By Duffy Hoffman
In order to know how a house functions, we also need to know how the surrounding landscape affects it. Shrubs, flowers, trees, gardens, and sidewalks—most of which probably weren’t there when the house was originally built—all can contribute to excess moisture that can damage a structure. Many of these landscapes were probably put in place with little to no consideration about how the house functions.
For instance, there are certain plants, shrubs, trees, and ground covers (such as rhododendrons, azaleas, ornamental holly trees, and certain types of boxwood) that grow very slowly and will soak up more water than other species. If you know the foundation of your structure has moisture present, these types of plantings can help you control it naturally.
If replanting isn’t an option, here are some other ways to improve your structure’s moisture content:
1. Downspout leaders: Extend them so they’re several feet from the house to keep water away from the foundation.
2. Garden beds: Make sure they are pitched away from the house to keep excess water from draining toward the foundation.
3. Gutters: Backed-up gutters can cause water to leak onto the house—clean them out to keep it flowing.
4. Soil or mulch: Hard soil or mulch won’t let water drain slowly, so turn soil or mulch near the house yearly.
5. Trees, bushes, and shrubs: Trim them back so there’s at least a body’s distance between the plant and your house, to promote airflow.Published in: Old-House Journal April/May 2012