In many regions spring rains increase the chance of water infiltration into basements and crawlspaces, and can even affect homes constructed on slabs. If you are in an area that is also subject to the melting of winter snow, the potential for springtime problems only increases.
Aside from river or coastal flooding, the two most common ways water affects a home are surface runoff and a rise in the water table (the underground water level).
Surface run-off includes any rainwater that flows toward a foundation from the site the home is located on or neighboring properties. It doesn’t matter whether it is water that flows off the roof, or from finished surfaces such as driveways and patios, or from the yard. Any water that accumulates near or along the foundation has a potential to seep in or cause other problems such as soil erosion or foundation movement. If the roof and site drainage systems aren’t in place or aren’t doing the job they should, even with a half-inch rainfall hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water can be directed toward your foundation – and seep into your home.
To help reduce the chance of surface water from affecting your home, attention should focus on the grading and drainage provisions. This includes features that are present and in need of maintenance or upgrading, as well as additional drainage features that may need to be installed.
To start, take a look at your roof drainage system (the roof drains, gutters (eavestroughs), and downspouts):
- Do all sections appear secure?
- Do the roof drains slope toward the downspouts?
- Is there any staining that may indicate chronic overflow?
- Do the downspouts extend at least 3 feet away from the foundation?
- Have they been checked/cleaned on a regular basis?
Some roof drainage systems may typically only need cleaning a few times a year; others may require monthly cleaning to keep them clear. Many different types of gutter guards are now available offering claims that they will eliminate the need for regular cleaning. Be aware that while many of these devices may help cut down on cleaning needs; rarely do they provide full protection from blockage.
The further away from the foundation downspouts discharge the roof run-off, the less likely the runoff will impact on the foundation. Downspout water should not discharge onto surfaces where it could create a potential slip hazard from water freeze in the winter. You should also make sure downspout splash blocks or extensions don’t present a trip hazards. In some situations, the only option to prevent these hazards may be to install underground drain lines that run to the street or an underground drainage system.
Next, look at the property conditions:
- Do any large areas of your property or a neighbor’s property slope toward your home?
- If so, is any potential water runoff diverted by swales or collected by drains so that it does not flow near or accumulate at the foundation?
- Are surface drain grates clear of debris? Are the drains free flowing?
- Is the soil along the foundation sloped so that water drains away from the foundation?
The installation of swales (slight depressions in the ground) to funnel water around or away from the foundation may help in lieu of a more expensive drainage pipe system. In some cases, though, a catch basin and underground drainage system may be the only answer for control of surface water.
With time, the soil around most homes will often settle and develop depressions or a negative slope, allowing water to accumulate at the foundation. All areas need to be built-up so that there is a slope away from the foundation, ideally extending about five feet out. Mulch added at planting areas may give the impression of a positive slope away; however, it is important to make sure the soil under the mulch is sloped away as well, particularly if the soils is a clay mix.
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