Landscape and Grading for Curb Appeal

Curb appeal is much sought after in the real estate market. Great curb appeal can improve the ability to sell a home and at a good price. It can also give a house a warmer more welcoming feeling for a family.

One of the prominent components in good curb appeal is derived from the landscape. Flowers, trees, shrubs and well laid out plantings can give beauty to an otherwise average house. However some landscapes can be overdone or improperly installed and in the long run detract from the homes over all condition.

When a landscape is initially installed the plantings are usually small and often get planted too close to the structure without forethought of what will happen in the next thirty years. The end result can be a home that is very crowded by the plantings, over shaded, hard to work on and can lead to damage from large tree root structures, falling limbs, and vine roots digging into brick and concrete and insect pests entering the house along branches.

Grading of the soil is another very important part of the landscape. The soil should always be graded to slope away from the house in all directions with no exceptions. Rainwater needs to be given an obvious easy path downhill away from the house as quickly as possible. Many homes that I inspect have what is known as negative grading with soil sloping towards the house. This will almost always cause problems with the structure.

When I inspect a home I look to see if there are major trees too close to the home with large overhanging limbs creating too much shade and presenting the risk of root damage to the foundation or roof damage from falling limbs. I check to see that the soil grading is sloping away from the house with a good path away for water such as downspout extensions and no raised flower beds blocking the water flow.

Any negative grading or potential risks created by the landscape always goes into the report. There should be an easy walking space between the home and shrubs and no direct contact of limbs and foliage against the house that could allow insect pests a path into the home.

The good news is that even if the home you want to buy is failing in some of these areas, most of these conditions are correctible. If the corrections involve a major expense such as removal of mature trees you can always negotiate with the seller to have the cost reduced or ask that they make the corrections before the closing.

A good home inspection report should consider all areas of the landscape and soil grading in order to give you the buyer “more facts to enable a better decision.”