Presentation at the “Plant Yourself in the Community Event”

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This is a copy of the notes that I typed up for my presentation at this event. This was quite a good event, with great speakers, and wonderful plant finds. My speech, delivered in part with my daughter in arm, dealt with landscape effecting the home.

Good Morning, my name is Frank Schulte-Ladbeck, and I am a home inspector who lives in the area. I wanted to briefly go over some landscape factors that can effect your home. These are items that I commonly find during my inspections. Most problems are easily dealt with, and they make sense once they are brought to our attention.

Starting with trees, our property sizes are not really big enough for many trees that we want around our home. The tree should be planted as far from the home as it can grow tall, so a forty foot high tree should be planted forty feet away from the home. The roots can cause problems with our foundations and with drainage pipes. Trees also drain our soil of great amounts of water which causes our soil to contract, again causing foundation problems. Swaying tree branches can knock down our service entrance cables, better known as power lines, so we will want to prune these branches away from those lines. Swaying tree branches can also damage our roofs. More than once I have seen branches that removed the roof covering, like composite shingles, and even the sheathing, then the homeowner wondered why they had a leak. I suggest that branches should are pruned a distance of ten feet away from the roof surface. If you are looking for energy efficiency, you may want to consider having a deciduous tree to block the sun. The leaves will help cool the home during summer, but the lack of of leaves will help warm your home during the winter. Dropping leaves can clog gutters, which will cause moisture problems in our fascia, and consequently in other parts of the home. Also, we will want piles of leaves on our roofs to be removed. The leaves trap moisture on the roof covering, which also attracts pests, which in turn damages the covering.

Moving onto bushes, the biggest problem that I find is that we plant them so close to the home, that moisture does not dry out on our walls. We then can experience problems with moisture in our walls and around windows. The branches of bushes swaying in the wind can also cause damage to a wall surface like the branch of a tree. For example, bricks can begin to crumble once the exterior harder surface has been damaged. Having a one foot gap between the bush and the wall allows for an air passage to dry out the walls. Sometimes we want bushes to hide our exterior AC compressor. Again we want to maintain a distance. A worker will want a three foot space from the compressor to be able to move around the unit. At least a one foot space between the bush and compressor is needed for air flow to cool down the coils. Branches can damage the fins on those coils, so the unit looses efficiency. Shading the unit does help cool the air around it, so this can hep the efficiency.

You will want six to eight inches of your foundation to be showing. This helps prevent pest entry into your home through the weepholes of the brick, or behind the boards. However, it also help with moisture from the ground coming into the home. One homeowner in the area built up her porch where water from rain and the patio surface could flow right into the weephole, eventually damaging her carpet. You also want to make sure that the grading around the home does not allow water to flow onto the AC compressor or to the home. Hopefully the water can flow to the street or soak into the ground, so excessive water does not damage the home.

As for watering, we want to make sure that we maintain even watering around the home. We have expansive clay soils in most of Houston. If we water consistently on one side of the home, the soil expands, raising the home, while the other side sinks. Eventually this can lead to foundation problems.

Well, this was the quick run down. I hope it helps you look at you home with new eyes.

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This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank


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