Spring is a time of increasing bounty, but when precipitation is a bit too bountiful or concentrated in an undesirable location, long-term damage can result. The impact may be on the landscaping, on the basement or crawlspace or on the home interior if roof, flashing or gutter details are inadequate.
Even if the landscape surrounding a home was properly graded at the time of construction, things can change over time. The overall lay of the land might provide the proper fall away from the structure so that moisture in the crawlspace is no problem, but changes due to human activity can redirect or concentrate moisture in a way that harms the landscape. Installation of an expanded drive, walkway, patio or other impervious surface concentrates water in a limited area and can lead to soil saturation and damage to the lawn or other planting, not to mention the negative impact on a septic system drain field. (Note: be sure you know WHERE your septic system drain field and tank are located.)
These are not the only factors that can add to the water problem. Uphill neighbors installing similar structures will direct runoff onto your landscape, unless they redirect the water to street or drain. Natural settling is also a culprit. Water will pond in the resulting low spots. When moss seems to be replacing grass in particular areas, or shrubs seem to lack vigor, concentrated water might be the problem rather than soil chemistry.
Sometimes, however, it’s not just the landscape that is harmed. The impervious installations stated above might be trapping water against the foundation. Pretty raised-brick planters set against the foundation also may act as water catchments. Imprudent re-grading can destroy the minimum fall away from your home (one inch of fall per foot for at least 10 feet away from the foundation.) Damaged or inadequate gutters can produce a cascade that quickly erodes a path into basement or crawlspace. Here, the signs are dampness, wetness or even standing water. Efflorescence—a powdery “growth” on interior concrete or block surfaces—is an early warning of moisture penetration. Mold and mildew, structural damage and that nasty cellar smell throughout the house are the natural results.
Water can be concentrated even before it hits the ground. Some complicated roof designs result in channeling water from several surfaces toward a small area of confluence. Without a proper means of disposing of that water, it can overwhelm a typical gutter system.
Shingles are not designed to prevent leaks when submerged under standing water. Trap water against the roof surface, and bad things happen. Gutters and downspouts must be of a size to handle the flow from all surfaces they service. And downspouts from one roof section should not terminate on the surface of another roof section. Run the upper downspout to the lower gutter, reducing the chance of backing water under the shingles due to volume.
Tune in to The Bob and RodMan Home Show every Saturday from
9 to 11 a.m. on 920 AM-WGKA to learn how to improve your house or apartment. RodMan is a certified home inspector, knows residential property appraisal and is a hands-on home renovator. Bob owned a roofing company, has reclaimed distressed properties for years and has Master Licenses as a plumber, electrician and HVAC mechanic.