Should You Place Wood Window Box Planter Against Foundation?

LESLIE: Martha in Ohio is on the line with a leaky door and a leaky window due to a planter against foundation. What is going on?

MARTHA: We had some sliding-glass doors in our family room that’s paneled. And we had them taken out and we wanted just a picture window in there. So, when they came to do the picture window, they took the door out – the sliding doors out – and the foundation was like, oh, maybe a block or two up and the door had been left empty down lower.

So, what they did was they took 2x4s – I think it was wood – and built up to the block level and then proceeded to put in the supports for the window. So, now, when it’s – I made a flower bed out there and now, when the ground gets real saturated and water tends to puddle there, collect, it runs under the wood, through the wood.

TOM: Right. Not surprised and – well, so it sounds like instead of building the foundation up with concrete block, which is what they should have done, they sort of filled it in with wood framing. Is that correct?

MARTHA: Yes, yes.

TOM: Yeah. Probably wasn’t the best choice.

MARTHA: Can we seal that or do we need to start over?

TOM: It’s kind of hard to advise that you seal something that was never done right to begin with. I mean it really should have been a concrete block. But having said that, if you are going to trap that much water against the foundation, whether it’s a wood patch or a concrete block, it’s still going to leak. You just can’t have that kind of planter against foundation. We advise against this all the time, Martha, because those sorts of planters and anything else that holds water against a house is just not a good idea, especially in an area like Ohio where you’ve got a pretty significant freeze/thaw cycle.

MARTHA: Yes.

TOM: Because of that water that saturates the soil – that soil freezes, it’s going to push inwards on that wall and weaken the basement wall. So, I would recommend, if you are going to have a window planter against foundation, that you’ve got to have a window planter with drainage in there so that the water does not puddle up. Because if you do trap it against the wall, regardless of how that wall is built – even though it wasn’t repaired correctly – it’s going to leak and it’s going to cause damage. So I think the issue, really, is what you did after the fact more so than what they did to install the picture window. OK?

MARTHA: Oh, OK, OK.

TOM: Good luck.

MARTHA: Well, thank you so much and have a nice day.

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