Walks and driveways may be gravel, asphalt, concrete, stone, or pavers. Regardless of the material, they should be slightly sloped to drain water away from the house, rather than toward it.
Improper slopes often cause wet basement problems, and in some cases, erosion and/or frost damage to building foundations. Where walks or driveways pull away from the building, water can accumulate along the foundation wall, again resulting in wet basement problems. In some cases a drain is required to carry surface water away. The drain should be sized to handle the maximum run-off from rains, and from melting snow where applicable. The drain should be arranged to prevent clogging with debris or frost damage to the drain assembly. The pipes leading from these drains cannot be examined during a home inspection.
Shrubs, trees, planters and so on can add to the value of a property, but can also adversely affect the building itself. Shrubs too close to a building can hold water against walls, prevent wood components from drying out and provide pests with good access into the house. Tree branches can cause mechanical damage to roof and wall surfaces, leaves can clog gutters and downspouts, and roots can clog drainage pipes and in severe cases, dislodge foundations.
Raised flower gardens or planters can cause wet basement problems, especially as a result of heavy watering of flowers during the summer months. Where the original grade level has been raised by adding topsoil, there are three concerns.
The building wall may be subject to damage if wood components are in contact with the soil. Water leakage into the building may be experienced if the soil is above the top of the foundation wall. The increased load exerted on the foundation wall can push the foundation wall inward, particularly in areas where frozen soil conditions may exist.