These days, there are so many real estate reality shows on TV that even high-rise condo residents are familiar with the term “curb appeal.”
For those who may spend their leisure time reading great books and taking part in sparkling conversation, “curb appeal” refers to features on the outside of a home that makes it look great at first glance, such as when a potential buyer pulls up to the curb.
There are many ways to achieve curb appeal – fresh paint, new shutters, freshly mowed lawn – but one of the most popular is attractive landscaping, featuring trees, shrubs and flowers. Landscaping is often combined with a technique that has another reality TV name, “hardscaping.” Hardscaping includes walls, patios, walkways and other features, often built of masonry or dry-set stone or brick that add structure to the landscaping and create or define outdoor spaces.
All this attention to the outdoors can make even the plainest house look like a showplace but, without careful planning and construction, outdoor beautification can create problems with basement flooding in Chicago homes.
Basement flooding in Chicago homes, aside from sewer back-ups, is caused when two things are present: water in the soil around the foundation and an opening, such as a crack, porous concrete or a bad mortar joint in the foundation wall or floor. Obviously, one way to prevent basement flooding is to keep water away from the foundation; some landscaping features, however, can create basement water problems.
Planting Bed Edging – A very common landscaping technique is to create a planting bed around all or part of the perimeter of a house. Typically, these beds have clearly defined edges separating them from the surrounding lawn for neatness and ease of maintenance and feature some type of hard edging, ranging from a reinforced plastic strip to masonry and even steel bands. Such edging can often trap and hold water, increasing the saturation of the soil around the foundation in exactly the place where it can do the most harm. The same can occur when beds are dug below the level of the lawn and have only a sharply cut soil edge, creating a potential shallow pond.
Planting Boxes and Tiers – Another attractive landscaping feature is a planting box made of brick, stone or timber that is built right against the foundation. The same materials are also sometimes used to create tiered beds in a similar location. These may look great but they can also create large amounts of saturated soil and hold it right next to the foundation – exactly where it shouldn’t be.
Improper Grading – Extensive landscaping projects often result in unintentional regrading of the soil around a house, leaving it flat or even pitched toward the structure. The former will prevent surface water from running off; the latter will actually send excess water toward the foundation.
Trees or Large Shrubs Close to the Foundation – Large decorative shrubs often look nice next to a house and can cover up unattractive foundations, gas meters and other utilities. Trees can shade the house and help keep down cooling costs in hot weather. Each of these plantings, however, has deep and extensive root systems that will pull water from the soil during times of drought, causing the soil to shrink and thereby putting the foundation at risk of cracking or more serious damage.
There are enough natural factors that can lead to flooded basements in Chicago; don’t create them by careless landscaping. Whether the project is professional or DIY, always take drainage into account when planning landscaping close to the home; a professional basement waterproofing contractor knows how yard drainage should work and can be of invaluable assistance.
At U.S. Waterproofing, we’re experts not only on how to fix a flooded basement in Chicago but how to prevent one through a number of methods, including proper yard drainage. Why not ask for our free advice?
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