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Maintaining a Good Grade Around Your House

Posted by on Jul. 16, 2013 at 6:06 PM
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  • How your house is sited—where it sits on its lot and how the land slopes around it—is important in keeping basements dry. Improper grading—that is, ground that doesn't correctly slope away from the foundation—can allow excessive amounts of groundwater to collect in the soil around basement walls. The ground should slope away from the foundation of your house for several feet at a grade of at least 1 inch per foot. It is improperly sloped if it is level or angles toward the house. Unfortunately, all of the following can easily affect grade:

  • Incorrectly installed landscaping. Foundation beds should follow the original grade of site, not slope toward the house.

  • Soil compaction. The soil used to back-fill around foundations settles over the years. As it does, grading can flatten or even begin to slope toward the foundation.

  • Soil erosion.

  • Wind and water can cause soil erosion, also resulting in flat or negative grades.

It's easy to check the grade around your house. You'll need a level and a flat, straight piece of thin plywood or metal that won't sag. Here's what you do:

  1. Put the piece of wood or metal on the ground next to the house. Remove any decorative rock or mulch—you want to take the measurement on bare ground, as water flows right through rock or mulch.

  2. Place the level on the wood or metal, perpendicular to the house. Raise the lower end of the level until the bubble centers on the indicator.

  3. Measure the height between the end of the level furthest from the house and the ground. This will tell you how many inches of drop there is from the house.

As mentioned, the ground should slope away from the house for several feet at a grade of at least 1 inch per foot. As an example, if you're using a 3-foot level, there should be a 3-inch difference between the two ends of the level. This may not seem like much, but it's all you need to keep water away from your house.



 

by on Jul. 16, 2013 at 6:06 PM
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Destiny846
by on Jul. 16, 2013 at 6:07 PM

Dirt Fixes

If you come up with anything less than an inch of drop per foot, you'll need to fix the grade around your house. This can be as simple as filling a few small depressions, but it can also call for more extensive work. If it's just a few depressions, you can fill them yourself if you have enough soil.

It will probably take more than a few bags of dirt from the home and garden store, so you might want to call a nursery or landscaping supply house and order a delivery of clean fill. When it arrives, shovel it into the holes until they're slightly more than full. If you're expecting rain, simply leave them alone. If you're not, water them down. Check back in a few days. If the holes are still lower than the surrounding ground, add more fill.

More extensive work will require some earth-moving equipment at a minimum. You might have to consult with an excavation contractor or a landscape company that does grading.

Pavement Fixes

If there's pavement such as a sidewalk or driveway right next to your house, it also has to slope correctly. If it doesn't, you'll need to correct the grade. There are several ways to do this:

  • Replace the pavement. This is the most expensive alternative, but one to consider if sidewalks and/or driveways are in poor condition.

  • Mud-jacking. This process is pretty much what the name implies. It involves drilling holes every few feet into the pavement and injecting grout (mud )through them at high pressure so that the concrete plate can be lifted and releveled. This can only be done by a professional.

  • Add another layer of pavement next to the house to reverse the slope. Make sure the new layer is at least 2 inches thick (3 is preferable). Anything less will crack fairly quickly.

If you choose the last approach, be sure to seal all joints and cracks in both surfaces—old and new. If you don't, water could penetrate them and end up where you don't want it—in your basement.




 

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