How Can Yard Work Hurt the Home

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During my home inspections, I see various examples of landscaping, from the I do not care to the lavish.What can happen to any type of landscape is the damage to home systems by yard work.

How did that happen? I am asked that question often when pointing out a finding. The answer is not always clear. Did the house sink, or was the patio installed at a higher grade? Sometimes the clues reveal the proper response, but other times they may not. Sometimes the answer is clear o me, but my clients can remain skeptical. That happens when I blame the problem on yard work. Surely, a person would not do that (that being the cause of the damage). Yet, I see it often enough to formulate an idea of what has happened.
cleanout with broken cover

    Do you have a white tube popping up out of your ground? I find them on homes built from the eighties to the present. They make for any reason method to handle a stoppage. The tube is a cleanout. My older home has a cleanout by the kitchen, which is common. These larger cleanouts are for handling stoppages in the drain line of either part of the home, or the entire home. I have found homes with only one tube to other homes with three. In the photograph, you will notice a square hole on the top of the tube. There is a cover that screws into the pipe. That cover has a square plug on the top of the cover. That plug is where the wrench can be used to loosen the cover. These cleanouts can be up above ground level, but they could also be flush. In either case, the grass grows high around the pipe. Pulling out a weed eater or trimming the grass here by hand s what we do when being careful. Going over the spot with a lawnmower is what we do when we are rushing along (which landscaping crews may do). The blades form the lawnmower chop off the plug at best. At worst the blades destroy the top of the pipe. The damage can lead to pest intrusions, increased chance of stoppages,or flood waters filling up your drains.
    Another common problem with the lawnmower is along the foundation. A slab on grade foundation with post tension cables has cement end caps over the ends of the cables. The cable ends may have a plastic cap over them along with the cement. The lawnmower operator wants to cut the grass along the foundation. He bangs the wheels and blade housing close to the wall to cut all of the grass. This action knocks the cement cap off. The problem here is that the cement end caps rust which damages the nut holding the cable in tension.
    I also find damage to the fins of the compressor (condenser or exterior AC unit are other names for this unit). The fins help dissipate the heat to cool the lines, which cools the house. Grass grows high against the compressor, so we take our weed eater to whack the grass down, thereby chopping into the fins. The greater the severity the fin damage is, the harder your air conditioning has to work.
    The last common mistake that I find is regrading the landscape to force water towards the home. From garden beds to swells in the ground, I see the land reformed to direct water into pools by the foundation, which can cause damage to the walls or the foundation. We need to think about how water will travel through our yards when planning out our gardens.
    Those are the most frequent issues that can be found on many houses. Taking the time to do the job right is the solution. This damage continues, and we need to address it if we want our homes to function as intended.

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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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