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Plan Now for Yard Drainage Projects to Keep Basements Dry

Feb 28, 2014 • By Matthew Stock.

Cropped Downspout

In the cold and dark of a Midwestern winter, homeowners who enjoy doing things around the outside of their homes are pretty much on hold until spring arrives – unless you count snow blowing.

It’s a great time for planning warm weather activities and projects, though.  Gardeners can plan for next year’s flowers or vegetables.  Do-it-yourselfers can draw up the deck or patio into which they’ll pour their time, sweat and money.  Parents of young children can figure out where to put the swing set they’ve been promising.

One thing that can benefit almost every homeowner is, frankly, not likely to make their list of things to plan for spring without a little reminder, so here it is:  It’s a great time to plan ahead for yard drainage projects that will help keep the basement dry and foundation stable.

No homeowner wants water in the basement – it damages finishes and stored property, increases humidity in the home and can lead quickly to the growth of mold.  Water is also the main culprit in structural foundation damage that destabilizes an entire home and requires costly and inconvenient repairs to set right.  So, keeping water away from the foundation and the basement by managing it outside the home is the easiest and least expensive way to prevent these problems.

How Yard Drainage Keeps Basements Dry

Water ends up in the yard surrounding a house either directly by rainfall or snowmelt or indirectly by downspout and sump pump discharge.  When water is allowed to remain close to the home’s foundation, it has a fairly direct path into the basement because of the soil conditions in a zone approximately 10 feet wide that represents the original excavation to build the foundation.  Unlike the undisturbed soil outside this “zone of failure” the backfilled soil inside it allows water to be absorbed or to seep through much more readily.

One of the most common yard drainage problems actually begins on the roof – clogged gutters.  The roof of a typical home in the Chicago area will shed approximately 1500 gallons of water during a 1-inch rainfall.  The gutter system is designed to catch this water and transport it to a downspout for proper disposal.  If the gutter is clogged with debris or incorrect installation allows it to fill with water, the rain water will sheet off the edges of the roof and land on the ground right next to the house, smack in the failure zone.

Of course, if the downspout that empties the gutter is merely a straight pipe that discharges water at the corner of the foundation, the problem is even worse because there’s a concentrated 400-plus gallons water being dumped in one spot per inch of rainfall.  Extending the downspouts, preferably underground for better performance, longevity and appearance, beyond the 10-foot limit will help keep that water away from the foundation and out of the basement.

Downspout extensions can terminate in a pop-up drain or dry well or run to daylight.  In some municipalities they must be connected to storm sewers.

Of course, a negative grade that slopes toward the house must be corrected to keep water from running across the lawn and finding its way into the basement.  Low spots in the surrounding lawn can also result in standing water that ultimately ends up in the basement and can be corrected by installing French drains in the lawn.

All of this takes planning, of course, and doing it before the spring thaw is an ideal time because wet springs and stormy summers are pretty common and being prepared for all that water is the smart thing for any homeowner to do.

Cleaning the gutters is a job for a homeowner or specialist in that field but other yard drainage projects are best done by a basement waterproofing professional that understand water’s path into the basement and around the foundation and who has the experience and expertise to head it off at the pass.  At U.S. Waterproofing, we’ve been ensuring dry basements and stable foundations for our customers, more than 300,000 of them, since 1957 and we are as expert at fixing basement water problems on the outside as we are on the inside.  Why not ask for our free advice?

Tags: yard drainage

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