Site Conditions Terms

Site Condition Terms


The area around a house has many terms that a home inspector should know and be able to use. Here are some of the most common terms that a home inspector should know. Some of these definitions have been altered to conform to usage in residential construction.


• Barrier, access (child): a fence, wall, house wall, or similar structure that is designed to limit access to the pool or spa area by unauthorized persons, especially children. A natural barrier such as a large body of water, a hill, or a cliff may also serve as a barrier, with approval.

• Culvert: a below ground passage that allows water to flow, usually through a large diameter metal or concrete pipe. In residential construction, a culvert may be located at the end of a driveway to permit water to flow in a swale under the driveway.

• Deadman: a buried component, such as a railroad tie or landscape timber, that serves as an anchor to keep a retaining wall from rotating; a deadman is connected to the retaining wall using a tieback.

• Drainage (storm water): a system intended to capture water and direct it away from the house and ultimately off the property. A drainage system may include components such as gutters and downspouts, swales, underground drains, and grading.

• Grade: the elevation or level of the ground outside the house.

• Grading: the act of moving soil or other material to form a desired elevation on the property. The term is often used in conjunction with drainage to describe shaping land to affect water flow.

• Landscape (garden) block: a manufactured solid concrete block used to construct a landscape wall.

• Landscape wall: a short height structure (usually 2 feet or less) that holds soil or fill on one side and keeps it from moving beyond the wall; a short height retaining wall.

• Patio: a flat outdoor recreational area adjacent to a house, usually but not always on grade.

• Retaining wall: a structure that holds soil or other fill on one side and keeps it from moving beyond the wall; usually applied to walls more than 2 feet tall.

• Swale: a depression or channel in the soil intended to direct water in a particular direction.

• Tieback: a device used to resist the lateral force on a retaining wall. See Deadman.