News 2 I-Team looks into yard erosion on newly developed land

Earl Hartner says his back yard did not have this much of a slope when he moved in 3 years ago.

CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) — When you’re purchasing a new home you may have an idea of what you want. It may include a yard which typically requires maintenance.

One West Ashley man bought a town home three years ago, brand new.

The selling point for him was it required very little yard maintenance. Three years later, the yard is the one thing that causes him grief.

“When we moved in, we definitely didn’t have this much of a slope,” said Hartner, as he showed us around his yard.

He describes his home with a small back yard that leads into marsh lands protected by the Army Corps of Engineers.

He says the town home was perfect for him and his wife.

“One of the things they drove home is that we didn’t have to take care of anything on the outside,” he said.

The Home Owner’s Association takes care of cutting the lawn, but shortly after he moved in, Hartner noticed his grass was dying.

“You can see the cable that’s exposed here,” said Hartner.

Hartner went to the H.O.A. who directed him to the land’s developer, The Pulte Group. He says representatives came to survey the area.

“They said it was due to high traffic and dogs. I could hardly believe they were trying to sell me on that. For one, our dogs really never go out back,” Hartner said.

He says representatives made several other attempts to identify the problem, including taking a soil sample. Finally, they agreed to re-sod the yard, if Hartner signed a waiver releasing the group of any further responsibility to the lawn’s demise.

“They basically had my back up against the wall,” He said.

He signed the release.

“They did not solve the problem. They put a Band-Aid on it, and that was it,” said Hartner.

Now he says the dying grass isn’t the only issue. The backyard is eroding away.

This is a look at an area of the yard that is missing grass around Earl Hartner's home.
This is a look at an area of the yard that is missing grass around Earl Hartner’s home.

“I basically do not have a rear yard to use,” said Harner.

“It’s a mess, and it’s only getting worse,” he said.

I took the topic of yard erosion to the experts at the Clemson Extension on James Island.

“Whenever we lose soil, we’re losing that organic material, and that’s helping plants to grow,” said Kim Morganello with The Clemson Extension.

She says new construction may be more vulnerable.

“I certainly think our newer developments might be more prone to this because our older neighborhoods are more established … They already have a lawn that’s been established for years. They have tree covers, and all these things that are going to help to dissipate that energy that’s happening when it rains,” she said.

Morganello suggests before you buy a new home survey the scene.

“See what you’re working with. If you have gutters, make sure they’re working properly,” she said.

Don’t be afraid to get dirty while digging.

“Go out and take what we call a percolation test. Six inches, by six inches, fill it with water, see how fast that water drains down,” said Morganello. She says sometimes soil can take up to 24 hours to absorb the water, and that’s not a good thing.

Morganello explains how to keep it healthy.

“You probably have some compacted soil. You want to go in and aerate that soil, loosen it up, add some organics which would basically be compost,” she said.

She also suggests planting a garden or paving with river rocks.

Finally, if you know rain water builds up in your yard, control where that water goes.

“We’re seeing an interest in people slowing that water that’s coming off of that roof,” Morganello said.

Homeowners can install a rain barrel, that will collect the water for later use, or they can build a rain garden.

Here is an example of a Rain Barrel, provided by The Clemson Extension.
Here is an example of a Rain Barrel, provided by The Clemson Extension.


This is an example of a Rain Garden, provided by The Clemson Extension.
This is an example of a Rain Garden, provided by The Clemson Extension.


Morganello says different types of gutters can also help direct the rain water.

Hartner says he did add gutters to his home.

“This is a problem, and we don’t know what to do or where to go,” Hartner said.

The Pulte Group released a statement regarding Hartner’s case:

Pulte was notified in 2014 about possible issues with the sod in Mr. Hartner’s backyard and met with Mr. Hartner to discuss and identify the problem. Pulte hired a third party landscape company, Mainscape, Inc., to provide a professional opinion on the sod’s condition. Mainscape stated that high foot traffic and high moisture were the main reasons for the sod’s struggles.

In addition, Mainscape took two soil samples, one in Mr. Hartner’s yard and one in the neighboring yard where grass was surviving, and sent them to an independent soil testing laboratory. Analysis indicated both soil samples were similar in nutrients and composition.

However, in the interest of customer service, Pulte replaced the sod in July 2014 as a courtesy to the homeowner. Mr. Hartner signed a waiver releasing Pulte from further responsibility in this matter as it is not covered by our warranty. If there are other homeowners who have issues, they should be encouraged to reach out to Pulte directly, as we worked with Mr. Hartner and would look into their claims as well if they fall within the warranty we provide.

Hartner says The Pulte Group has not reached out to him since crews replaced his sod.

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