The Importance of Proper Grading Around Your House: Protecting Your Foundation, Preventing Erosion, Improving Curb Appeal, and Saving Money/by David Bates
The Importance of Proper Grading Around Your House: Protecting Your Foundation, Preventing Erosion, Improving Curb Appeal, and Saving Money
As a home inspector, I have seen firsthand the importance of proper grading around a house. Grading around a house is the process of sloping the ground away from the foundation to allow water to drain away from the structure. Proper grading is essential for the longevity and stability of a house, as it helps to prevent water damage and foundation issues. We frequently find and report on grading issues in home inspections, particularly in homes over 15 years old.
After a house is built, dirt is backfilled around the foundation. It is backfilled without tamping, so it doesn’t put undue pressure on the foundation. Over the years, even decades, the ground around the house settles and causes the dirt around the foundation to become flat or sloped toward the building. Homeowners should regularly maintain their grading but often neglect it.
Here are some reasons why grading around a house is so important:
Why proper grading is so important
1. Proper grading can protect the Foundation
Ensure that the grading around your house is sloped correctly. Neglect can lead to water collection near the foundation and seepage into the crawl space or basement. This can lead to a range of serious issues, including water damage. Water damage can cause various problems, such as warping or swelling of wood, rusting of metal surfaces, and mould growth. Water damage can be costly, as it often requires extensive work to dry out and restore affected areas. In addition to damaging the house’s structure, water damage can lead to mould growth, harming your health. Mould can cause respiratory problems, allergies, and other health issues. It can also weaken the house’s structural integrity as it grows and eats away at wood and other building materials. Proper grading is essential for preventing water damage and mould growth, as it helps keep water away from the house’s foundation.
2. Proper grading can prevent erosion
Erosion is a natural process that occurs when water, wind, or other forces wear away at the soil. While erosion is natural, improper grading around the house can exacerbate it. Incorrect grading of the ground can cause erosion, particularly if water accumulates near the foundation. Erosion can cause the soil around the foundation to wash away, in extreme circumstances, weakening the foundation and making the house unstable. As the foundation is the most important structural component of any building, it is essential to protect it and prevent erosion. Proper grading is one way to do this. By sloping the ground away from the foundation and directing water away from the structure, adequate grading can help to prevent erosion and keep the soil around the foundation in place. This helps to ensure the long-term stability and safety of the house.
3. Proper grading can improve the property’s appearance
Proper grading around your house is not only important for the stability and safety of the house, but it can also improve the property’s appearance. You should ensure that the ground around your house is sloped in the correct direction. Failure to do so can lead to issues that can make your property look unkempt and unattractive. For example, puddles of standing water on the lawn or other areas around the house. These puddles not only make the property look unappealing, but they can also create a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests.
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In addition, if you do not grade the earth correctly, it can lead to areas of the lawn that are always wet and soggy. This can make it challenging to maintain a healthy lawn and lead to expanding weeds and other unwanted vegetation. Proper grading can help prevent these issues and improve the property’s overall appearance. By sloping the ground away from the house and directing water away from the structure, proper grading can help keep the lawn and other areas of the property neat and well-maintained.
4. Proper grading can save you money
Proper grading around your house can be an intelligent investment as a homeowner, as it can help you save money in the long run. Water damage and foundation issues can be some of the most costly repairs a homeowner will face. As mentioned above, water damage can cause various problems, such as warping or swelling of wood, rusting of metal surfaces, and mould growth. These issues can be expensive to repair. Similarly, foundation issues that make the house unstable can be costly. By investing in proper grading, homeowners can prevent these issues from occurring and save themselves the expense of more expensive repairs in the future. Investing in adequate grading is a wise way for homeowners to protect their homes and save money in the long run.
5. Proper grading can increase your property value
Proper grading around a house can save homeowners money on repairs and increase the property’s value. A house with a solid foundation and no water damage is more attractive to potential buyers and may command a higher price. A house with water damage or foundation issues can be a significant buyer turn-off. On the other hand, a house with a solid foundation and no water damage is much more appealing to buyers and is likely to command a higher price. Proper grading is essential for protecting the foundation and preventing water damage, as it helps to keep water away from the structure and directs it away from the foundation. By investing in proper grading, homeowners can not only protect their homes but also increase the value of their property and make it more attractive to potential buyers.
Steps to DIY grading
1. Assess the slope of the ground around the house
Assess the slope of the ground around the house: Assessing the slope of the land around a home is an essential step in the DIY grading process. To assess the slope of the soil around the house, you will need to use a level or a string line. This will help you determine whether or not the grade is correct and if you need to make any changes. The land around a house should slope away from the foundation at a minimum of 6 inches for every 10 feet. This helps to direct water away from the foundation and prevent it from accumulating near the structure. If the ground is not graded correctly, you may need to add or remove soil to correct the slope. Assess the slope of the land around the house so you can determine if any changes are required and take the necessary steps to grade the ground properly.
2. Add or remove soil as needed
If the ground slopes towards the house, you will need to add soil to create a slope away from the foundation. To do this, you can use a shovel or a wheelbarrow to transport soil from another area of the property or purchase soil from a garden supply store. Once you have the soil, you can use a rake or a hoe to distribute it evenly over the ground and create a slope away from the foundation.
If the ground slopes away from the house too much, you may need to remove some soil to create a gentler slope. You can use a shovel or a hoe to dig up excess dirt and remove it from the area. Once you have removed enough soil to create the desired slope, you can use a rake or a hoe to smooth out the surface and create a gentle slope away from the foundation.
By adding or removing soil as needed, you can correct the grading and ensure that it has an appropriate slope to allow water to drain away from the structure.
3. Install a drainage system
In some cases, installing a drainage system may be necessary to help direct water away from the foundation of a house. For this purpose, you can use several types of drainage systems, including French drains, surface drains, and swales.
A swale is the most common form of drainage. A swale is a shallow channel or depression that directs water away from a specific area. Swales are used to control erosion and water flow on a property. They are often used in areas where the land’s natural slope is insufficient to effectively drain water away from a structure or other important place.
Swales are typically created by grading the ground in a specific way to create a shallow channel or depression. The channel is often lined with rocks or other materials to help prevent erosion and hold the soil in place. It is then filled with gravel or other permeable material to allow water to flow through it and be directed away from the area.
Swales can effectively control erosion and water flow on a property. They help direct water away from structures and other essential areas. They can be instrumental in areas with heavy rainfall or in areas where the natural slope of the land is not sufficient to drain water effectively.
A French drain is a drainage system that collects and redirects water away from a specific area. It consists of a perforated pipe surrounded by gravel and buried beneath the ground. Water flows through the perforated pipe and is carried away from the area. French drains are often used to redirect water away from foundations. They can be an effective solution for houses prone to water accumulation.
A surface drain is a drainage system used to collect and redirect water from the ground’s surface. It consists of a grate or other opening that allows water to flow into a pipe or channel. Surface drains are often used to collect and redirect water from driveways, sidewalks, and other areas where water accumulates.
By installing a drainage system, you can help to redirect water away from the foundation of your house and prevent it from accumulating near the structure. This can help to protect the foundation and to avoid water damage.
Question: I’ve just moved into my first home and I need to get to work on my landscaping. What can I do this late in the spring?
4. Ground cover
Once you have finished the grading and drainage systems, you can plant grass or other ground cover material to help hold the soil in place and prevent erosion. There are many grass and ground cover types; the best option depends on your specific climate and soil conditions. Some popular options include fescue, bluegrass, Bermuda grass, and ground covers such as creeping thyme, creeping phlox, and vinca minor.
To plant grass or other ground covers, prepare the soil by tilling it and adding any necessary amendments, such as compost or fertilizer. Once the soil is ready, you can plant the grass or ground cover according to the specific instructions provided by the supplier or nursery. After planting, it is vital to regularly water the grass or ground cover to ensure that it establishes itself properly.
Planting grass or other ground covers can help hold the soil in place and prevent erosion. Adequate ground cover is essential for protecting the foundation and ensuring your house’s stability and safety.
Grading alone isn’t enough
Downspout extensions are devices that are attached to the downspouts of a house’s gutter system. They are used to direct water away from the foundation and prevent it from accumulating near the home. Downspout extensions help to prevent water from overflowing the gutters and spilling onto the ground near the foundation. Even with proper grading, you will want your downspout extensions installed correctly, directing rainwater away from the foundation.
Besides grading, the proper placement of downspout extensions is one of the most critical components of healthy rainwater and snow-melt management.
There are several steps you can take to direct your downspout extensions properly:
1. Choose the right location
Downspout extensions should be directed away from the house’s foundation and into a safe area, such as a ditch or swale. Avoid leading them onto a walkway or driveway, as this will cause dangerous ice build-up during freezing temperatures. You may be tempted to run your downspouts to a garden or tree beside the foundation, but this can cause erosion or flooding.
2. Use suitable materials
Downspout extensions can be made from various materials, including metal or plastic. Metal downspout extensions that match the downspout material are usually the best choice, as they look the best and have the best longevity. Plastic gutters and accessories degrade over time with sunlight and become brittle.
3. Install the extension at the correct angle
The angle of the downspout extension will determine how far the water is directed away from the foundation. Aim for a moderate angle that deposits the water away from the foundation without causing erosion or pooling. A steeper angle will move the water away from the foundation faster. In comparison, a shallower angle will be gentler on the landscaping.
4. Use splash blocks
Splash blocks are small blocks of concrete or plastic placed at the end of the downspout extension to help direct the water away from the foundation. They can help prevent erosion and ensure the water is directed into a safe location.
5. Consider underground drain systems
If you have a lot of rainwater runoff and are concerned about erosion, consider installing an underground drainage system. This can help to collect the water and direct it away from the foundation and into a safe location.
Water management around a house is an essential aspect of home maintenance that you should consider. This is important for the property’s stability, appearance, and value. Proper grading helps to ensure that the ground around a house is sloped in the correct direction to allow water to drain away from the foundation and prevent water damage.
It’s important to note that grading around a house can be a complex task that requires knowledge of proper techniques and safety measures. You may not be as comfortable or confident in your ability to DIY grading as you would like. In that case, we recommend hiring a professional contractor to assess the slope of the ground and recommend any necessary changes. Hiring a professional will help to ensure that the grading around your house is done correctly and will protect the foundation, prevent erosion, and increase the value of your property.
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