Fix the Overgrowth – Remove Organic Matter

Fix the Overgrowth - Remove Organic Matter

Overgrown House

Just because you are following the government mandated stay-at-home order doesn’t mean you can’t go outside to start the winter cleanup. Piled up organic matter around the perimeter of your home is one of the most common home inspection issues we find and can usually be dealt with using minimal effort. Removing it can also be a good way to get a little exercise!

What should I be concerned about? First, organic matter should NOT be allowed to accumulate around or be in contact with your home. I am talking about leaves, soil, grass, branches, vegetation, and vines. After the long winter months, this stuff ends up piling up on the home and must be removed as soon as is feasible. If you have wood siding or wood trim in contact with this organic matter, get it cleared away today. Cut back all bushes/shrubs 18” minimum and remove any vegetation that is attached to the home, like vines.

Second, clearance from the soil is also important! Siding vertical clearance should about eight inches away from earth. Most home inspectors will typically write up any wood siding or trim that has poor clearance to the earth. Poor clearance is usually defined as being less than six to eight inches away from the ground. Wood in contact with soil is also a pathway for wood destroying organisms, such as Carpenter Ants, or Termites if you are living down south.

Grading standards are very clearly defined for new construction. The problem in our region is that these grading 

standards were not in place years ago. In our region, entire towns were were built on and along hillsides. It is often difficult or impossible to achieve modern grading standards at many antique and historic homes.

Why is this important? Wood decays and rots away when the moisture content becomes excessive and this is greatly accelerated by organic matter contact and poor clearances. When wood is high and dry with good air circulation around it, it is less likely to decay.

Builders have used wood as a siding material for hundreds of years. In this region (New England), it is typically it is made of cedar (ideally) or some sort of pine (spruce, douglas-fir). Wood siding has different levels of rot-resistance. Cedar is best, but is usually most expensive. Pressure treated wood is not used for siding purposes. Unprotected plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) will decay as well.

What tools are needed? Not a whole lot. Grab a shovel, a wheelbarrow, a rake, some pruning clippers. You’ll also need somewhere to dump the debris (ideally a pit in the woods or feed it to Carole Baskin’s tigers).