Welcome to the third installment of the Helpful Home Inspectors’ Best Kept Secrets of Home Maintenance. As I write this, I’m thinking that maybe this should have been first rather than third. If I stop to think about what would be the most common defect that I encounter as a home inspector, I think that it just might be poor grading around the house and, in general, poor management of storm water. Nearly every house that I inspect needs improvement. Some need a little. Some need a lot. I have to believe that most of us are simply unaware that proper home maintenance includes directing storm water away from our buildings.
A failure to properly manage storm water around the home can lead to all sorts of problems. Perhaps the easiest to identify is water in the basement or crawl space, but with or without a basement or crawl space, it is best to direct water away from the home’s foundation. Water directed at the foundation can lead to serious structural issues. Wet or damp conditions are conducive to rotten wood, rusty metal and a welcoming environment for termites and mold.
Most homes in our area do have a basement or crawl space. The basement or crawl space is a hole in the ground. Its job is to fill up with water. It’s our job to keep it out.
Every homeowner should educate him or herself about these matters. Start with an article written by my friend Tom Feiza, a.k.a. Mr. Fix-It. “KEEP YOUR BASEMENT DRY” is one of a number of Tom’s articles that are posted on the Resources page of my website. Tom also addresses these issues in his book, HOW TO OPERATE YOUR HOME, a copy of which is provided free to every one of my home inspection clients.
Share what you learn with your landscaper. Landscapers, professionals and do-it-yourselfers alike, need to understand that the work they do affects the house as well as the gardens. Too often, we homeowners pay good money for work that undermines our own investment because important information is not in the hands of those who need it. Dig a flowerbed against the wall of the house, fill it with mulch or stone and water will find its way through the foundation into the house.
During a professional home inspection, a Pennsylvania home inspector will inspect the grades and grounds. If improvement is needed to help move water away from the house, it will be noted in the home inspection report.
I hope this is helpful.