7 Tips for Protecting Your Home’s Foundation

Gemma Johnstone
Written by Gemma Johnstone
Updated October 21, 2021
gray house exterior
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Routine maintenance keeps your home on sturdy ground

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What do all great things that last have in common? A healthy foundation. You might not be able to see your home’s foundation, but it doesn’t mean it’s something to forget about. Foundation problems can result in major structural issues and costly and invasive repairs. Staying vigilant and routinely checking off a simple maintenance routine can keep your home’s foundation strong. You’re also more likely to spot issues early on before they become serious.

Here are seven tips for protecting your foundation to keep your house safe and structurally sound.

1. Regularly Inspect Your Home for Signs of Problems

Doing a simple walk around your home to check for any obvious signs of foundation problems every few months is a worthwhile exercise. Some issues to look out for include:

  • Pests: Termites, ants, burrowing animals, and rodents can all cause damage to the foundation if left to their own devices.

  • Mold and mildew: Can lead to wood rot. If you have a crawlspace for pier and beam foundation, check this regularly for signs of moisture buildup.

  • Cracks: A small hairline crack at the bottom of your wall can quickly develop into something more serious. If there are also white spots, this could be a sign water infiltration is occurring. Cracked bricks or cracks in your floor can also warrant extra attention and follow-up.

  • Movement: If doors or windows are separating from the wall or your floor becomes uneven, this could be a sign of unwanted movement.

  • Drywall issues: One or two nails popping out of drywall shouldn’t be a cause for concern, but drywall cracking in the walls or ceiling often indicates foundation damage.

2. Don’t Allow Water to Pool

When there’s heavy rain, does water pool on the ground around your foundation? Water expands the soil and puts pressure on the foundation walls. Make necessary landscaping or drainage updates to prevent water from pooling. 

The grading of your yard should always slope away from your home, which prevents runoff water from flowing towards your foundation. As a general guide, you want the grading to be at least 6 inches for every 10 feet. Regrading around your foundation can be an extensive project and is often best left to professionals.

Also, fill in any obvious depressions and, if this doesn’t resolve the issue, have a French drain or a dry well installed by a pro to help get rid of unwanted surface water. Alternatively, you can create a swale channel to guide any gathering water away from the foundation. 

Address interior water problems, as well. If you have a sump pump in your basement, ensure it’s in good working order and can divert water away from your foundation.

3. Inspect and Clean Your Gutters and Downspouts

Damaged or blocked gutters or downspouts can cause water to channel into rather than away from the foundation. Clean your gutters annually to remove leaves and other debris that can cause blockages. Also, check for and fix any cracks, holes, or gaps.

4. Cut Back Plants Growing Against the Side of Your Home

trees and shrubs surrounding home
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Thick, tall shrubs and climbing vines can prevent proper air circulation and trap excess moisture against your home’s walls and foundation. Annually pruning back any overgrown plants growing up against your home is important.

Plant borders far enough away from your home so the soil won’t cover any exposed parts of your foundation. Make sure the grading of the soil slopes away from your home, and consider selecting drought-resistant plant varieties that don’t require frequent watering.

5. Don’t Plant Trees Too Close to Your Home

Trees, with their extensive root systems, absorb many gallons of water every day. When you plant them close to your house, they can soak up the moisture in the soil, causing shrinkage and foundation disturbance. Aggressive root systems can also shift foundation.

Plant small trees at least 10 feet from your home and large ones, ideally, around 20 feet away. If tree branches are extending to touch your house, this is a sign they’re too close.

If you already have a large tree in your yard and removal isn’t possible, you can use a root barrier to prevent aggressive roots from growing towards your home.

6. Keep Exterior House Coverings Clear

A reputable contractor can ensure siding or other exterior coverings are at least 6 inches above the foundation. If debris has shrunk this clearance, clear away as much as possible to prevent moisture from getting in.

7. Be Mindful of How You Water

Although water ingress is generally a bad thing for your foundation, during extended periods of hot and dry weather, too little moisture in the soil can cause it to shrink and lead to movement in your home’s foundation.

By regularly watering your lawn during these dry spells, it can prevent this problem. You want equal moisture balance on all sides of your foundation, so make sure you or your sprinkler system isn’t concentrated on just one section. If you use sprinklers, always make sure there are no pools of water forming. Mulching flower beds can also help retain moisture.

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