Most home inspectors will agree: the number one money-sucking threat to any home isn’t faulty wiring or poor ventilation. It’s not even your spouse constantly nagging about updating the kitchen or knocking down that wall for a more ‘open concept.’ In fact, the biggest and most common threat that’s sure to make you dig into your pockets is – plain and simple – water.

According to the American Insurance Association, “water damage claims have been growing faster than other components of homeowners insurance.” Moreover, about 20 percent of all homeowners’ insurance claims have to do with water damage of some kind. Yet, despite the prevalence of water-related issues and the obvious signs associated with water damage, it can be difficult for homeowners to discern the true cause of such issues.

For instance, recently our inspection team encountered a home with classic signs of water-related issues: this 1972 ranch home in Valparaiso had a musty-smelling basement, with water seepage and effervescence (small bubbles) in the foundation block. Our expert team was able to deduce that the problem was mainly a result of the negative grade and poor lot drainage. However, there was also another smaller issue at play: a leaky gutter and improper downspout extensions in the Northeast corner.

Downspout extensions should discharge water 10 feet from foundation to avoid costly water damage and foundation repairs
The negative grade in this back yard caused an unexpected $22,000 horizontal crack repair

Thankfully, we were able to identify both culprits, and recommended to the homeowner that they back-fill the landscape with additional soil to meet the International Residential Code requirements: “Lots shall be graded to drain surface water away from foundation walls; the grade shall fall not fewer than 6 inches within the first 10 feet.” Of course, we also suggested they find a ladder to fix the gutter.

The Impacts of Negative Grade

The negative impacts of poor lot drainage on a home can be extreme. Over time, water pressure builds and exerts force on a homes foundation. This pressure applied to a poured concrete foundation can cause dangerous horizontal cracking, foundation movement, and be very costly to repair. Block foundations are susceptible to cracking/leaning and can actually hold water for long periods of time causing damage and mold to the wood framing above. Finally, negative grade can contribute to basement water seepage and damage finished spaces and furniture within the home. The money spent on additional backfill and proper grading is minimal and will help you avoid an unexpected $20,000 foundation repair.

Horizontal cracking and leaning block foundation caused by water pressure due to negative grade

When it comes to home inspections, water is never your friend. Our team is well-versed not only in identifying all the signs of water damage, but is also committed to finding the root of the issue, no matter how extensive.