Whether it’s an appreciation of greenery, a fruitful use of spare time or an ongoing quest for “curb appeal,” homeowners love landscaping and gardening. Homes look great with shrubs and flowers around them and many homeowners show off their creativity by building planter boxes and other constructions to enhance their efforts.
One very common practice in home landscaping is to create planting beds around the perimeter of the home and fill them with plants and flowers, even large shrubs and trees. These are usually quite attractive but some of the same things that enable these plantings to survive and thrive can contribute to the home experiencing water in the basement.
Water in the Basement Caused by Landscaping
There are numerous ways that water can end up in a home’s basement and that water is always going to originate in the soil around the foundation or on the ground around it. That is why one of the best ways to prevent water in the basement is to manage water outside the house by keeping gutters clean, extending downspouts, installing bubbler pots or drywells, all of which will keep water away from the foundation.
Another key aspect of exterior water management is making sure that surface water doesn’t flow toward the foundation. Typically, this issue is resolved during construction when the contractor does the final grading before sodding or seeding the lawn. A properly graded lawn will slope away from the house on all sides to facilitate drainage away from the foundation.
However, even a perfect grade can be compromised by a careless professional landscaper or unwitting do-it-yourselfer. The area in which most planting beds are created is known in basement waterproofing circles as the “zone of failure,” a 10-foot wide strip of disturbed soil around the house where the original excavation for the foundation was backfilled. This area is much more susceptible to absorbing water and allowing its movement than the undisturbed soil surrounding it.
For example, most planting beds surrounding a home will have some type of edging, ranging from plastic or metal strips to brick or stone. Solid strips or tightly fitted brick will serve as a dam to hold water in the planting bed, which may be great for the flowers but will only serve to increase the saturation of the soil below the planting bed, that same soil that surrounds the foundation.
The same thing occurs when a raised berm is built either partly or fully around a planting bed.
Another common sight in residential landscaping is a planter box or planting tiers constructed of stone or landscaping timbers. Just like impervious edging or soil berms, these boxes hold a lot of water near the foundation, much of which can end up in the basement.
Along with green landscaping, installing various forms of “hardscape” – patios, walkways, decks – around a home is both popular and a potential source of water in the basement. Just like the ground around a house, any hard surface that is added close to the foundation must be properly pitched so that rain water drains away from, not toward the foundation. Decks must have flashing installed to deflect rain where they meet the house and the soil under a patio must be carefully pitched and stabilized and masonry set with the ability to drain water during a rain or snowmelt.
Quite often, homeowners don’t realize the effect their landscaping is having on their basement until the seepage shows up and they need the help of an experienced basement waterproofing contractor to solve their problem. At U.S. Waterproofing, we can’t redo your landscaping but we can point out where it’s causing a problem and fix the seepage problem just as we have done for more than 300,000 homeowners since our founding in 1957. Why not ask for our free advice?