Are you thinking about landscaping around the foundation of your house? Shrubs, flowers, trees, and other types of vegetation certainly look pretty around your home. However, unless you’ve selected types that need virtually no water, you could be setting yourself up for serious foundation problems that will be expensive to repair. So, before you start landscaping around the foundation of your house, make sure you understand what you should and shouldn’t do.
Water Causes Most Foundation Problems
Most people are surprised to learn that water causes most foundation problems. Here are a few things homeowners need to know about the impact of water before they start landscaping around the foundation of their home:
- Poor drainage can wreck foundations – Poor drainage in the soil around a foundation can, over time, cause serious structural damage. Therefore, you don’t want water to build up in the soil around the foundation without a way for it to drain off.
- Expansive soil – Expansive soils are those that swell as they soak up water and then shrink by that same amount when they dry out. Over time, this swelling-shrinking cycle – which is usually seasonal – causes movement under a foundation and can lead to structural damage. So, if your home sits on expansive soil, you’ll need to be especially careful about controlling groundwater around the foundation.
- Avoid planting water-hungry vegetation close to the foundation – It’s easier to control groundwater around a foundation if you’re not constantly watering shrubs and other vegetation planted next to the foundation.
- Tree roots can remove water from the soil – The root system of large trees can extend as far as the tree’s canopy and “drink” moisture out of the soil around the foundation. This can create voids into which the foundation will then sink. Drought can do this as well. For more information, see California Drought And Your Home’s Foundation.
To sum up, getting groundwater under control is the key to a healthy foundation. Excess water in the soil around the foundation that can’t drain off will, over time, cause problems that will be expensive to repair.
Tips For Landscaping Around The Foundation Of Your House
As you’ll see, every tip here involves keeping water away from your home’s foundation:
- Make sure your yard is graded correctly – Your home’s yard should slope away from the foundation. If done correctly, water won’t be able to pool around the foundation and cause problems. A landscaper or a foundation repair contractor can help you with this.
- Clean your gutters regularly – If your gutters are clogged, water will spill over the side of the house and down into the soil next to the foundation. This is where you don’t want it.
- Install downspout extensions, if necessary – Sometimes, downspouts release water too close to the foundation, which then sinks into the soil. Downspout extensions are easy to install and channel water away from the foundation before releasing it.
- Install an underground downspout and bubbler pot – This is another method for channeling water away from the foundation before releasing it. Water flows into the underground downspout toward something called a “bubbler pot.” When the bubbler pot fills with water, it pops up and releases the water away from the foundation.
- Install a drain tile system – A drain tile system is the ultimate waterproofing solution because instead of just putting up a barrier to keep water out, it prevents water from building up in the soil around your foundation in the first place.
There are exterior and interior drain tile systems. Installation of the exterior system in an existing house involves excavating down to the footer, digging a shallow trench, filling it with gravel, laying down a perforated pipe, and then covering the pipe with more gravel, and finally backfill. Excess water in the soil will now flow into the pipe and be channeled away from the foundation.
An interior drain tile system is installed under the basement or crawl space floor and works similarly. Excess water in the soil is diverted into a sump pit and then released away from the foundation. Installing an interior drain tile system will mean breaking up the slab.
Installing a drain tile system – interior or exterior – is a major construction project and should only be handled by professionals. Please don’t try this as a DIY project.
- Don’t plant trees near the foundation – As we mentioned above, a tree’s root system can be as wide as its canopy. If the roots are able to “drink” moisture in the soil near the foundation, this could cause problems. So, we recommend planting large trees no closer than 20 feet from the foundation.
- Don’t plant water-hungry flowers and shrubs next to the foundation – If you’ve read this far, you know why. When you water them, you’ll just be adding excess water to the soil around the foundation. You don’t want to do this.
- Landscape with vegetation that doesn’t need a lot of water – A professional landscaper will be able to help you select the right flowers, shrubs, trees, etc.
If you keep the above in mind before landscaping around the foundation of your house, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and money. For more information about keeping your foundation healthy, see Foundation Settlement.
If you think you might have a foundation problem and you’re in our service area in Northern California, contact us today for a free inspection and repair estimate.