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Water, water, everywhere!

Written By Tom

Published on 04/04/2016 9:00 AM


PoorDrainagePoor exterior grading

Probably the most frequent negative condition we inspectors find in homes during an inspection is a history of ground water seepage into a basement (or crawl space). Let’s face it, we dig a hole and set part of a building into the bottom of it, water immediately wants to come in and play.
Here are some hard truths about water:

  1. water will always follow gravity unless some other force is applied (Think garden hoses)
  2. once it finds a pathway into a building, it’s going to keep coming…unless something is changed in the environment.
  3. it can always be eliminated, though it often takes time and effort to recondition the water away from the building through various means. Change the water’s mind, in effect.
  4. it’s best (and cheapest) to start on the outside with these efforts and, if necessary, work your way inside.
  5. the majority of structural issues with foundations are caused by, you guessed it, water.

perimeter-drain-01One of the things that saddens me is to walk up to a poorly graded, un-guttered house, only to find an $8,000.00 perimeter drainage system installed around the inside ofthe basement. This is often accompanied by wet foundation walls and a sump pump (and dehumidifier) that are running to beat the band. In these instances, the building owner has waved the white flag and surrendered to the water without even giving it a fight (not to mention, probably fallen victim to a slippery sales pitch from a basement water proofing company). Homeowners tend to be very proud of these systems. That’s one of the first things they show us if they are home when we arrive for the inspection. Especially if they also got “The Warranty”. Sadly, there is usually a high probability that the problem could have been solved for a fraction of the cost, by simply regrading the outside of the house so the soil levels are raised near the foundation and pitched away. Try for a one-inch per foot drop and take it out ten feet away from the building if you can. (When raising soil levels, stay away from the siding, as this contact will cause a different set of problems). This grading allows gravity to work for, as opposed to against you. (Send it to your neighbors yard, I say!)
Installing gutters is the other part of the equation, ensuring that they are directed at least 6 feet away from the building. And keep them clean so they can run freely. Then…take your better half on vacation with the money you saved. You’re welcome!
In rare occasions, where underground springs and high water tables come into play, this might be where a perimeter drainage system could come into play, though start with the easy stuff first and work your way up to that kind of expense.

Stay safe,