As a home inspector, I am constantly looking at how water can affect the home. Water penetration in the home can cause failed foundations, wood rot, mold and leaky basements. Looking for signs of penetration, one area that I pay particular attention to is the foundation and the ground surrounding it. I look at the house’s ability to shed water. Do the gutters slope properly? Is the size of the gutters and downspouts sufficient? Are the gutters clean? Do the downspouts have extensions to carry the water away or dump it right at the foundation? Is the grade proper in order to carry the water away? Very rarely I will find that all these items are satisfactory. Here are a few things you should check throughout the year, especially during the wet seasons.
We frequently inspect homes that have grading issues. Sometimes these issues are easily fixed by additional backfill to settling ground while others require a little more effort, such as adding window wells or drainage systems to move the water. Be careful when adding backfill to make sure soil does not come in contact with the siding (which could allow bugs to get into the building materials behind the siding). Often we see areas around a home that have negative slope. This allows water to run back towards your home and pool. Water that pools at the foundation will absorb into the ground and can cause erosion to the foundation or even penetrate through cracks in the wall. We recommend maintaining a positive grade around the home. The ground should slope away from the home at 1” per foot, for about 10-15’.
Gutters and Downspouts
Cleaning gutters can be easily neglected. I find myself out desperately trying to clean gutters before a big storm. Cleaning the gutters should be something that you add to your home’s maintenance schedule. Clean gutters are great, but your downspouts and extensions are equally important. Downspouts need to be checked for clogs. Downspout extensions should be long enough and strategically placed so water flows away from the house. We see some ineffective downspout extensions that run out 8-10’ from the house, but due to negative grading the water runs out and right back to the foundation.
Vegetation around the home
Vegetation around the home (foundation) can cause problems in relation to water penetration. Many plants require water; water also causes soil to settle creating potential areas for negative grade. Planting larger plants near foundations can be detrimental if roots cause stress on the foundation walls. Any changes in stress can cause wear and cracking in the foundation walls, making a place for water to penetrate the home. Also, keep vegetation around the home cut back so it cannot come in contact with the home. Vegetation in contact with the home gives bugs and inspects access to siding and, ultimately, the building materials under them. Most types of siding are designed to breathe so if water penetrates it will not be trapped (which could cause mold, rot, etc). For this reason, vegetation should be cut back so it does not restrict the ventilation of the siding.