Spring is fast approaching and its time to start thinking about plants and yard work. An important part of landscaping that is often overlooked is the impact on your house. As a Houston home inspector, I regularly encounter landscaping that negatively impacts the house.
Your house is a complex system. We like to think of our houses as our fortress against the elements, impervious to everything nature throws at it. The reality isn’t that simple. Your home shelters you and your family not by brute force but by redirecting the forces of nature. Your house is a layered approach to defeating the elements. We have to be careful to preserve those layers and help them to function at peak efficiency. Let’s start at the foundation of it all, your foundation.
Most likely, your Houston home rests on a poured concrete slab.
One automatically thinks a 4 inch or more layer of concrete is an immovable object but in reality your house essentially “floats” on the slab. All slabs move. The key is to get it to move all in one piece.
What moves the slab? The technical term is “expansive soils” but suffice to say that certain soils expand much more than others when wet. Clay soils are the most expansive and can apply tremendous forces as they expand or leave large voids when they contract. So our first priority when planning our landscaping around the house is proper drainage away from the foundation. We don’t want large amounts of water trapped near the house. Be sure the undisturbed soil near the house slopes away from the house. The building code requires a 6 inch drop in the first 10 feet for proper grading around the house. If your landscaping includes disturbing the soil near the foundation, be sure you consider the effect on drainage and plan measures to prevent holding water near the foundation. This applies to all foundation types. If that sounds a bit overwhelming, drop me a note at patrick@spotoninspection and I will be happy to discuss your specific project. Be sure to check back here for Part II of Landscaping for the Health of your House.
© 2017 Patrick Miceli