Sloped Site to Sunken Seating Area

Sloped Site to Sunken Seating Area

Hinkle isn’t your run-of-the-mill landscaping company that also installs hardscapes. We are a team of specialized designers, architects, and on-site technicians who will work with you to create the outdoor living space of your dreams. In this month’s blog, we’re giving you an inside look into an Olathe makeover where the proper installation was of the utmost importance! This project goes to show that, with careful preparation and engineering, a pain point can be transformed into the highlight of your home – a sunken seating area!

Sunken Seating Area
Sloped Site to Sunken Seating Area

These clients loved entertaining outdoors, but their sloped lawn was cramping their hosting style. It was time for an upgrade. They reached out to us with the following goal – converting their wasted greenspace into a year-round hotspot for gathering with friends and family. We jumped at the opportunity to solve their hillside headache! Although inclines can be challenging, they also present unique design opportunities. Terraced hardscapes are a prime example, and they just so happen to be one of our favorite ways to make slopes more livable.

Sloped Site 1

Sloped Site 2

Sloped Site 3

Sloped Site 4

To kick off the renovation, our senior designer, Randy Phillips, met with the clients to discuss their vision for the space and begin devising a game plan. Together, they decided that, rather than level the entire yard, they would build a patio on the hillside. Randy’s design featured a four-foot retaining wall as the structural backbone of the seating area, with walls of descending height steadying the soil on either side. After viewing their 3D renderings, the homeowners couldn’t wait for us to break ground!

People Working in a Sloped Site

A few months down the line, with permits and HOA approval secured, we were ready to begin construction! Proper installation is essential when it comes to building retaining elements, as the slightest misstep can impact their structural integrity. Knowing that this would be a technical job, we brought in an excavator to expedite the site preparation. The machinery made quick work of carving a recess into the landscape.

The next order of business was forming the wall’s foundation. The crew dug a trench along the outer perimeter of the embankment and filled it with a six-inch lift of compacted gravel. Because the wall was being installed vertically rather than in a setback position, it required additional structural support. Several reinforcement techniques can be used to bolster large walls; we went with a concrete footing/GeoGrid combo. The slab was poured below frost level to prevent it from shifting during future freeze-thaw cycles.

Sunken Seating Area 1

Sunken Seating Area 2

With the leveling pad in place, we were clear to go vertical! The first course of modular blocks adhered to the concrete base in the form of a wall. The team incrementally applied Lamina Tandem face panels to keep the rows progressing in a straight line. As tiers were completed, they were backed with compacted aggregate. The cores and voids between units were filled with gravel as well to provide additional support and facilitate internal drainage. As they moved from layer to layer, the crew made sure to stagger block joints to prevent the final stone pattern from being too uniform.

People working in a Sloped Site 3

People working in a Sloped Site 4

We figured our clients wouldn’t want their sunken patio to double as a kiddie pool, so we buried a perforated drain pipe to help relieve water and frost pressure. Once the wall had reached its full height, it was topped with capstones from the same product collection. Lastly, the backfill was covered with filter fabric to prevent any topsoil from sifting into the gravel. And with that, the wall was complete! The time and effort were well worth it to ensure that the retaining system will persist for years to come.


Fire features are the element of choice for those looking to extend their outdoor season. These clients went with Belgard’s Bordeaux model in the shade Pewter. The timeless, natural texture of the stacked stone veneer coordinates perfectly with the project’s other verticals. Believe it or not, this is a prefabricated kit! Whereas building a fireplace from scratch would have been a weeks-long endeavor, we had the chimney and its coordinating wood boxes assembled in a few short hours. A custom looks without the associated cost or build-time – now that’s the best of both worlds!

Outdoor Construction 1

Outdoor Construction 2

With only one piece of the puzzle remaining, the end was in sight! Saving the concrete for last allowed us to create the look of a seamless hardscape by pouring the patio flush with the fireplace and walls. We constructed a base from layers of tamped gravel and drain rock, then built forms for the open edge and staircase. Concrete days can be stressful, like pouring, screeding, coloring, and stamping are all time-sensitive tasks. Luckily, everything went according to plan, and the slab was left to cure. The final cool-toned, Monster Slate patio was the perfect complement to this refined outdoor living space.

Outdoor Area

The finished product is not only superficially stunning but imbued with quality construction to guarantee long-lasting performance. This retaining wall system transformed a difficult landscape into an intriguing and unexpected outdoor room. The intimate gathering spot offers unimpeded views of the forest and provides privacy from surrounding homes. With a hearth to keep the lounge illuminated and cozy, parties can finally continue well into the night and colder seasons.

Sloped Site to Sunken Seating Area

Sunken Seating Area

If the state of your backyard makes you want to shut the door and stay inside, it’s time for a renovation! As you now know, there’s more to a quality remodel than surface aesthetics. Luckily, our team has the knowledge and experience to rework property dilemmas into expertly crafted hardscapes. Give us a call at 816-608-8847 or visit our website to schedule an appointment. We’d love to show you how your least favorite part of your yard could turn it into a sunken seating area and become its greatest selling point.