True or False: A house is only as good as its foundation?
In a general sense a general sense, true. But a foundation is only the start. I would suggest that just as important as a good foundation is a good roof. The best foundation in the world won’t do you a bit of good without a roof to protect the overall structure of the building, and in some cases, the foundation itself.
I have been under a few of the older houses in our fair little town, which appear to be sitting on nothing but piles of rubble and a strategically placed cinder block or two, or the floor framing actually sitting right on the packed soil (and, lest you think I am exaggerating for effect, I am totally serious). Because we live in a more arid environment, this type of situation isn’t as problematic as it would be back east where moisture is definitely an issue. But, if moisture does get under these houses, and it certainly can (and does from time to time), not just from rain or snowmelt, but from leaking plumbing, problems develop that may go unnoticed until major damage has been done.
This is where a good roof comes into play, and just as importantly, good rain gutters with well-directed downspouts and proper grading away from the structure along the outer perimeter of the foundation. Water diversion is a key component to keeping a basement or crawlspace dry, whether you have a rubble, or a poured concrete, or cinder block foundation. Water still gets in because contrary to popular belief, concrete and cinder block are porous.
I realize, sadly, that water isn’t really something we have had to deal with much around here lately. We do experience a good gully washer from time to time though, and being prepared for those occasions will benefit you down the road. There are other weather related issues that can affect the roof of a structure, one of which we certainly see more than our fair share of: wind. The other: hail. Both of these can wreak havoc on a weak, or poorly installed roof. It is always a good idea to inspect your roof after a hailstorm or strong wind event. Use binoculars to get a good view of any damage that may have occurred, and don’t put off fixing it. Repair or replace damaged shingles. They are your first line of defense against water damage to the framing and decking of the roof itself. And, if wind whips away a shingle or two, the others around the newly vacant space are more vulnerable to being blown away.
I am a big fan of metal roofing, especially up in the foothills and above, the current and recent fires drive that point home for me. Granted, a hailstorm with large enough hail can ding up a metal roof pretty good, but it still sheds water and protects the structure. There are old, old cabins still around that have the original tin sheeting or corrugated steel roofing on them. Without that protection, chances are pretty good that those cabins wouldn’t still be around.
Of course, you could have the strongest, best roofing material known to woman, but if it isn’t installed properly with much care given to the holes intentionally made in the roof for things like skylights, plumbing vent pipes, and swamp coolers, then the roof won’t be well protected. Proper trim pieces, called flashing, installed around the skylights and in the valleys where two roof angles meet, or along the siding and roofing where a dormer or second floor exists, and boots (or boot jacks) around the plumbing vent pipes are essential for a water-tight roof installation.
Just as there are different types of foundations, so too with roofing. What you have or choose for either of these depends upon your specific circumstances. What you need to remember is that a house is only as good as its foundation and its roof. You really can’t have one without the other (for long). Preventative maintenance and regular inspections that you can do yourself, if you wish, will help you keep them both in good shape for years to come.
Kheli Mason, The Handy Woman, LLC has over 20 years’ experience in Home Maintenance and Repair, Remodeling and Building Inspection, Kheli started the Handy Woman LLC to be ‘not just your average contracting company’, but to also teach people how to take care of their homes by offering do-it-yourself coaching and how-to classes. Along with typical home repair and maintenance services, her focus is to help our elders age-in-place and teach women homeowners how to understand and care for their homes.
For more information please call Kheli @ 303.999.5812 www.thehandywomanllc.com.