Over the past few months, we have covered many of the common causes of water damage in the home, seen and unseen, sudden and gradual, in the hopes of making our audience more informed about these culprits and allowing them to take preventative action now to avoid ever having to meet us in person. Water losses can take many forms and can happen at any moment, and with all the water distributing appliances in our homes that could instantly malfunction or explode, it’s a good idea to do as much as we can to prevent those things that are truly preventable. There is so much in life that we can’t control, so why not take care of the things that we can, right? That being said, we’d like to address some of the most common preventable problems we’ve come across in terms of risk factors. These are the top 3 conducive conditions for water damage in the home, from the outside in.
1.) Improper Landscaping
This is a big one that takes many forms, none of which are good for the structural integrity of your home. One of the most common forms is a home whose exterior siding sits below grade. This means that either the soil surrounding the home does not provide adequate clearance between the siding, or the yard slopes towards the house rather than away from it. When the siding of your home touches or extends below the soil, this is a HUGE problem that will eventually make itself known at some point down the road. Wood siding that touches the ground will eventually soak up enough moisture that it begins to rot, creating weak spots in the exterior that allow moisture to build up inside the cavities of your walls and floors. Even brick or stucco siding is a problem below grade because its constant contact with the moist soil will weaken this seemingly solid exterior, and it also hides the main entry points for termites and other destructive pests, making early detection impossible. In terms of a slab home, the ideal clearance height from soil to siding of any type is a minimum 6 inches, and 18 inches for homes with a crawlspace to ensure proper ventilation and moisture control. Another big landscaping mistake is excessive shrubbery, plants, or trees directly against or over the home. These plants again make inspection impossible in some cases, and more importantly they constantly trap moisture against the vulnerable walls and foundation of your home. We have even seen a case in which a flowerbed was responsible for damaging hardwood floors inside. The water was trapped in such a way that it eventually found its way in through the tiny space between the slab and the bottom plate of the wall. Sprinkler systems targeted directly against the home are another obvious though often overlooked landscaping flaw that can be easily corrected.
2.) Improper Drainage
Clogged or incomplete gutter systems can be a major cause of water damage to the home, and if you aren’t aware of the possibility, you may not even notice until the damage is so severe that the moisture has damaged every layer of your walls or floors, from the inside out. When gutters are clogged during a heavy rain, the excess moisture is forced through the pores of your exterior walls. Over time these pores become larger and larger until soon the entire wall cavity is saturated, and then the moisture begins coming through the pores and paint of the interior side of the wall. By this time, you may need extensive remediation work to keep your home safe from severe contamination. Gutter downspouts that do not extend fully down and elbow away from the outside walls are simply dumping water against your foundation. This will eventually weaken the soil beneath the slab, causing stress cracks and possible sinkage, not to mention becoming a breeding ground for mosquitos and other pests. Also, if your a/c unit is draining water right against your home, just get some pvc pipe and channel that water to some nearby plants, and you’ve just killed two birds with one stone.
3.) Improper Roofing
Some homes are built with the best of intentions and the worst instruction. Every angle of your roofline should be strategically matched against the next to ensure a continuous and seamless downward channeling of water. Believe it or not, we have come across homes (even churches) where the peak of a recent add-on sloped down into the flat plain of a pre-existing roof with no hope of ever carrying that water away from this already weakened area. Every valley of the roof should be equipped with metal flashing that is tucked and secured in such a way that all water is carried safely off of the roof and into (hopefully) a properly mounted and maintenanced gutter. We have seen many cases, however, in which the shingles were not installed properly against the flashing, and water enters the attic during every rainfall. Check your roof, and check it well. These are just some of the things you can do to help keep your home safe from future damage.