. I do have a groundcover of jasmine in part of the yard. Lawns can be water intensive, so planning out garden beds with native plants, or drought tolerant plants, can be a better option. The good thing about not having grass from the builder is that you can make the backyard into what you want.

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This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at yourhoustonhomeinspector.com). For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank


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