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Grading And Drainage: "Negative Drainage Conditions"

Grading is essential to a house and home inspector reports often say something like, "Negative drainage conditions."

What is a "negative drainage condition?" 

ANY GRADING THAT DOES NOT ENCOURAGE WATER AWAY FROM THE HOUSE STRUCTURE.

Here is what I say on EVERY report, whether the grading needs attention or not:

"Grading/drainage:  be sure that any surface water or downspout discharge drains easily and well away from the house – a good rule of thumb for soil grading is a slope of 6” in the first 4’ of run away from the house, and 1” of slope for every 4’ of run away from the house thereafter."

Why do I say that on EVERY report?  SO THE CLIENT SEES IT!  I think the report should be educational as well as informational.  And that is GOOD information in anyone's book!

But why?

Certainly this kind of cracking is due to settlement.  The crack is evident on the left just under the vent, and it continues for many feet to the left.  The crack on the right begins at the corner and it continues for many feet to the left.

These are both on the same side of the house.  The house is 45 years old, and has a concrete masonry unit (concrete block) foundation.

I also noticed that the two downspouts on that side of the house had been recently extended to divert gutter water further from the house.  Also, there was soil banked recently against the house.  How did I know this is fresh soil?  Because it was very dark, like out of a bag from the garden center, and a different color from the soil 6' from the house.  IT WAS ADDED RECENTLY.

The key word in both those clues is RECENTLY.  Obviously these sellers had gotten some solid advice from someone about water diversion and "negative drainage conditions."

But the damage had been done.  Years of "negative drainage conditions" had created a foundation problem, about which nothing was done.

My recommendation:  there is a cause and effect when cracking like what is seen above is present on a house.  Sometimes it is obvious and sometimes it requires professional evaluation.  But grading and drainage are so essential to a house, they should always be the belle of the ball when looking at properties.  WATER IS THE KILLER OF HOUSES.  Be sure that water is diverted AWAY from the house.  Be sure...

 


Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 26 commentsJay Markanich • December 30 2011 08:54AM

Comments

Jay - Improper drainage is often the most significant problem in a home, and few homeowners are aware of the potential for damage.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 6 years ago

That's why I say it is the "belle of the ball" John!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Excellent timing ... I've noticed that birds have kicked dirt and mulch towards my foundation and it needs to be moved back where it belongs. That is one nasty crack!

Posted by Cynthia Larsen, Independent Broker Serving Sonoma County, CA (Safe Haven Realty) over 6 years ago

That was some nasty cracking Cynthia, and in more than one place!  But all water related.  I have to confess to never seeing birds kick dirt!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay, thank you once again for some real solid facts.  Water can do so much damage!

Posted by Jo Olson, HOMEFRONT Realty @ LAKE Roosevelt - Stevens County (HOMEFRONT Realty) over 6 years ago

Thanks Jo.  Water is insidious and very patient and a real damaging element.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay-Living in the northwest we see lots of damage to house caused by not keeping water out of the walls and foundations. Good stuff.

 

Best

Posted by Adrian Willanger, Profit from my two decades of experience (206 909-7536 AdrianWillanger-broker.com) over 6 years ago

Adrian - you have water up there?

Actually my son lives in Seattle and I happen to know there is water here and there!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay -- so they have worked on keeping the problem from getting worse.  What were they going to do to fix the problems that had already arisen?  I would think that could get to be expensive.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 6 years ago

They had done nothing Steven!  But they did recognize a problem and found out how to correct the cause.  What happened after that I don't know.  I think the house was not purchased!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay, This can be a huge issue with homes. The State of Washington will be designating negative grades around the home as a conducive condition to WDI/WDO. They have a freeze on any amendments but will be in the next cycle.

I call on all inspections because sometimes the long term effect may not be immediately apparent but it is a bit of playing with fire.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay, as you mentioned, drainage is such an important issue, and in almost all cases, very fixable...

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 6 years ago

Don - I expect they would consider it a conducive condition!  And playing with fire for sure!

Chris - the grading is easy to remedy, but any associated problems may not be!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay- especially is proper drainage needed for clay (expansive) soil sense  movement in that type can be substantial. Nice clear pictures, really drives home your point. 

Posted by Eric Middleton, Professional Property Inspector (Closer Look Property Inspections Inc.) over 6 years ago

Gracias mi amigo Eric.  When it gets real dry, clay soils separate from the house.  That leaves a gap.  When it rains and that gap fills with water and the clay expands again, it forces that water into the house.  We have expansive soils here and that may be one contributing factor in this house's foundation problems.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

  Almost without exception, every inspection report we see has reference to pitching the landscape...adding extensions ...drain drain drain.....and it is part of our home maintenance checklist to have this done to our own home annually...more top soil and stone to keep the water where it belongs.  Just wanted too to say HAPPY HEALTHY PROSPEROUS 2012 !  All the best..Hansons Both

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 6 years ago

Thanks Hansons Both!  Those reports mention it because it is a common problem and very important.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Revisited a home yesterday after a substantial rain the evening before. I had called out drainage issues in the report. Well they were very apparent in the basement on this day. I again reminded the buyer, I hope he heeds the advice. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

What else can you do Jim?  Let them who have ears to hear, hear!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Hey, Jay! 

I included this post in Last Week's Favorites.  Have a Happy New Year!

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Good time of year to correct drainage before the freeze sets in, I reblogged and suggested, thanks for the excellent post.

Posted by Mary Macy, Top Agents Atlanta Metro (Top Agents Atlanta Metro) over 6 years ago

Thank you Pat!  And the happy stuff backatcha!

Thanks Mary.  You are right about the time of year, but it's always good to correct drainage!  Thanks for the reblog!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay, thanks for the post, as real estate agents we need to keep our eyes open, Happy New Year.

Posted by David Popoff, Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct (DMK Real Estate ) over 6 years ago

Thanks David.  And keep them wide open!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay, 

One of the first things that catches my husband's attention about any house is the drainage.  He never wants to be the lowest yard around where all of the water will automatically gravitate to!  

Good gutters are so worth the money in taking water away from a house.  Having water cause structural issues is very costly.

All the best, Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) over 6 years ago

All true Michelle.  You get a Gold Star for the day.  You are probably used to that, though.

And your husband is a smart guy!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

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