Ben Franklin coined the phrase, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” As independent building consultants, we subscribe to that theory and advise clients on ways to PREVENT maintenance problems before they occur. Unfortunately, we are often called in to fix issues after they have happened, which is always more costly.
As fall is approaching, we wanted to remind building owners and facilities managers about the importance of conducting a Perimeter Check twice a year.
It is critical that soil, grass, and soil amendments (such as mulch and pine straw) do not touch the base of exterior finishes (such as brick, stucco, stone, siding) due to potential water/moisture wicking issues. We recommend that exterior finishes terminate at 4” (or higher) above grade over a foundation of cast-in-place concrete or concrete block.
While most facilities are originally built with a 4” or greater clearance around the perimeter, over time, soil amendments and landscaping practices can build up a higher base (as illustrated in the photos). In cases where the exterior finishes come into contact with the grade, moisture can “wick” into the walls and cause substantial damage before there are visible signs on the interior.
To prevent potential problems, it is imperative to remove excess materials and regrade the soil so that water drains away from the building properly. Be cautious about creating a dam around the building that would channel water back.
We encourage our clients to conduct a perimeter check twice a year with their maintenance person and/or landscape company. If an outside contractor maintains the grounds, we suggest the owner add language into their landscaper services agreement stipulating the provider will maintain a minimum 4” clearance around the perimeter of the building(s) to prevent problems or be liable for correcting the damage.
Daniel J. Williams is a Senior Project Manager with zumBrunnen, Inc. He holds a B.A. Degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin. He has over 28 years of experience in helping clients prevent and solve construction-related issues.