TOP GRADE: HOW A SLOPED PROPERTY AFFECTS YOUR HOME

The steepness of a property’s lot is in some ways as important as its size. Properties perched on hilltops command excellent views while some types of slopes can help reduce your home’s flood risk. But steep driveways and backyards can also pose challenges for landscaping and mobility. Here’s what you need to know about property grading and how to best take advantage of it.

WHY BUILD ON A SLOPE? 

While most modern developments have been graded so that properties are constructed on somewhat flat land, older homes or landscapes with more dramatic differences in terrain may be situated on a hill, steep angle or slope. Some classic cityscapes, like San Francisco’s iconic steep streets, make it impossible to avoid building property on some type of grade.

ADVANTAGES OF SLOPED PROPERTIES 

If you’re situated at the top of a hill, you’ll appreciate an unobstructed view over the neighbourhood. Homes at the tops of hills command a more majestic appearance from street level and some homeowners and real estate agents may find that the feature can be transformed into a selling point. Sloped properties also offer the opportunity for walk-out basements with improved natural lighting. This can be a valuable asset for homeowners that may want to finish their basement into liveable space or convert it into a rental suite.

DISADVANTAGES OF SLOPED PROPERTIES 

With the proportion of Canada’s aging population increasing, it’s important to consider the accessibility of homes to a wider demographic. The elderly may see a set of stairs leading to a front door or a steep slope up a driveway too challenging to navigate while the mobility-impaired may find just one step up to a home’s front door enough of a restriction. Steep slopes can also be difficult to landscape. Mowing lawns on a drastic incline poses obvious risks.

SLOPE STANDARDS 

Municipal building codes dictate standards for the level of slope that’s required to reduce flood risk and improve drainage. For example, in the City of Toronto, slopes leading from a home to the roadway curb should be between 2 percent to 6 percent. If you’re building a new home, you’ll want to consult a grading consultant who can assess whether your property’s slopes and hills comply with city standards. Grading consultants can also be hired if you’re purchasing a home on a slope and want to ensure that flood risk is reduced.

LANDSCAPING SOLUTIONS FOR SLOPED PROPERTIES Homes with lots set into hills or with steep, sloping backyards encounter obstacles for landscaping. Loose topsoil runs off in heavy rain, exposing the plant and making it difficult to establish roots. But you can combat the effects of erosion with strategic planting of vigorous greenery that can more easily establish on slopes. The denser, deeper root networks of hardy shrubs and plants helps to hold the soil in place. For more drastic slopes, you may want to consider putting up retaining walls or large boulders that hold the soil better and also create deep, flat pockets behind suitable for planting.

PATIOS AND DECKS ON SLOPES 

For those that enjoy entertaining outdoors, a steep backyard can pose an understandable challenge for balancing items like dining tables and barbecues. But don’t write off a sloped backyard – it can still be transformed into a functional outdoor entertaining space by constructing a flat deck or patio above the slope. These raised patios also give guests a commanding view over your yard or garden and also creates an excellent storage space or sheltered play area for children underneath.