Fix Common Problems in External Areas

Luke Van Dyck helps you fix common problems in outdoor areas in his new book, Home Maintenance.

• Never plant large trees (or a tree that will one day be very large) too close to the home, as their root system can damage the footing of the structure and the building. You will generally see cracks appearing in the walls if this starts to happen. If this happens at your place, you may need to remove the large tree before it causes major structural damage to your home.

• Large trees can also damage sewer pipes, crack driveways and concrete footpaths and have large branches that fall onto the roof of the home. There is also a huge amount of maintenance required in relation to cleaning out the gutters.

• Another issue that I have seen is building a garden bed that is right up to the wall of the house. You must make sure that the natural ground level is lower than the internal floor level. If not, you will have damp issues and possible termite problems because you have lifted the external ground level above the termite barrier and the damp-proof course. This is designed to prevent rising damp in the brickwork. Generally, the ground level should finish about 150mm below the damp-proof course, or if it is a slab on ground, no less than 150mm below the top of the slab.

• The other issues garden beds cause is blocking the cross-flow of ventilation to the underside of the house. The vents get covered up and you have drainage and moisture issues because the garden beds are always damp from the continuous watering. You end up raising the rate of exposure to termites and increasing the risk of rotting of the subfloor structure if it is constructed out of timber.

• I also see people building up the ground levels to even out the ground when their home is constructed out of masonry. They tend to push the dirt right up to the wall to help retain the soul but this in turn blocks weep holes, preventing the escape of water out of the cavity. This will cause damage to the walls from rising damp.

• Draining the surface is another big issue so try to landscape the yards to allow for adequate drainage. You want all surface water to run away from the structure. Keep the subfloor areas as dry as possible. It is particularly important that if you lay any paving, you must install a good-sized drain that can collect all the surface water in the initial downpour. Make sure that it falls away from the home. I have seen water backing up with nowhere to go but towards the home in large downpours.

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