3 of 52: Playing In The Dirt

Every Friday I post an idea or project to enhance your house now with an eye to selling down the road someday.

Dirt and shovelApril showers may bring May flowers, but sometimes they bring wet basements too.

There are a lot of reasons why basements flood and just as many remedies, but there is one that is relatively inexpensive and worth doing – regrading the dirt around the foundation of your house. Even if you still end up needing a more expensive solution to your wet basement, regrading is a good idea. You don’t want water sitting up against the foundation ever.

Ideally, the dirt around the foundation should slope away from your house. But over time, pockets develop where the dirt has settled and when it rains, water just sits there. You should aim for a slope of at least 1″ per foot going out six to 10 feet away from the house, being careful not put pack dirt directly against wood siding.

Years ago, we started having small amounts of water in the basement after a heavy rain. I actually learn stuff from all the home inspections I attend and realized that the dirt around the house actually sloped towards the house – a big no-no.

So we ordered an enormous amount of fill dirt from DC Materials. (I would say “we”, but my husband actually did all the work.) He cleared the plantings out of the gardens around the house, then started putting dirt around the foundation, being careful to slope it away from house, using the inch-per-foot formula. We bought a tamper, which is a heavy tool used to tamp down the dirt, and used it to compact the dirt.

The whole project took several weekends, because we did it all the way around the house. It was worth every sore muscle that Joseph had, because it completely solved our moisture-in-the-basement problem.

We also had to extend the downspouts so that they didn’t dump water next to the house and un-do all of Joseph’s hard work.

An added benefit was how much better the garden looked when we were done. Like I said, this was years ago. I walked around the house a week or so ago and can see that we need to do some minor work here and there to maintain the grade.

Each Friday I’ll post a new “52 things to do now that will improve your resale value/chances later.” Why do them now? Because you’ll enjoy your house more. Let’s face it – if you don’t do it now, you’ll pay for it later – either because you’ll have to do it as part of your preparing the house for sale, or if you don’t do it at all, you’ll pay for it in your sales price. (Tip: buyers always discount a problem more than it actually costs to fix.) Why not enjoy the benefits of your labor now? What is the second most-common comment I hear when I list properties -after the prep work has been done to put the house on the market? “I wish we’d done this a long time ago -we love it!”

© 2011 Susan Pruden. All rights reserved.

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1 Response to 3 of 52: Playing In The Dirt

  1. MDSuburbs says:

    All I have to say is that I hope you're very nice to Joesph. He did a hell of a lot of work. It's all worth it, of course, but a ton of work.

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