When you’re on the market for a new home, don’t fall in love with how it looks. Instead, run a full gamut of tests that measure the house’s structural quality and the quality of its systems. Even if you can’t schedule an appointment with a foundation expert, there are a few ways to check if a house has foundation problems just waiting to emerge. One way is to check if the floor is level. The other is to look for signs of bad drainage.
Keep an eye out for these three signs of poor drainage on the property:
1. The house is downhill.
There’s something picturesque about a house on a hill. But it means water running down the slope will pool against at least one side of the house unless you actively prevent it. Houses built on a downhill slope need to have carefully maintained lawns and drainage systems that divert the runoff around the foundation. So if your prospective next home is on a slope, make sure that the previous owner was on top of that maintenance. Also be sure that you’re willing to keep it going.
2. The grass and soil around the house aren’t uniform.
If the soil around the edge of the property’s foundation is pitted or has smooth chunks carved out of the surface, that usually indicates the gutters aren’t doing their job. There may be missing downspouts at those spots, the gutters might be clogged, or there could just be a pocket of extra loamy soil. No matter what the reason is, uneven, pocked soil around the foundation line means the previous owner hasn’t been paying attention.
3. The crawlspace smells musty.
Nobody likes going into a crawlspace, even under the best of circumstances. But if you’re looking at a home with a pier and beam foundation, you need to make sure that the space is in good condition. One of the simplest tests to look for bad drainage is to open the door and smell the air. A little bit of mustiness is to be expected. But if you are hit by a wave of mildew and rot, it might be time to walk away.
If poor drainage is a problem but you like the house anyway, call in a foundation expert to take a look. We can offer recommendations or an estimate for future repairs.