Backfilling and Grading: Considerations for Builders

Backfilling and Grading: Considerations for Builders

Tips for Effective Backfilling and Grading

Proper backfilling and grading are essential to avoiding serious structural problems in a home. To ensure a sound build, consider the following essentials for protecting your foundation.

Why it’s So Important

When it comes to building defects, wet crawlspaces and basements rank among the worst. Besides being a general annoyance, these issues can promote health hazards related to mold growth. In extreme situations, they can also create serious structural problems that can force a builder to have to dig up a yard.

A good builder should know how to waterproof a foundation; however, it’s always better to keep water away from the area through effective landscape grading. Since the grade around a home needs to shed maximum water before the water reaches underlying elements, it should be formed in accordance with the natural laws of gravity. Where downward sloping grades meet flat grades or rising landscapes, you’ll need to include an area drain or a sloping grassy drainage swale to prevent stormwater from puddling.

For backfilling, it pays to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Timing: make sure to give new concrete plenty of time to strengthen before you begin backfilling.
  • Get approval: Seek approval from the local building inspector before you cover up a wall.
  • Materials: Make sure to use soil that’s free of organic materials that will ultimately decompose and increase settlement.
  • Bracing: Temporarily brace the foundation wall to protect against hydrostatic pressure.
  • Compaction: Place a properly compacted fill material (usually stone or gravel) beneath your slabs to prevent cracks and settlement.
  • Equipment: Be sure to operate all heavy equipment at a 45 degree angle to the home; avoid driving parallel to the foundation, which can add pressure to the newly formed foundation wall.
  • Waterproofing: Use spray-on waterproofing, along with a quality drainage mat on the foundation wall.
  • Footing drains: Control water flow using footing drains, protected by gravel and filter fabric.
  • Compacting: Backfill just a few feet at a time in small lifts, and use a compactor with every lift.
  • Capping: Be sure to cap your backfill with clay or another low-porosity soil; make sure to slope your backfilled area away from the home.
  • Downspouts: Ensure that your extensions flush water at least 5 to 10 feet away from the home’s foundation.
  • Separation: Keep six to eight inches of clear separation between the siding material and the final grade.

While backfilling sounds relatively simple, it is fraught with potential problems. Besides drainage difficulties, careless backfilling can lead to settlement issues that can compromise a foundation’s structural integrity. Many builders choose to alleviate buyer concern by supplementing a standard home builders warranty with a ten-year structural warranty, which guarantees coverage for any long-term foundation problems. Even if you’re confident in your work, added warranty coverage can be a major selling point for buyers who are averse to any sort of risk.

2-10 HBW offers the industry’s most comprehensive home warranty coverage. Let us help you get started with a Home Warranty today!

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