How can poor landscaping decisions affect your foundation?

- Wednesday, March 02, 2022

On the 14th hole of a local golf course, a house is being built on the side of a hill. The street level is even with the top of the second story, just to give you an idea of the slope.  That could be a problem if the builders don’t figure out a way to divert the water run-off. Adam explains the ramifications of poor landscape design when it comes to foundations.

Narrator: It’s time once again for the “Crack Man Podcast” hosted by A1 Foundation Crack Repair. I’m Darren Kincaid here with the Crack Daddy himself, Adam Tracy. Adam and The Crack Man Rich have over 30 years’ experience in the construction industry. Rich as over 25 years as the president and founder of A1 Foundation Crack Repair. This podcast provides expert basement waterproofing, concrete repair, and preventative maintenance tips for homeowners and businesses. A1 Foundation’s valuable insight will help avert a disastrous flood within the basement, health problems associated with water infiltration, and protect your biggest investment….your home. The topic of today’s podcast: How can poor landscaping decisions affect your foundation?

Narrator: So Adam, I’m watching this house being built on the 14th hole of my local golf course and it literally is being built on the side of a hill, the street levels even with the top of the second story, just to give you an idea of the slope. I’m guessing there could be a problem if they don’t figure out a way to divert that water runoff, am I right?

Adam: Yeah, that would be a case where you would definitely need to look at exterior work to make sure that water doesn’t just run right down and into the foundation area. And not only could you just have an excessive amount of water piling up on that wall and getting into flaws in the foundation, but it’s also going to present issues, potentially structurally as you’re having additional loads coming into the foundation from up top there, so it’s definitely an issue where you need to consider the actual landscape of the home around there.

Another thing that we get into where you have landscaping issues is actually the types of landscaping products that you have in and around the foundation, whether it’s trees and shrubs and bushes and what not. And most people don’t think that plantings are going to become an issue, or the way their garden bed is going to become an issue on the foundation of their home, because, why would you? Right? But we see it quite often, most often where we see an issue with people having water coming into their basement. And after some investigation with the clients, usually we end up asking them, since it doesn’t seem like there’s a foundation issue necessarily here, can you go outside and maybe we can take some photos or maybe a video of the exterior area.

One of the things that a lot of people will do is they’ll bring their mulch bed extremely high on the foundation, most foundations are going to need a little bit of a relief on the outside, anywhere from 18-24 inches of concrete shelling typically, or foundation wall shelling so that way you’re not having the wood structure of the house too close to the ground. But in some landscaping choices and maybe your landscape contractor decided to do something differently, sometimes having only 1, 2, 3 inches of relief can be common in certain homes or certain areas.

So why is that a problem? Well, it may not present an immediate problem to the foundation itself, what tends to happen is that water accumulates in this area, whether you have snow piles that can melt down, or if we have an extreme rain event, or you have a lot of water runoff collecting in this area. It may not come directly through the foundation, but it can come over the top of the foundation, and under the siding, and under where the sill plate meets the foundation. So whether you have a concrete or stone or block foundation, it’s really critical to look at the exterior landscaping design to make sure that you have enough foundation wall showing.

Not only can you get water issues where water can come up and over the top of the foundation, you can get wood rots. Obviously, wood rots are very dangerous and expensive issue to fix, it can ruin the sill plate, it can ruin the ceiling and also the siding, depending on what materials they’re using. And one thing that people don’t usually think about but is a very big cause of this will be insect infiltration, so when you don’t have a whole lot of ground relief and you have a moist environment because water is getting up and underneath onto the wood, that’s an open invitation to insects.

So a lot of these problems that we look at, not a lot but a fair amount where you have water coming up really high in the foundation, you don’t see foundation cracks, not coming through tie rods or where pipes are penetrating from the foundation, they just seem to be kind of coming from the very top of the foundation, down the walls, and ending up on the floor of the basement – that can be a sign that you don’t have enough room outside to have the water accumulate then safely go back into the soil, so you can get that landscape regraded, in the case of this house that’s being built, we don’t potentially see regrading issues, or having the mulch bed and the garden bed taken care of.

Now, one area that we do see issues with plantings quite often are more in stone and block foundations. Concrete foundations are very strong, they’re very good at resisting all sorts of lateral force as well as downward force in the house. Block and stone are not as strong, they’re good foundations but they’re not always as strong as a concrete foundation. So what happens sometimes is whether you have plantings that are maybe too close to the actual physical house, some of these may be simple shrubs or could be something much bigger like oak trees or what not. What we see quite often in these environments is when you have a large tree or a large bush planting that might be very close to a stone or block foundation, the root ball structure tends to grow as wide as the canopy of that tree would be. So if you’re looking up and you see a large oak tree and it happens to be 30 feet in diameter, well, you’re going to have a root ball that's going to be at least as wide.

What happens is as it’s closer to the house, it can put a lot of force into the wall, and walls could start bowing inward and they can actually have collapsing wall issues. So in many of these older home cases, these trees are 100 year old or older and the root structures are now putting pressure on the walls beyond the limit of what the foundation can handle. So sometimes it’s necessary to take down that old tree or remove those bushes and get smaller planting, ones that have much smaller root structures so it doesn’t cause continuous issues in the house. Sometimes you’re kind of past the point of no return, as you’ve seen in a lot of cases, especially towards the city, where you have grading issues on top of planting issues, and it can actually buckle a wall or completely fail a wall anywhere from the root ball structure. So it’s one of those things where we don’t always consider landscaping as part of the whole house philosophy, but it really is, you need to consider more than just where you’re going to put the planting and how you’re going to put the molds in, you need to make sure that you have enough relief against the foundation, making sure that the root structure is not going to cause issues down the line.

Narrator: Thanks Adam, for explaining how poor landscaping decisions can affect the foundation.

Narrator: If you have a basement water problem and think you need a professional, or, if you’d like more information on foundation crack repair and basement waterproofing topics, please visit or call Rich at (866) 929-3171. Or you can email Rich at Thanks for listening and keep that basement dry.

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A-1 Foundation Crack Repair, Inc. is a fully registered home improvement contractor. Contact us today to talk to a knowledgeable, master waterproofing professional.

Toll Free: 866-929-3171

Call Us Today at 866-929-3171

A-1 Foundation Crack Repair, Inc. is a fully registered home improvement contractor. Contact us today to talk to a knowledgeable, master waterproofing professional.