I am writing this as I watch the rain trickle down on a grey January day. Yes, it’s the middle of another Seattle winter!
Unlike most parts of the United States, the Pacific Northwest rarely experiences snow in the winter. However, as we all know, we have plenty of rain for much of the year.
We also have a high water table in this area, which explains why we have so few homes with true basements (something that always surprises my clients who are relocating from other parts of the country).
And on the topic of rain … the impact of excess moisture in your home can be very costly – both in terms of actual dollars and in terms of your health and that of your family.
As with most things in life, being prepared is the most important first step. And it might surprise you to learn that your first line of defense in managing water in your home is landscaping!
Here are three landscaping tips to help you keep water from becoming a costly problem in your home:
1. Grade your lawn. You need to have as much water as possible flowing away from your house. Lawn that is level with the house, or – even worse – above the house (even if it’s just a small degree higher) will direct water into your home. Grading your lawn could involve moving the earth to slope away from the house; alternately, you may be able to incorporate a beautiful dry creek feature in your yard. Filled with rock, this feature provides a natural spot for water to pool – away from your home. Because this type of landscaping is visually attractive, it also adds real value to your property.
2. Watch where water collects. Next time there’s a heavy rain, take note of where water stands. Capturing this with your camera is ideal, as it allows you to pinpoint problem areas to be addressed.
3. Leave gaps. Often, I see homes where soil or mulch is pushed right up against the siding of a home. Ideally, you want a 4” – 6” gap between the top of the soil/mulch and the bottom of the siding. Without this, the soil/mulch acts as a “wick”, drawing water up to the siding–which will eventually rot. (A not uncommon Issue to be brought up on home Inspections.)
Beyond landscaping, there are three key maintenance tasks that will help you keep on top of water intrusion:
1. Keep gutters and downspouts clear of debris. Overflowing gutters can deposit huge amounts of water right next to the edge of your home, causing pooling in exactly the spot it can cause the most damage. Cleaning gutters out twice a year is a really good idea. And be sure your downspouts are properly attached and that the underground run takes the water far enough away from the house. Four to six feet is the minimum recommended distance; if you can extend beyond that it’s even better.
2. Inspect your foundation regularly and make immediate repairs. Cracks in a home’s foundation are an invitation for leaks and water damage. Visually inspect your home’s foundation both inside and out for any cracks. Small fissures may be treatable with an epoxy solution; larger cracks may require the attention of a professional. Natural cracking over time Is not unusual, and a professional will know If It’s the sort of crack that needs to be addressed, and how.
3. Check your attic and crawl space (basement) regularly for signs of mold or mildew. Sometimes excess moisture results not in pooled water but in the development of mold or mildew. If you see signs (dark or light growth on walls, floors, or ceilings) you should address it immediately. Mold and mildew, left unchecked, will only become worse. Not only can it damage your home, it has the potential to wreak havoc with your health. As with foundation issues, there are some DIY solutions for small problems. However, a professional can likely best assist you in determining the cause of the problem and can help strategize potential solutions to help you protect your home.
Don’t underestimate the potential problems caused by water here in the Pacific Northwest! Take a few moments this winter to assess whether you may need to address a small problem before it blossoms into a bigger (and more costly) situation.
As always, we are here to answer your questions. Please reach out and let us know how we can help!