Trees and Landscaping

home Inspection Landscaping Solid State

When we drive through older neighbourhoods, one of the biggest pleasures is looking at all the mature trees and landscaping while we imagine how nice it would be to drive home everyday under the canopy of majestic trees. Trees and landscaping are beautiful but can have a significant impact on our houses and condos and require regular maintenance. Here are some concerns we as Home Inspectors help our clients understand.

Large Trees

Large shade trees are wonderful for helping our homes stay cool in the summer while still allowing the sun's rays to help heat our home in the winter. If you are buying a house with large trees nearby, every fall you need to clean the leaves out of the gutters. Failure to do this can cause concentrated water in winter rains and snows to run off in unexpected places and possibly enter your home or basement. During a home inspection, we check to see if the gutters are free of debris and advise our clients if maintenance is needed. If you are not comfortable with cleaning your own gutters, there are many products you can add to your gutters to help keep leaves out.

Falling or waving branches can physically damage our homes and overhead electrical wires. Wind driven rains, particularly on the West Coast, can then drive water into damaged areas creating more damage. Tree branches contacting buildings also provide a path for unwanted critters to access our roof where they may find access to warm attic spaces. During home inspections, we recommend trimming tree branches back from buildings to avoid damage.

Tree root networks can be as expansive as the branch networks above. Roots can visually affect things near the surface like walkways and driveways, but they can also do costly hidden damage to water pipes, gas lines, and foundation drainage. In worst cases, roots can crack and shift foundation walls causing thousands of dollars in damage. Unfortunately, underground damage from trees cannot be seen a home inspection but if you have trees branches that reach your home, you risk having tree roots there as well.

Smaller Bushes and Vegetation

Smaller bushes and shrubs need to be trimmed back from our home’s siding materials to encourage proper drying, prevent mechanical damage, and to help prevent critter access. Vines can be particularly bad as they inhibit drying of surface materials, and can cause damage where vine's creepers grab the building. We always recommend removal of wall climbing vines in home inspections

Smaller bushes and flowering plants have a tendency to overgrow their space much sooner than larger trees. Don’t be afraid to remove and replace these regularly. Not only will you help prevent damage to your home, but you will have a fresh look to your landscaping every few years.

Garden Beds, Grading, and Lawns

Soil is an excellent conductor of moisture and should never be in contact with the siding of our homes. Even if you have non-organic siding like vinyl, stucco, or brick, you need to keep soil off the siding as wicking water will get into plywood sheeting behind the surface or can cause freeze/thaw cracking in the materials. Garden beds and lawns always need to be 6-8” below the level of siding against our homes to prevent water from wicking or splashing up in rains. During home inspections, if we cannot see 6-8” of concrete foundation visible from grade level we alert our clients of the possibility of hidden damage.

Your lawn and property needs to be sloped to direct water away from buildings or towards appropriate drainage. Water that is allowed to flow towards buildings will enter in foundation cracks or potentially cause foundation shifting. During home inspections, we will report on grading that runs towards the building and advise improvements.

Final Thoughts

Good landscaping is an important part of the curb appeal of your home but like many other systems of your home, it has a regular maintenance schedule that you need to keep up with or you can run into large costs in the future. If you are looking to buy a new home, a professional home inspector will help you to know what maintenance is required now and what to watch for as you own your home into the future.

By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.