How to Fix Negative Grading

By January 1, 2021Home maintenance
How to fix negative grading

The home is the biggest investment for most people and they want the yard to look aesthetically pleasing.  Adding in shrubs, trees, flowers etc. make it look really nice.  But what if you notice on your dream home that there is negative grading in the yard?

Negative grading of the landscape is when the land is angled as such that the water can flow towards the home.  Thus making it necessary to level or sculpt the land and make it slope away from the home and foundation. 

Six inches of slope for every 6 feet is ideal.  The idea is for the land to be graded to where the water flows away from the home.  So how do you fix negative grading?  Well, start with removing plants, shrubs, and grass and add in the soil to level it out. 

Let’s take a look at two types of grading, why you need a home inspection, how to fix negative grading and what can happen if you don’t.

Two types of Grading of Land

The two types of grading are positive and negative.  Positive grading is the flow of water away from the home and the foundation.  Negative grading is the flow of water towards the home and foundation. Furthermore, negative grading needs to be fixed to avoid further issues.

Home Inspection is Important

One of many reasons buyers have a home inspection is to make sure everything is working well in the home.  Home inspectors check the foundation and grading when they conduct the home inspection. 

The inspector will tell you in the report if there is negative grading.  If there is, ask your realtor to let the seller know.  Not only does the seller need to know, but it also may be something that can be negotiated. If not, you may need to walk away from the sale of the home. 

Foundation or structural issues is one of the fixes that can be mandatory after a home inspection if it presents a safety issue.  Always enlist the help of the realtor in negotiations and if the seller won’t budge, you may need to walk away.

In addition, many insurance companies in various states have minimum requirements and the home must meet them for the inspection.  If the home does not, you won’t be insured.  This is not an area you want to go into at all. 

Even if your state doesn’t require a specific grade for the land or outline requirements for the foundation, you still may not want to purchase the home.

Why it is Important to Fix Negative Grading

It is important to fix the negative grading because as the rainwater falls or snow melts (depending on where you live), it can flow into the home and flood or create puddles in the lawn.  As mentioned above, making sure that the yard slopes 6 inches for every 6 feet is essential.  If not, the following issues can occur:

Flooding in Basement

If the water flows toward the home, it can leak in through the foundation or a basement window. You will want to find out if it is the grading of the land or another issue causing the window to leak when it rains.

Flooding in the basement can cause rotting wood, an electrical hazard, and discoloration in the walls.  Not to mention loss of aesthetic appeal and value of the home.

Mold Growth

Mold will grow in areas where the water leaks into the home and can cause health issues. In addition, you will want to prepare yourself with the proper equipment to search for mold in the basement. 

Once you find it, you will need to clean it with ½ vinegar and ½ baking soda concoction in a spray bottle.  Clean it off the walls, floor, and carpet if possible.  In Texas, we have high humidity and this can make the mold grow even faster.  If you aren’t sure if the basement window is leaking, call in a professional to find the origin of the mold.

Structural Issues
Water pooling next to the home can cause a home to sink

Structural Issues

If you find water pooling near the home, you need to fix this right away. The water can actually cause the home to sink.

How to Fix Negative Grading

Watch Where the Rain Falls in the Yard

Watching the rain and where it goes in the yard will help you see where the grading needs to be fixed.

Adding in Soil

You can bring in soil from other areas of the property and put it close to the home and level the ground.  Don’t cover the siding, as this will invite pests such as termites.

You can also buy topsoil or grading soil to pile up so the yard is even across and create a slope that moves the water away from the home.  This type of soil will allow the water to stay at the grade level.

Sand – Not a good idea

Sand is not a good idea as it absorbs the water and the water will move it causing a bigger mess and potential problems.

Adding in Flower Beds or Other Aesthetics

Often when you buy a home, you will change the landscape to meet your style.  This can help with negative grading.  You can fill in areas that are too shallow as mentioned above.  You may watch the rain and see where it puddles or flows in the yard.  This will also help with adding in flowerbeds or other aesthetics to balance the soil and the yard.

How to Fix the Grading When There is Negative Drainage

How to fix the grading when there is negative drainage
Digging up the soil or adding soil may be necessary to fix negative grading

If none of the ideas above work, you may need to try the following steps.

  1. Remove the plants and shrubs from the negative drainage areas.  Put them to the side to replant.
  2. Take grass out of the negative drainage area and put it to the side, making sure it is at least 6 to 10 feet from the house.
  3. Add at least 8 inches of new soil to raise the grade and this should force the water into the other direction.
  4. Use a lawn roller to pack it down and this should give the soil about 6 inches of lift.
  5. Take the roller back and forth over the soil so it packs it in.
  6. Add more soil and make sure it slopes away from the house, dropping the soil 6 inches so it is about 10 feet away from the home. Roll the lawn roller over it again to pack it down
  7. Use a level to make sure it has a proper slope
  8. Replant the grass, plants, and shrubs back into the area that you took out in steps 1 and 2 and add in mulch.

Other Areas to Check After Fixing the Negative Grading

Other areas to check after fixing the negative grading
Drops of water flow into the eaves on the house in the rain.

Eaves

Theses are part of the roof that hangs over the side and helps keep the water away from the home. In addition, they are made up of the soffits and fascia and help direct the water away. Eaves don’t allow the water to go down the side of the home.

They are essential for the home as they keep basements dry and also don’t encourage puddles. Eaves come in many styles and also serve as shade in the summer months in warmer climates.

Downspouts
A backsplash is great to have under a downspout to keep water from pooling next to the home

Downspouts

The downspouts go from the roof to the ground and direct the flowing water from rain into the yard and away from the home.  If you are finding puddles appearing on the ground directly under the fascia, and you don’t have downspouts, you will want to look into investing in them. 

The soffits and fascia can be ruined if you have downspouts and don’t have extensions on them, so this may be an area to look into. The downspout extensions should divert the water 4 to 6 feet away from the home, preferably 10 feet if possible. 

Maintenance to Fix Negative Grading

  1. Clean out the gutters after storms to make sure water does not back up into the home.  If the water backs up, it can also flow over the sides and create negative grading on the ground.  Also check the downspouts to make sure there are no clogs and the backsplash stays in place.

2. Inspect the ground around the home to make sure that negative grading is not occurring and puddles are not forming.  If it is, look to see what is causing it or call a professional.

3. Check flowerbeds and shrubs to ensure negative grading is not starting to happen.  Keep the mulch at the levels where there is no washout and causing a negative grade.

4. Always check in basements and around the foundation for anything that looks like cracks, leaks, or mold forming and take care of it right away.

When to Call a Professional

Call a professional if you aren’t sure how to fix the negative grade or if you need assistance.  Also, if you have water leaking into the home, you may need a professional to help with the leak or with any mold that is created.  Lastly, if you need to have downspouts or eaves added to the home, a professional can help with those areas.  

Conclusion

A negative grade can be an easy fix but also can be difficult, depending on the extent of it and if there is already damage.  It is necessary to take care of it right away. Enlist the help of a professional and contact us if you have questions!  We are here to help and invite you to leave a note below!

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