The neighbor’s basement is not a good idea. But there is a point to be made; that is once the movement of surface water is changed it may impact other homes and this could open a homeowner up to a lawsuit. So, before beginning to re-landscape you should always check with the city and the neighbors; thoroughly explaining the plan and seeking each of their approvals.
Moving some dirt around doesn’t sound like too big a deal…but are there any other concerns before starting this type of project?
There sure are and one of those would be making certain the earth isn’t placed too high on the foundation. If the earth is too close or contacting the wood framing, this would cause a different type of moisture intrusion. It would not disclose itself in the basement or crawl space, but it would rot out the structural wood framing. For that reason the building code requires a separation between the top of the foundation and the finished earth grade. Be sure and also look out for planter boxes that are too high up onto the wall, buried brick weep holes and stucco drip screeds. Each of these is very important, but they are a different type of moisture intrusion and will be explained in greater depth later.
Another concern would be window wells, and with these there are two considerations. First, there must be clearance between the bottom of the window and the earth. If not, water will seep into the basement underneath the window. Second, the well area must not allow water to pond on the window. Or this would allow water to travel through the window and into the basement.
But landscaping is not the only problem on the outside of the home…have you ever heard of hardscaping? Check back soon for part 5 in our series on resolving moisture problems in the home.
Doug & Julie Hastings
Your House Whisperers
MN Home Inspectors