Improper Landscape Grade
By Pete Busch
A very common defect found during a typical home inspection is high grade. High grade when your yard is too high where it meets the side of your house. In most cases this problem is caused by the homeowner adding too much fill or landscape material next to their home not realizing their causing a future problem.
Your basement foundation walls are typically concrete block or poured concrete. At the top of the foundation walls is where your wood framing starts. To find where this transition takes place all you have to do is look outside at the bottom of your siding. This is typically where the wood framing starts. As a rule of thumb you want to keep the grade of your yard six inches or more below that point, or you should see at least six inches or more of your concrete foundation wall, while having your yard slope away from your house. In some cases this is difficult to achieve. If your house has this problem then I suggest you consult with a landscape contractor to discuss what options you have to improve this situation.
Below are some pictures illustrating what can happen. These were taken while performing a home inspection in Crystal Minnesota.
This is a picture of the exterior side of the detached garage, as you can see the wood siding goes right into the ground, (not to mention other issues with this siding). This is plywood panel siding and of all types of siding this is NOT the type of siding you want coming in contact with the ground. You can’t see it in this picture but the siding is buried about three inches into the wood chip covered ground.
This is a picture of that same area of the garage from the inside. The yellow tool is a moisture meter indicating the siding is very wet. Notice the red light on the moisture meter. The digital reading indicates the wood is at sixty two percent moisture which is very high. This wood is still in tact but will rot out soon, total siding replacement will be needed. Since this wall is open to the air on the inside it will get a chance to dry out, imagine if this was a finished wall that would trap the moisture. Mold would certainly be an issue, keep reading.
This is a picture from the same house except this one shows a high grade at the actual house. As you can see from the moisture meter this siding is also wet just like the garage. What you can’t see is the other side of this wall is the living room which obviously has a finished wall. Although there were not any visual signs of moisture from the inside there was a strong mildew smell. In my world mildew is mold. One limitation of a home inspection is that I cannot rip open walls however I can recommend further intrusive testing be performed. This house was tested for mold and came back positive. The interior wall had to be opened up to remove the mold and rebuilt, this is a very costly endeavor.
Its my belief that a lot of people will just live with a problem like this which is a very unhealthy choice. Home owners have enough problems to deal with throughout the natural aging process of a home. Do not create extra problems for yourself. High grade is a very common problem and should be taken very seriously when landscaping around your home. Go out and do a walk around the perimeter of your home now for a quick inspection.
Minnesota Home Inspector