Binder H.I. Presents “Exterior.”
At Binder Home Inspections, the exterior of the home is just as important as the inside of your future home. The roof and it’s cladding is not part of this component so, we will leave that for another discussion. When referring about the exterior of the home we are looking at the grading of the property, downspout drainage run off, exterior sump systems, driveway condition, septic fields, gardens, trees and shrubs. In other words, we are going to look at the land surrounding the home and not the home structure. This is a subject that most Clients are not extremely concerned about when first looking at their new potential home.
The grading of the property surrounding the home may be the most important factor when examining the exterior of the home. It is the greatest factor in directing water, snow and ice away from the foundation of the home. If the grading soil and sod around the home is directing water back to the foundation, the only path of travel is back to the foundation. This may cause the water to travel down the foundation and finding the path of least resistance… a crack. If the water enters that crack, water will seep into the basement. In terms of Winter conditions, freezing meltwater in a crack will almost ensure water entry in the Spring. Not to mention the ice will only enhance the crack that was already present.
The downspout system is something that seems pretty elementary but, I have seen numerous systems that have been incorrectly installed or maintained. Mostly, two improper connections. First, the downspout that is draining too close to the foundation. Downspouts should extend at least 6-8′ from the foundation/wall. Secondly, the contractor install that utilizes the storm drain to carry water to the city’s storm sewers. In the City of Windsor’s opinion, these should also be extended away from the home. This takes the stress off of the already exhausted storm system.
Homes normally have an interior sump pump installed in their basement or crawlspace. There have been instances that I have come across exterior sumps installed near the base of the foundation. The pump is connected to the exterior drainage (Big O – black plastic corrugated/foundation drainage) that collects the drainage in a pit with a sump pump at the bottom. The sump then connects to ABS under the frost line and discharges away from the home. This is a good solution to home that do not presently have pumps in their basements. A little more cost efficient as well. Maintenance is basic with monthly tests, to make sure proper operation and flow with the pump.
The driveway leading to the home and/or garage are important to inspect for a few reasons. Repairing a cracked concrete driveway can be costly if not taken care of as soon as possible. Often water and ice will enter these cracks, causing further damage with frost heaving and thaw sagging. Have the proper repairs completed whether filling the cracks prior to movement, or having the uneven concrete slab jacked to repair uneven surfaces. if the driveway parallels to the home, be sure that it does not slope towards the foundation. This will also direct water to the foundation, just as the grading would around your home. Seal any gaps between the home and the driveway with foam backer rod with a bead of caulking to seal the area.
Septic tanks and fields are best left to the professionals. Prior to purchasing a home that consists of a septic system, I always recommend an evaluation conducted by a qualified septic company. Check with the present Owner regarding their records of when the last pump out was completed and any record of maintenance. Best to have any maintenance completed in the warmer seasons rather than Winter for obvious reasons of ease of access and no chance of freezing debris within the system. Some things are best left to the professionals, crawlspaces are challenging enough for us home inspectors, entering a septic cistern is way beyond our scope of work! Thankfully!
Gardens are a beautiful accent to any home. I would just recommend that they are located away from the foundation. This goes along with trees and shrubs as well. Excess watering of gardens against walls, goes back to enhancing the opportunity of water infiltration. Please refrain from building up mulch and topsoil over the brickline or exterior cladding of the home. The soil and mulch can only deteriorate the brick and mortar along with many of the various other styles of cladding. Trees and shrubs have rooting systems that can grow back into the foundation causing cracking. I love trees and shrubs around a home but, I hate recommending that a tree or shrub should be removed because of a homeowner who chose to plant the foliage too close to the home. Remember, the canopy of a tree will tell you how far the root system will grow. Please plant that new cedar or maple far enough away from the home where the root system will not interfere with that poured or block foundation. Now, go plant a tree for our environment!
Owner of Binder Home Inspections