A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

Well, you’ve made your bed now lie in it

No matter where you are, an inspector will look at grading around your property. How water flows through your land can effect your home. I received strange looks from neighbors the other day when I was looking at a roof’s edge, just to squat down to look at the ground. I looked over at them to say “Its alright, I’m an inspector!” (Not a thief looking for a way in, implied).

When I have been on building sites, I am impressed with the organized chaos. To complete a home, builders go by steps. Most builders have a notebook which tells them which steps need to happen and in what order to build a home. In reality, steps overlap. Various forklifts or other vehicles go over the lot after the contractor who has put down sand and top soil graded to make the water flow away from your home. The vehicles leave ruts, which have to be dealt with by the crew placing the grass onto the yard. The result is that the grading has been ruined. The most cost effective means for a homeowner to deal with this water ponding in ruts or depressions is to use sand and peat mixed, and then spread over the lower areas till you build them up. You will want the ground to slope towards areas that will lead the water to the gutter system.

I have spent a weekend regrading an entire backyard for a family member. This involves removing the grass, using the peat/sand mix to guide the water to the side of the house, and then down to the street. I bought the sheets of grass to lay on the yard area, followed by watering every other day till the root system was established. This project is possible for a determined homeowner, but it is physically demanding.

The last part of your grading will be in your garden beds. Mulch is great for your plants, but too much can be bad for your exterior walls. Whether you have a pier (columns) or slab foundation, you do not want the mulch or soil to cover the foundation, allowing water to come in contact with your wall. For material like brick or hardie plank, there should be 4 inches between the ground and the siding. For wood siding, there should be 6 inches.

One technique being used by landscapers to help move water away from the building is creating a barrier. The metal edging found at your home improvement center is installed 4 inches from your wall. The earth is removed, to be replaced by stones. This channel goes along the building to the edge of the bed, so water flows away. Another concern for landscapers are walls. A solid wall with no way for water to pass through will cause you problems with water ponding near your home. Walls like this need weepholes. These are holes that allow water to pass through. These are also the holes in your brick wall, which should be left clear to allow water to escape from behind the brick.

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