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How Proper Yard Grading Protects Your Foundation

Unfortunately, most homeowners don’t know what soil grading is and how it works. But once heavy rain begins to fall and water starts pooling in their yard, they find themselves in shock. This usually leads to flooding in their lower-grade levels and subsequently, damages. Read on as we explain everything you need to know about this concept.

What Is Yard Grading?

Namely, grading describes the incline of the soil surrounding your home and how it relates to the structure. In some ways, it’s similar to the concept of the sea level. One part of your home can be above level and the other below. This means that one side of your yard should be higher than the others.

Professionals use terms like positive and negative grading to explain the effects of such positioning on these buildings and homes. 

Here’s what you need to know about these terms:

  • Positive grading: If your property is positively graded, your home is sitting on the highest point of your yard. The surrounding land slopes away from it and that’s a good thing. This type of grading can save you and your home from flooding and other water-related issues and problems.
  • Negative grading: Having a negative grading means that your home isn’t on the highest point of the yard. This can, unfortunately, cause water to flood towards it when heavy rains set in. You can regrade your yard with professional help. 

How to Check Yard Grading

Grading your yard in time is essential. You want to do it before the rainy season starts. Luckily, it’s not the hardest of jobs to do. You can check the slope in six easy steps and contact professional help afterward.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Drive a straight stake into the ground next to your foundation.
  • Then, tie a thin rope or a string to the top of the stake.
  • Slide the rope/string down the stake and let it rest on the ground.
  • Measure out 10 feet away from the stake and toward the yard.
  • Drive another straight stake into the ground at that point and tie the other end of the rope/string to it (the string and stakes should form a 90-degree angle).
  • Lastly, measure the distance from the string on the second stake to the ground.

If the distance is six inches or more, you’re in the clear.

Signs That Indicate Negative Grading

Since it’s easy to mistake an oversaturated yard for a negative soil grading, here are some common signs to help you out.

  • Muddy soil: If your yard has negative grading, the roots of the plants close to your lower-grade levels will rot. The pores and gaps in the ground will be full of water.
  • Drainage issues: This is pretty obvious. Still, if you spot water in your basement or crawl space, you can immediately suspect you have a negative grading. In this case, it’s key to act immediately as you’ll face serious problems soon enough.
  • Mosquitoes: Although it might sound silly, mosquitoes can be a clear sign that the grading on your property is negative. Since there’s pooling water in the yard, mosquitos will flock to it because they love humidity.
  • Rotting grass: A negative grading can also cause damage to the grass. If you suddenly realize there’s rotting grass around your home, be sure to inspect the slope of the ground.

Counteracting a Negative Yard Grade

exterior drain pipe installation

With professional help, you can counteract the effects of negative grading on your yard. You can, of course, hire a landscaping company to re-grade your property. 

Essentially, grading is all about the gradient slope of your yard. If it’s more than six inches, you have nothing to worry about. This means that you have more than enough slope and your home and its lower-grade level are safe enough. However, if the slope is less than those six inches, you should think about altering it by regrading your yard.

Adjusting the slope around your home is also important as it affects the drainage. You can create one by adding fill around the perimeter of your home and tamping it down.

However, there are a few other solutions that do not require just an extensive effort as re-grading. You can have a catch basin installed, for example. With it, you’ll be able to successfully redirect water away from your home. This is a drainage system with a grate cover that blends with its surroundings and your lawn. Moreover, it can improve your yard’s curb appeal.

Aside from the catch basin, you can have your gutters and downspouts inspected. This is pretty important since water and melting snow come down from your roof. If the gutters and downspouts don’t work properly, they’ll allow water to pool next to the base of your home. 

Call Foundation Systems of Michigan for Foundation Waterproofing

Don’t shy away from waterproofing your basement or crawl space. This can make a world of difference when the rainy season starts. With proper installation, waterproofing elements will keep your lower-grade levels dry and safe. Although it won’t improve the grading, it will still prevent the slope from endangering your home.

Your best solution is to contact the professionals at FSM. Our team serves the Detroit area, Grand Rapids, Traverse City, and surrounding areas in Michigan. Once you schedule a free inspection and estimate, the team will come to assess the situation and recommend the best waterproofing solutions for your home’s repair needs.

Yard Grading FAQs

The best thing any homeowner can do for their foundation is make sure they have a positive yard grade. Properties can have either a positive or negative yard grade. To have a positive yard grade is to have a yard that slightly slopes downward so that any water that falls on your yard naturally flows away from your house. A negative yard grade means that water flows toward your home because of the way the overall area is sloped. Having a negative yard grade contributes to hydrostatic pressure which damages your foundation faster.

Having a negative yard grade means you have serious drainage problems on your hands. The most obvious sign of a negative yard grade is water pooling all around your property that only goes away when it evaporates. This is not only annoying to deal with as a homeowner because of the puddles of water, but it also spells trouble for your foundation because the soil absorbs all that water, expands, shrinks, and accelerates settling. Apart from all the waterproofing installations, making sure you have a positive yard grade is just as important.

If you’re not entirely sure what grade your yard is, it’s worth looking into. If your yard has a negative grade, there’s a high probability that your foundation walls are crumbling under the weight of hydrostatic pressure. You can call a landscaping company to assess your yard, and if it turns out that your yard is graded negatively, you can always re-grade it. Depending on how bad the yard grade is, re-grading can either mean landscaping the entire yard or only small portions of it. Either way, it’s worth it if you want to protect your foundation and avoid future settling problems.

When homes are first constructed, it’s generally recommended that downspouts drain water about 10 ft. away from the foundation. The further away that water flows, the safer your home is from damage. This can be achieved by installing downspout extensions, drainage systems, or ensuring that your yard’s grade slope is negative. This simply means that whenever it rains or the snow begins to melt, any water will flow away from your home and not toward it.  

Having water in the basement is something that every homeowner would gladly avoid. After all, standing water can cause various problems, from health issues to structural issues. Here are several ways you can make sure this kind of problem never happens again. 

Install a Sump Pump System 

If you already have a sump pump and you are not happy with it, do now worry. Not all pumps are created equal, and over the last decade, they have drastically evolved. Nowadays, they are more reliable than ever, and you can forget about plastic ones that easily overheat. At Foundation Systems of Michigan, we only offer high-quality products that are designed to last. With our cast-iron/cast-aluminum Pro Series sump pumps you can rest assured that having water in your basement is a thing of the past. 

Our pumps come with dual float switch protection. The float switch is extremely reliable and will not jam. Pro Series sump pumps are built to run non-stop and come with a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty. 

Install an Interior Drainage System 

Investing in an exterior drainage system is not recommended if you have already moved into your home. This type of system should be installed while the house is still in construction since it involves a lot of excavation and heavy machinery. In addition, this system is prone to clogging issues, so it can let you down when you need it the most. 

On the other hand, an interior drain system can be installed in just one day. Since it sits on top of the footing away from soil and roots, it won’t get clogged. At Foundation Systems of Michigan, we offer our AquaStop® Drainage System made from strong and durable materials. Instead of pooling on your basement floor, any water that seeps in through the walls or the cove joint will get directed into the sump pit. This drainage system is positioned along the basement floor and keeps the basement dry without loss of valuable space. 

Keep Your Gutters in Mint Condition 

Gutters are probably the most underrated part of any waterproofing system. They are simple yet highly effective and keep your home and foundation safe from water damage. Their main task is to direct rainwater away from your home, so it doesn’t pool around your home, increasing hydrostatic pressure in the soil around the foundation. 

Over time, gutters can start to crack and deteriorate. They can also get damaged by nearby branches. Furthermore, gutters can get clogged with leaves, dirt, and debris. Inspecting them annually and making sure everything is in order can help you avoid a lot of expensive repairs. 

Leah Leitow

Leah Leitow

Content Writer

Leah is a Content Writer for Groundworks with nearly ten years of experience working in the foundation repair industry. Her experience ranges from working with homeowners to find the right solution to training inspectors and staff. In her background as a Michigan journalist, she gained invaluable insight into people's lives throughout our state. Leah lives in metro Detroit with her husband and two sons.

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