Improper drainage can compromise a property’s structural integrity, including the foundation and sheetrock inside. It can also contribute to basement flooding and roof rot. Water damage can quickly lead to mold growth, which is a health hazard. However, if the soil around your foundation dries out, you could also be in major trouble. Getting water to flow in the right direction at your property can be crucially important in preventing catastrophic damage.
Water Issues: Above Ground
Keeping your property’s top weather barrier in shape can help eliminate the risk of water damage inside your property.
Roof & Attic
Using binoculars is a safe way to get a preliminary view of your roof’s condition. If your roof has a steep pitch you may want to call in a professional to do an assessment. Look for nail pops, broken or worn-out shingles, and wood rot. You may be able to replace just a few shingles that are curling, buckling, or cracking, but if you have a lot of damage it may be time for a new roof! Don’t forget to check the flashing around skylights, pipes, and chimneys for gaps or leaks.
As for the attic, the underside of your roof will need to be examined too. Look for sagging areas and stains or dark spots, which could indicate an ongoing leak. Make sure you don’t see any light peeking through. Other potential indicators of roof trouble are cracked paint, wall discoloration, or peeling wallpaper throughout the property’s interior.
You should regularly clean gutters and downspouts, and when trees start to shed their leaves, clean them even more often. Make sure all property drainage areas are cleared of leaves and debris. After you have removed any visible buildup, flushing the gutter with a garden hose or bucket of water can help you check the flow. Downspouts at the bottom of your gutter system should be at least 3 feet long to direct water away from your foundation. When you check your downspouts, check the grading near your property’s foundation too. According to the International Code Council, a lot’s grade should fall a minimum of 6 inches within the first 10 feet away from the foundation.
Water Issues: Ground Level
As we head deep into the summer, the ground can get pretty parched. Even if you started out with the perfect slope to shed water away, your dehydrated lawn can pull away from the foundation, causing settling issues, cracking, and even flooding, when the area finally does receive a good rain again. When the soil rehydrates, it expands and doesn’t always lift the foundation up evenly, which can cause sloping floors, windows, doors to fit improperly, and even broken pipes.
Properly planting shrubs and flowers around the base of your foundation can help retain moisture and shade the area to keep it from drying out. Watering the foundation is perhaps the most effective method for alleviating damaging drought conditions, just be sure to adhere to any watering restrictions in your area. If you notice any signs of foundation issues, call in a foundation repair specialist to assess the damage. Don’t wait, as foundation issues only get worse over time, and any repair costs are often excluded by property insurance.
Garden Hoses, Sprinklers, and Outside Faucets
If it gets below freezing in your area, turning off the valves to the exterior hose bibs and draining the pipes until empty can prevent damage to the pipes or stop them from bursting. If you have an in-ground irrigation system, it will need the same attention. Drain and put away garden hoses and sprinklers so they are not harmed by harsh winter weather. To save energy and prevent them from freezing, also wrap water pipes that run along exterior walls with heating tape.
If you have a pool, be sure you winterize it properly. If doing it for the first time, you may want to call in a pro. Making sure the pool’s cover is properly secured will keep not only debris and animals out, but is also important to prevent accidental injuries.
Plumbing Systems of Vacant Properties
This is VERY Important – Turn off the water and fully drain the plumbing systems at your VACANT properties. This can save you money any time of year as thieves can cause extensive water damage when they break in and remove copper pipes and other valuable plumbing fixtures. They may only get $200 worth of copper, but it could easily cost you $10,000 or more in repairs.
Water Issues: Below Ground
One of the biggest problems with extended heavy rainfall is the backup of sewer drains. Though spring is the typical time to address concerns with sewer lines and septic tanks, ongoing attention to these areas can help you keep a dry basement during summer storms, protecting your HVAC system and water heater.
Sewer System & Sump Pumps
A sump pump is only useful if it’s in good working condition so it’s crucial to keep it ship shape! Set a regular schedule to remove accumulated dirt and debris and ensure that float and check valves are both still moving freely. Portable pumps should be positioned in the lowest part of the basement and connected to a power source. To test your sump pump, simply pour a bucket of water into the sump pit and ensure the water is pumped out and away from your property; it shouldn’t pool in uneven terrain or run back toward your foundation. Sump pumps eventually require replacement, but a regular maintenance schedule can ensure that you don’t get caught out in the rain, pun intended.
If you have below-grade basement windows, installing window well covers can help keep out rain, leaves, and pests. Choosing a clear acrylic cover will allow light to enter, just be sure they fasten securely to your home’s foundation.
We know there’s a lot to keeping your property, especially the drainage, in good condition, so to make it easier we have summarized our top maintenance items in our seasonal checklists for you. For this season, check out the Fall Maintenance Checklist. Lastly, the next time you or your property manager make a scheduled maintenance visit, inspect the areas we discussed above so that drainage issues can remain a non-issue in your investing life.