What in the heck is grading and why does it appear on home inspection reports?

Grading is simply another word for the ground or soil. When we do a home inspection, we look for several issues with the grading.

Does the grading slope towards or away from the house?

When we inspect a home, we look at the entire lawn to determine the flow of water when it rains. Water should always drain away from the house and not towards it…especially in the Houston area!

If your lawn naturally allows water to drain towards the house, there are several options:

  1. Trenching
  2. French Drains
  3. Dig out a swale.

A swale is a shallow wide trench that diverts water away from the house. Swales can use natural soil and grass or can be concreted in with a drainage system as shown below.

Swale

How high is the grading next to the foundation?

Foundation Grading

In most cases, grading is too high, especially in flower beds. There should be 6 to 8 inches of foundation showing for the following reasons:

  1. To prevent water from entering the house through the weep holes.
  2. To prevent termites from entering the house.

Ok. What are weep holes?

In brick homes, there is a ½ inch to 1 inch spacing between the brick and the sheathing or wall boards. Condensation naturally occurs in this space and drains towards the bottom of the wall. Weep holes are spaces between the brick which allows air in to help dry this space and also to allow the condensation to drain to the outside.

You can see two weep holes in the picture below. BTW – the grading for this house is perfect!

Perfect house grading

We recently inspected a home with high grading around the outside a/c units. Water was entering the house through the weep holes and damaging baseboards inside the house as shown below.

Too Low Grading

Grading can also be too low. Too much of the foundation is revealed allowing water to erode soil underneath the concrete slab.

The fix for grading is pretty easy. Use a shovel and remove soil next to the foundation if the grading is too high. Add soil if the grading is too low. (You may want to add gravel as well if this is a natural point).

Proper grading helps eliminate problems with the house. Maintaining proper grading is cheap and easy to do and can save the homeowner a lot of money.

Proper Grading