Are You Protecting Your Home's Foundation?

home foundation with large crack

With the year winding down, and that long list of DIY projects behind you, take a moment to relax before you finalize that list of things to do for 2020. Upgrading your flooring, installing smart pipes, or adding sound to your garden will certainly enhance your space and add value, but don’t forget to provide some of the regular maintenance essential to keeping your home safe and sound. Foundation problems have a variety of causes, and once they begin, they can be difficult to stop, potentially requiring expensive professional intervention. Keep your foundation in good repair by ensuring these requirements are met.

Ensure Good Drainage

Water collecting around the foundation could signal plumbing issues that need to be addressed. It could also be the result of poorly draining soil from initial construction of the home. Saturated ground near the foundation can expand, causing stress on the foundation walls. This can be alleviated with in-ground drains that transport accumulated water to a location elsewhere.

If you don’t want to install drains, and like using heavy equipment, properly grading of the soil around the foundation so it slopes away from the house will keep water from pooling where it shouldn’t. One rule of thumb is to grade it six inches deep for every ten feet across. And don’t forget to direct runoff from downspouts away from the house so water doesn’t sit at the foundation for too long.

cracking home foundation

Keep It Moist, Not Flooded

Since the previous tip said flooding or ponding is bad, this next tip may seem like an odd follow up, but it's important to distinguish between moisture and flooding. Flooding means standing water. Moisture means the soil around the foundation may be wet, but not completely saturated. Keeping the soil at a consistent moisture level means there will be less shrinkage, which can damage the foundation by causing shifts in the soil. This is critical during dry months, especially as years of evaporation and saturation begin to wear at the foundation walls.

A sprinkler system can be a great time saving tool, and a smart sprinkler system along with your other smart outdoor devices is even better. Simply set the timer to water the foundation for 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night. This won’t be necessary on days when summer downpours occur, but dry spells happen—it's best to keep the ground adequately moist to keep shrinkage at bay.

Another way to retain valuable moisture is to use the same mulch as you would in your garden beds. Compact the soil around the foundation, embedding up the sides as far as two inches from the top of the foundation slab. Then add mulch around the perimeter of the house to increase retention of moisture.

Water the Trees

If you’ve got well established trees around your home, their roots can take up water from the soil, interfering with the moisture content needed around the foundation. Some types of trees are extremely thirsty and can extract several gallons of water from the soil per day, but by keeping your trees well-watered, you diminish the chance they'll compete with the soil around your house for moisture.

Newly planted trees and shrubs should be sited away from the foundation, with at least an eight foot gap between the house and the planting location, and even more for large trees. Shrubs can be placed closer to the house, but consider the overall size at maturity, and the aggressiveness and depth of roots, before plopping it into the ground. One guideline for determining how far to plant it from the house is to use the estimated mature size of the shrub and divide that in half.

tree roots

Use Proper Landscaping

This can be as easy or complex as you make it. Landscaping adds value and beauty to your home, but if you’ve only got one side of your house landscaped, that side will understandably get watered while the other sides won't. If you plan to water all sides, regardless of whether or not they're planted, that’s a good decision. Another option is to add landscaping to all sides and to maintain a consistent watering schedule. Otherwise you risk causing the soil on the garden side to swell while it dries out and shrinks on the other sides of the house.

Maintain Gutters and Downspouts

Regular maintenance on your gutters and downspouts involves cleaning them at least a couple times a year. This ensures they drain water away from the home. Clogs from leaves or other debris can cause water to collect near the foundation. While cleaning, don't forget to check for cracks or other damage that may affect their performance.

Keeping your home's foundation in tip top shape is essential to providing a safe space for you and your family.