Home inspection findings by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, Professional Real Estate Inspector TREC# 9073

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Hiding Your Foundation: Where Homeowners and Inspectors Clash

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There seems to be a new rule for foundations among homeowners: they should serve there function, but not be seen. One item that is examined during a home inspection is the small part of the foundation which is actually above ground, so inspectors do want it to be seen, but there is a little more to it than that fact. Is there a way to satisfy both groups? Maybe yes.

Let us begin with why inspectors speak about the grading around the foundation, and their desire to have it exposed. These guidelines have been updated, but many are still going by the older rule. An inspector will note that if you have a brick or masonry exterior, 4 inches of your foundation should be seen. For wood, the code states six inches is necessary. New codes now have these numbers at 6” and 8”. The reason for this exposure is twofold. First, water penetration is the biggest problem for your home. It the soil is coming into contact with the exterior wall covering, water could enter the building by the same means that it is meant to exit it. Each wall covering has a method for letting water drain out of the wall. For a brick wall, you have weepholes. Stucco walls have a screen on the bottom. Wood and aluminum sidings have a space on the bottom row which allows water to drain out. Secondly, pests (mainly termites and ants) use these spaces to gain access to the structure. Termites in particular do not want to be seen, so they do not like travelling through an exposed area. Having the foundation visible will not stop pests, but it does slow them down (only by a bit), and it really makes them easy to spot.

How can you hide the foundation then? Landscapers have developed a solution that takes care of the water penetration, but it does not deal with the pests as well. Here is the idea: Create a channel about six inches away from your foundation wall with a metal edging. Inside the channel place landscaping cloth or some other material that can prevent weeds from growing through it. Place one of those black drains into the channel then. (Note: some people call this a French drain; a French drain is actually the drain at the base of the foundation, and it is quite different). Over all of this, rocks or gravel are placed in the channel. This arrangement will need to be weeded every so often. A more basic idea is to have plantings in front of the foundation. Keeping them away from the foundation, so it cannot be seen from the yard. In both cases, you would have to have garden beds around the entirety of the home. I have never seen this done, however, a thought occurred to me when examining one home recently. The foundation was well exposed, and in the front of the house, garden beds hid this line. In the back yard it was not. This may not be the best solution, but what about paint? If you are painting the trim on your house, you could treat the foundation as trim, or you could paint it to match the color of the exterior wall. Failing that, black paint would cause it to fall into the background.

Those are my ideas. If you truly do not wish to see this bit of cement, just consider that there is a reason behind having it visible. Do you have any other ideas on how it could be hidden, while meeting my inspector conditions?

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© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States

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