3 Steps to Setting up your Foundation Defense
I decided that I would like to share a couple tips today based on my recent experience. Since we've already had our first snow and more will likely follow, I wanted to touch on water. I am sharing a few personal experiences about my own home so you know that it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget to do some simple home maintenance. I do that too. For context, I live in a small home built in 1912 with a brick perimeter foundation with a crawlspace underneath. Last week I was crawling around in the crawlspace. (Free tip #1 for homeowners, you can almost always find something to fix on your house if you are looking around. Sometimes it stinks finding new problems to fix and spend time and money on. Sometimes ignorance of your home condition feels like bliss, but ignoring doesn't make the home better.) So, I was crawling around and saw a few questionable things about the bricks' condition and, in connection with a few newer cracks that I noticed developing over the last 6 months or so, decided maybe I should do a little more than just use my own DIY mentality.
I decided to call two foundation repair companies to come to my home to give me a free estimate on what some fixes might cost me. The estimators from both companies gave me some fix options, but both mentioned to me some valuable information. They both explained the importance of directing water around the house.
I'll detail three simple things to look for to help protect your foundation from water. Take a few minutes to walk around your house and your property to see how your home is set up to divert water away from your home's foundation. Moist dirt/sand/clay has the ability to expand and/or contract, causing additional home settling. Some home settling and movement is quite normal, but there is no need to encourage your home to do more than it needs to.
#1 Gutters and Downspouts
One of the main things that we are trying to do here is to divert water away from your home. Gutters are an important part of that system. I know many older homes here in Pueblo don't always have gutters. Gutters help control water running off of your roof to a designated location at the downspout. At the bottom of the downspout, I would recommend more than just the pipe terminating close to the ground or onto a splash block stone (which is better than straight to the ground), but to have an extension that will release the water 4-6 feet from the foundation. Less than that may result in moisture staying close to the foundation and potentially causing problems. Also, check that your gutters are clean and securely attached so water and ice can properly drain. If you have a downspout that goes underground and then pops up out in the yard somewhere, make sure to clean out that underground pipe occasionally to make sure it isn't clogged and functions properly.
#2 Lay of the Land
All home lots are different shapes and have different elevated spots. This is something I've been working on for years as my neighbor's ground next to their home is 2-3 feet higher than the ground by my home and are only about 25 feet apart. Many years back when we first purchased our home, the neighbors were painting their home so they were running a lot of hose water cleaning their painting gear in their backyard. They used so much that the water eventually drained straight to my house and created a small 3-4 inch sink-hole under our bathroom allowing water straight into our crawlspace and brick foundation. It wasn't great. I've had to dig around the house a bit to make water paths. Digging swales (water path or ditch) as a way to divert water around my house rather than allowing water run directly to the house has been a bit of work, but worth the effort.
A swale is a low ditch-like path to direct water and you can make it decorative or not. The look isn't the important part, the function is. It is recommended that the ground adjacent to the home drops at least 6 inches within the first 10 feet. Remember, the name of the game is keeping water away from the home foundation. Homeowners often know the spots in the yard that pool water after a heavy rain. You don't want those pooling areas be close to the home.
It's getting cold and much of our vegetation is dying off for the winter, but that doesn't mean you can't be creating your flower garden plans for spring already. Vegetation close to the home can hold moisture longer, giving more potential to foundation problems. Also, we water those vegetation areas, purposely adding water to the ground around the foundation. Think about making a change to that. This is something I am guilty of. I even have some sprinklers that spray up toward the house to water my garden planted at the foundation base. I'll be making a change here for spring too.
Although this list isn't comprehensive of EVERY way to protect your foundation, I hope this is an easy start of things that you can quickly check around your home and easily improve to ensure that your home's foundation is defended.