Falling Leaves, Failing Foundations

Sure it’s still touching 90 degrees outside, but we know that fall is just around the corner. With every change of the season, your home will react in some new way. So the question is: What do falling leaves – the true sign that fall has hit our region – have to do with failing foundations? One word:

Drainage.

And that one word is primarily handled by a system you’ve already invested in, but might not completely grasp the importance of, especially when it comes to your foundation. That system is the unsung hero of home drainage, your gutters.

Gutters typically fall under the realm of “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to aspects of your home, but they serve a very important function, and when looked at from a “return on investment” point of view, deliver a pretty serious bang for their buck… if you take care of them.

If your gutters become clogged with, say those beautiful leaves of autumn, they cease to work in the way in which they were designed. Leaves can catch in corners, adding excess weight to your gutter system, sometimes reversing the flow of water if the weight is enough to deform your gutters. In some cases, the accumulated debris can cause your gutters to fail entirely. And while the water may still technically flow through the gutter system, if there are enough leaves present, your gutter system could become “choked” and unable to handle heavy rain, thus causing excess water to take a path other than the one intended by your gutters.

All of these gutter problems lead to a greater issue: an imbalance of moisture in the soil directly next to (and underneath) your foundation in the form of heavily saturated soil. And with the expansive clay soils we have in the Southern Central part of the US, those soils can expand to a damaging degree, causing upheaval.

So what are some steps you can take to ensure healthy gutters and thus proper drainage this fall? Here are 6 things you can do:

1) Keep trees trimmed back from the home itself – the fewer leaves, acorns, and flowers (we’re looking at you crepe myrtles) you have falling on your roof, the less stuff with which to clog your gutters. Added bonus: keeping branches at least three feet away from your home will prevent roof/shingle damage during high winds and storms. 

2) Install leaf guards – simple to install and instrumental in helping your drainage system shed leaves (by allowing the leaves to slide over the top of your gutter system) while still being able to collect and divert rainwater. Take care to ensure that the screen maintains enough angle to allow the leaves to slide off the gutter and not catch between the guard and the roof – then you’ll have a completely different issue of rotting plant matter rotting out your roof.

3) Install “Balloon Guard” style filters – these bulb/balloon shaped wire or plastic grates keep smaller stuff out of your downspouts, combined with leaf guards, your gutter system will be virtually impervious to clogs. Additionally, if you aren’t keen on applying leaf guards to every inch of your gutter system, these simple to install add-ons are the next best thing.

4) Get up there and clean them! No way around it, the best gutter system will need to be cleaned from time to time. Just be careful. Have a friend (one you trust, at least) help out by holding the ladder, handing you the garden hose, holding the trash bag, etc…

5) Perform a drainage check with your water hose. Some blockages can be out of sight, like a wasp nest in a downspout, a large chunk of accumulated plant matter that broke free from one part of the gutter system and became lodged in the downspout, etc… when you’re up there cleaning the gutters out, make sure and stick your garden hose down there to see if the flow of water is impeded in any way. Any blockage could result in water being diverted back towards your foundation versus away from it.

6) Install downspout extenders –  the farther away from your foundation you can divert excess rainwater, the better. If you don’t want long stretches of pipe extending from your home, there are some automatic roll-up options out there that hide away when not in use.

Keeping the soil around your home in a relatively constant state of balanced moisture (especially in the Southern Central part of the US with our expansive clay soils) is key to a healthy foundation. Getting ahead of anything that could disrupt an otherwise effective drainage system can save you thousands down the road. 

While the colors of autumn are beautiful, and every kid loves jumping into a pile of raked leaves (if not the act of raking them) remember that the care and keeping of your home – and the foundation it sits upon – is a year-long, never-ending cycle of checks and maintenance.

If you feel like you could use a hand on balancing your soil’s moisture content, or you feel like you may already be facing a foundation issue as a result of soil that is too dry or too wet, give us a call or schedule a free, no charge evaluation today.

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Perma-Pier’s customized approach to repairing your foundation extends to financing as well. We understand that your financial situation – not unlike your foundation – should have a customized solution.

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