We initially thought the repair and painting of a few walls and apse (the vaulted recess in the sanctuary) of a 200-year-old former church would be routine. But as we were leaving that first day, the owner of the now-private home asked if we wouldn’t mind also touching up the area in the foyer that was peeling a bit.

This would be no touch-up; this would be an overhaul.

Because inside the exterior stucco were rotted studs and wet insulation that had left the drywall anything but dry. Most of us think water gets into our homes when it falls from above. But what turned this church’s walls wet was not Heaven-sent.

Water damage to first floors is often caused by moisture coming up from the ground. To avoid costly repairs, have well-positioned gutters that are clear (make sure to keep yours cleaned as the leaves start falling)…

…and pitch the ground by creating swales, so water routes away from your home.

These projects are definitely for DIYers, but if you’re not up for the tasks, professional gutter-cleaners and landscapers provide these services.