Could your home be at risk for water damage?
The slope of the land (grade) around your house controls which direction rainwater flows. Ground that slopes away from the house is best for avoiding excess water nearing the foundation. Luckily, soil that slopes toward the house is not too difficult to fix. If you decide to adjust the grade of the soil, a good rule of thumb is to follow the 6 by 10 rule: slope soil away from the foundation by a height of 6 inches over a length of 10 feet. A second method is adding a swale: a shallow depression in the land that captures storm runoff and guides it toward a ditch or municipal drain. It is important to extend the bottom of gutter downspouts away from the foundation, into a drain, garden, or area of soil which slants away from the home.
Landscape and Roots
Trees and plants around the foundation of the home are an effective way to regulate saturation of water in soil and add an extra layer of protection from water damage. Leave openings among flowers to allow excess water to drain away from the house. You can also install a catch basin and grates around downspouts to collect and redirect rainwater.
Foundation and Settling
If you see a crack in your foundation or walls, don’t panic. Cracks occur in foundations and may be natural effects of the home settling. They can also be symptoms of greater issues. Use this helpful link to identify what kind of crack you may see in your foundation https://edensstructural.com/foundation-cracks-foundation-damage/. When cracks are benign, it is important to know which kind of sealant to use on different surfaces. For a foundation crack, use a concrete patching compound. For a crack in a joint, go for an exterior-grade caulk. If you want to seal concrete, use a silicate-based sealant.
Settling, or natural sinking and changes in a home’s foundation, is quite natural with time and weather changes. However, uneven settling can occur due to overly dry soil, and this can cause issues that are best to catch early. Larger cracks made by foundation settling can allow water to seep into the basement. Look for signs of settlement in walls and foundation including large cracks visible both inside and outside the home, larger than 1/8” wide. These cracks extend diagonally. Look near doors and windows, near an addition to the home, or where the load bearing of a home has been altered. If you see damage that looks like horizontal cracking these may be caused by hydrostatic (water) pressure from the outside of walls and can cause foundation failure. Contact a structural engineer for further assessment.
It is important not to patch or hide large cracks. This is the structural equivalent to putting a Band-Aid over a bullet wound. Ask an expert the best way to properly fix your specific crack; it may be the sign of a greater structural issue.
Drains and Gutters
Sometimes, we just can’t help where a house is built, and how the grade will direct water towards it. For this reason, proper home draining systems are vital to keeping water away from the house. There are drainage systems that are easily installed, simple and efficient. A french drain is a drainage system installed around homes with minimal pitch to the yard to remove standing water, a footing drain is a system placed around the foundation below the cellar floor or slab of the home to catch and guide away excess rainwater. When installing a drain, only employ the help of certified professionals who have the knowledge and expertise to complete the installation properly.
Gutters are a water management system attached to the soffit or overhang of the house which collect water from the roof and direct it away from the house. All homes should have gutters. The gutter system has leaders or downspouts which take the water from the gutters and direct it away from the home. While it may be your least favorite seasonal chore, cleaning out your gutters every six months will prevent build up and overflow during rain storms. Check gutters more often if you live in a heavily wooded area, or every autumn. Trimming trees that hang over gutters will help prevent buildup.
Roofs, Flashing, and Siding
It is important to keep your roof, flashing, and siding clean and prevent growth of algae, lichen, and moss. These organic growths encourage moisture which can cause rot and attract unwanted animals. Power washing the exterior of a house will prevent unwanted growth from persisting. Open gaps around windows or framing can be filled with caulk to close gaps where things may grow. In the winter, snow banks and ice damming on the roof can also pose a threat to proper drainage. There are many solutions to this problem, including heated gutter cables to melt ice and an attic fan controlled to take moist air out of the attic. One more elaborate method is filling pantyhose with a calcium chloride ice melter and placing on the roof overhanging the gutter. Use this link for more information. https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-get-rid-ice-dams.