Early detection of moisture problems can preserve a home's foundation

Many home maintenance tasks are obvious, because you can see signs of wear and tear like peeling paint or crumbling sidewalks. But it’s easy to forget about one of the most important components of your home: the foundation.

The foundation is the most important structure in any home, because everything else depends on it. Major repairs can be expensive, so preventative maintenance is essential. Following are some ways to preserve the integrity of your home’s foundation.

1. Analyze the perimeter of your home

Periodically inspect the perimeter of your home to check for any warning signs. Look for obvious signs of damage like cracked cinder blocks or split bricks, or mortar that has separated from blocks or bricks.

2. Limit surrounding clutter

Bushes, tall grass and other debris can inhibit air circulation around your home’s foundation, causing moisture to accumulate near the foundation. Ideally, plants should be at least six inches away from your home’s exterior. When planting shrubs or flowers, keep in mind that many plants will grow to be significantly larger. When you fail to plan for that growth, mature plants may end up resting against your home. Also avoid planting trees too close to your home. Tree roots seek-out moisture, which naturally tends to accumulate around your home’s foundation, meaning roots could exert pressure on – or even start to infiltrate – your home’s foundation.

Consider planting ground cover near your home, as it’s known for its ability to regulate moisture levels.

3. Keep an eye on moisture levels during dry weather

While excessive moisture is bad for your foundation, soil needs some degree of moisture. During the summer or other extended dry periods, soil can dry-out and shrink away from your foundation, causing instability. Keep soil moist by spraying it with the garden hose regularly until the dry spell is over. Water about 18 inches away from the foundation.

4. Clean the gutters

Did you know you could save tens of thousands of dollars in foundational damage and thousands more in repairs to finished basements by simply cleaning out your gutters twice per year? The purpose of gutters to begin with is to redirect precipitation from the roof to the ground without affecting the foundation. However, when debris builds-up in gutters, they become less effective at redirecting water. The result is water spilling over and dripping around the perimeter of your house, and subsequent foundational damage. In addition to regularly cleaning your gutters, you can ensure downspouts empty at least 10 feet away from your home's foundation, and replace dented or rusted downspouts.

Every home has different considerations when it comes to protecting against water damage. Factors like climate, age and the home's surroundings all play a role in determining what actions you should take to contribute to a safer and better-maintained foundation. While you should continue to monitor conditions in and around your home for signs of excess moisture, it’s a good idea to schedule a professional inspection if you believe your foundation may be deteriorating. As with most home maintenance problems, early detection can help prevent costly repairs in the future.