The foundation is an extremely important yet often overlooked aspect of your home. It's what keeps your home standing, providing support for the entire structure. If you don't take precautions to properly protect and care for your foundation, it can become cracked, water-damaged, leak, and even change the structure of your home for the worse. Luckily, most foundation issues can be prevented with a little basic home maintenance and know-how. Here are six ways to protect your home's foundation:
Have Your Gutters Cleaned
Your gutters are your first line of defense in protecting your foundation (as well as your roof) from water damage. When clean, they allow snow melt and rain to flow off of your roof and away from your home. Unfortunately, leaves, dirt, and debris easily clog your gutters and render them useless.
The solution is to hire professionals to come perform gutter cleaning. Ideally, you will do this twice a year, once in the late fall (after all the leaves have fallen) and once in the spring (to clear winter storm debris). In addition to these two set times, be sure to keep an eye on your gutters throughout the year and have them cleaned any time they are visibly full of leaves, branches, and debris.
Position Your Gutters and Downspouts Correctly
Once your gutters are clean, you also need to make sure the gutters and downspouts are positioned in such a way that they direct water away from your house, instead of straight down and into your foundation. The next time it rains or snows heavily, take a look at how the water is draining through your gutters and you'll have your answer. You may need to purchase downspout extenders from a home improvement store, which you can install yourself or hire a professional to install.
Ensure the Ground Slopes Away from Your Home
A major cause of water damage to foundations is when your ground slopes toward your home instead of away from it, thus allowing water to flow toward your home and pool around your foundation. One option is to hire a landscape architect to measure the grading of your yard and make corrections as needed, especially if you are already fairly certain there is a slope issue. If you'd rather check it yourself you can measure with a level, making sure the ground slopes approximately six inches downhill and away from your house, for the first ten feet.
Consider Adding French Drains
If you've had issues with basement flooding or other water damage, you may want to add a French drainage system in your yard. These are outdoor drainage systems that funnel water away from your home and through your yard with the help of small trenches. These can be made to be an aesthetically pleasing part of your yard with the help of decorative rocks and other landscaping tricks.
Maintain Even Moisture Levels
Believe it or not, excess water isn't the only culprit behind foundation issues: excessive dryness also contributes. This is because during times of prolonged dryness or drought the ground expands, shifts, and even cracks, which can change the position of your home's foundation. Excessive dryness can also lead to your foundation and exterior walls cracking. An easy preventative measure is to lightly water the ground near your home during times of drought.
Plant Trees Away from Foundation
While it may seem pleasant to have your home closely surrounded by shade trees, trees and foliage can zap all the moisture from the ground near your home and lead to a dried out, cracked foundation. If you aren't sure how close is too close, a good rule of thumb is that if the tree's branches can touch your home, it is too close.
By following these tips, you can rest easy knowing your home's foundation is well taken care of and protected.