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Water – The Enemy of Your Home
Water is an essential part of life, right? Right! Without it you will die in a few days. So why is the enemy of your house? Water is one of nature’s most powerful solvents. Given enough time, it will dissolve almost anything. It is also a stable part of life for many flora and fauna that invade your home. Things like mold, fungus, termites and other insects need it or allow its presence to destroy your home sooner or later.
In your home, it will bleed paint, stain siding, bond brick and stone mortar, corrode metal flashings designed to prevent water ingress, soften your foundation soil, wash away your foundation and retaining walls, and more. it washes away structures or saturates hills, which causes landslides. The list is extensive and none of its effects are good.
In my home inspection business and my infrared thermography business, water interference is the enemy. That’s what I’m looking for.
The number one “issue” or defect I see during an inspection is improper drainage or environmental water control around the facility. These defects cause millions of soums of damage every year. Surprisingly, it is usually easily controlled. Why not? For most people, it’s a lack of understanding of the whole problem.
The best conditions for its drainage is to have a structure on top of a hill. Although not always possible, the same conditions can be created artificially. This is done through a process known as ‘grading’. Grading is simply moving the soil around the structure to create an area away from the structure. Current grading standards require a 2% slope (1/4 inch per foot) within 10 feet of the building. Depending on the conditions of the lot, this can be easy or more involved. On some lots, aggressive use of underground drains (called “french drains”) or construction of artificial “drains” or ditches, often lined with concrete, to direct water around and away from the footings. While more aggressive measures like French drains and gutters can be expensive, the payoff is that your home won’t sink into softened soil that creates intractable drainage problems.
Drains and pipes
There is no drain at home? So what’s the big deal? Importantly, every 1,000 square feet of roofing area absorbs 625 gallons of water for every inch of rain that falls on it. Where do you think this rainwater goes? Right from the roof to the ground about 12 inches from your foundation! Wondering why your foundation is settling and your doors no longer open freely or you have water in your basement? Not having the right gutters is probably the problem.
One mistake I often see is that there are actually gutters on the house, but the gutters drain all the collected water right into the very fine planting next to the foundation and collect it there. Duh! A simple fix; Install a “rain leader” or extension in the bottom hole to direct water from the planter to the area where it drains from the foundation. In many new construction homes that I look at, they actually install a downspout/drain to take the runoff from the downspouts and direct it to the curb. This is called “sidelighting”. A very good idea, but not always possible. In extreme conditions, such as back slopes away from the street, the drainage system can be diverted to a “pump” collector system that carries the water back to the street for disposal in the storm drainage system.
What to do to simply divert the drainage from the property? Maybe, but usually not a good solution. Most jurisdictions do not allow you to turn your problem over to someone else and simply allow your drain to flow onto their property. If the natural surface of the land causes water to flow from your property to another property, this is usually permitted. This is Mother Nature at work and she hasn’t read the rule book. Artificially creating these conditions with a built-up drainage system is a No No!
What is “glow”? (No, it’s not going without clothes on the football field!)
According to RS Means© Illustrated Dictionary of Construction:
Shine; A thin, permeable sheet placed in construction to prevent water ingress or direct water flow. Flashing is especially used in roofs and valleys, roof penetrations, joints between roof and vertical wall, around windows and doors and stone walls to direct the flow of water and moisture.
As you can see, this is a very important part of the protection system of any structure. Improperly installed, corroded, or damaged flashings can cause hidden damage to the interior of walls until much damage is visible. Damaged or missing flashings provide very hospitable conditions for mold and termites.
Obviously, as the first line of defense to keep you and your home dry, roofs get the short end of the stick when properly maintained.
Let me say here that ROOFS REQUIRE REGULAR MAINTENANCE!
Surprised? This is a fact. There are a few things you need to do to ensure you get the longest, most trouble-free life out of your roof.
- Inspect your roof annually and make sure there are no areas of concern such as damaged or rusted flashing.
- Check for cracked, dislodged (slipped) tiles, wind damage, snow/ice damage, cracked clay or concrete tiles.
- Bottles of aging composition showing loss of granular layer, deteriorated “foot” caps. (these go first)
- Covers or hoods are not smoked. (wind fairies steal them)
- No smoke hood or spark arrester with proper rain cover.
- Debris build-up is a build-up of moisture that deteriorates roofing and flashing faster.
In short, water can be your friend or your enemy. Like most things, if you don’t control it, it can cause problems.
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