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Our soil/landscaping grade is between about 4" and 8" above the foundation. I've read and been told that this is a problem. I believe the soil should be ~4" below the foundation line. We have a hundred year-old house with a brick foundation.

Fixing it by uniformly lowering the soil line will likely be very costly, as we have a lot of landscaping planted around the house. Furthermore, on one side of the house, if we lower the grade 12", we will almost certainly go below the level of our neighbor's house.

I have several questions:

  1. How significant of a problem is having the grade above the foundation line?
  2. Are there reliable technological solutions that would prevent us from digging up and replanting all of our trees and shrubs surrounding the house?
  3. What kind of professionals do I need to consult to get this done properly?
  • Do you see any problems, or is this just a precaution? As you say, the house has been this way a hundred years, after all. – Roberto Aug 10 '16 at 2:38
  • @Roberto when water overshoots my gutters, I get a small amount of seepage at the basement floor near the gutter corner. I was told that this is likely because the water is entering the wall through the brick/mortar since the soil is above the foundation line. I have no reason to think the soil has been at this level for 100 years, I only know that the house has been here for >100 years. – glenviewjeff Aug 10 '16 at 3:42
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    Then why not fix the gutters? It'll be a ton cheaper than massive regrading. – Carl Witthoft Aug 10 '16 at 14:38
  • @CarlWitthoft gutter guy said that the gutters can't be raised any further because of the constraints of the house. You can look at my other question about gutters to see the problem. It has to do with the house sinking in the corner and the need for pitching the gutters to the downspout. – glenviewjeff Aug 15 '16 at 1:47
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  1. How significant of a problem is having the grade above the foundation line?

Soil above the foundation means that critters (rodents, worms, reptiles, etc.), bacteria, molds, and water can easily access the siding and infiltrate the walls. Some of these can rapidly deteriorate the structure in a matter of a year or two in contrast to a building lasting 100 or more years.

  1. Are there reliable technological solutions that would prevent us from digging up and replanting all of our trees and shrubs surrounding the house?

Yes. Use a shovel to remove the soil next to the house. You do not have to regrade the whole lot. A foot wide trench next to the house is plenty for this concern, though channeling runoff away from the house should also be addressed. That could be as simple as putting in a few drain lines at strategic points.

  1. What kind of professionals do I need to consult to get this done properly?

I would start by looking around your neighborhood and see what works and what does not. Imitate the successes.

  • Thanks! When you say "put a few drain lines at strategic points," could you elaborate? Do you mean to run drain pipes from the bottom of the 1' trench out to somewhere else? Or did you mean that the gutter downspouts (obviously) shouldn't dump into it? Do you mean to install a french drain with a buried perforated drainpipe? – glenviewjeff Aug 10 '16 at 2:32
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    @glenviewjeff: I meant the former: the trenches next to the foundation will naturally attract and retain water. They should be slightly sloped a) away from the building to keep the foundation as dry as possible, and b) be part of a system to move water out of the trench. Slope the trenches slightly toward natural low points in the garden beds and then bury drain pipe or even French drains to move the trench water someplace safe. – wallyk Aug 10 '16 at 2:36
  • Weird update: I knew my foundation was brick, but it didn't really sink in what this meant. There's some kind of concrete smeared over much of the buried foundation, and this is what I had been misled to think was the "foundation" by the gutter guy. So I think my question is sort of moot because it's a brick foundation, right? – glenviewjeff Aug 15 '16 at 1:38
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The original question ended up being a moot point as written. It hadn't occurred what it meant to me that our foundation is brick. We have brick foundation and the brick extends up above grade by about four feet.

What had me confused at the time I wrote the original question was that the brick is parged with a thin layer of concrete below grade. This was apparently done by a previous owner to mitigate deterior brick rather than replacing/repairing it. The parging threw me off and isn't relevant.

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