Kathy Van Mullekom
Newport News Daily Press

Water is good for trees, shrubs and other plants.

It’s not, however, always good for your house, especially when your property stays wet and does not drain properly.

“Water is the No. 1 cause of damage to the homes we live in,” said Jamison Brown of AmeriSpec Home Inspection Service in southeastern Virginia.

“Excessive water around and under the footprint of the home can produce a host of unwanted consequences — fungal growth and structural damage.”

To protect your home, the soil should slope away from the foundation on all sides. Typically, the recommended slope is one inch per foot for at least six feet away from the home.

This rule of thumb is not always possible for hard surfaces like drives and walks. However, with these surfaces, water can keep moving away from the home even if the slope is less.

With the passage of time, the presence of shrubs and outdoor pets can result in a change in the slope around the home, Brown said. ?Homeowners should annually review the ground around the home to ensure gardening activities, installation of mulch or raised beds — and the comfortable spot where your dog lies to rest — have not created a low spot or slope.

If the lot slopes toward a home, a swale, or a shallow ditch, should be installed to prevent surface water from flowing against the foundation. A swale should carry surface water around the home and away on the surface of the soil or to a catch basin that will carry the water via an underground drainage pipe.

A French drain can also help get water into the ground where it can quickly disperse. The drain can be as simple as a huge hole dug and filled with rock, or it can be as sophisticated as a system of interior foundation drains that feed into a sump pump and exterior flow system.

Gutters and downspouts are important means for getting water away from your foundation, especially when the structure does not have substantial overhang. For gutters to function properly, they must be firmly attached to the eave of the roof; all seams must be sealed and the gutters must slope toward the downspout, with a slope of one inch per 17 feet, Brown said.

A good rule of thumb — one downspout should not drain more than 35 feet of gutter. The gutters must be clean to prevent clogging. The gutter downspouts need to be extended away from the home a minimum of four feet, with six feet being preferred. When downspouts are connected to underground drains, it is very important to keep all debris out of the gutters, downspouts and drains.

Air-conditioning units can also create unwanted water-logged areas. Consider extending your unit’s drain pipe to direct extra water away from the foundation and to a gardening area where plants can drink it up.