Why are My Drainage Problems Worse Than Ever?

Dear Jim:

I have lived in my home for 30 years and all of a sudden I’m starting to have a bunch of problems. My basement and crawlspaces are flooding, and I’m getting cracks in the walls and ceilings in my house.  Why is this happening, and what can I do about it.?

I have talked to several drainage people, and they have all told me different things.

The Why:  Most older homes have inadequate or non-existent drainage systems, that are original to the property or improperly built and are no longer working. Add to that the effects of a changing climate and more substantial rain events, and our homes are no longer able to cope. Cracks, sloping floors and other interior changes are often merely a reflection of drainage related settlement problems when our foundations are not built to modern standards, and are shallow, unreinforced, in poor condition and more prone to movement and water infiltration.

A dual drainage membrane system helps preserve older foundations

What is the Correct Solution?:   It is crucial to identify the particular type of drainage issue you are experiencing. Water problems can be a function of either surface water, subterranean water, or both. The solutions range from simply attaching flexible pipe to your downspouts to get water away from your house to digging 10’ deep trenches when French drains are warranted for deep drainage issues. Where the drainage work is located, what type of system to use, the drainage depth- they are different for every project and are a function of the particular conditions at your home. Hillside homes on steep slopes with water problems in different locations can be a challenge. Unfortunately, many drainage “professionals” offer up cookie cutter solutions that can create more substantial drainage problems in the future if they are not properly designed.

Separate piping for downspouts and the French drain are essential

What Should I Do About It?:  Sometimes the answer to that is to do nothing. If you are a new homeowner and the problem is not an emergency, I often recommend observing the problems through a full rain cycle. If downspouts are draining up against the house, flexible piping should be attached to them so water is brought away from the house. If the issues are ongoing or more urgent I would consult with an experienced drainage contractor, as the key is understanding how to design a system that will work long term. Don’t rely on General Contractors or landscapers unless they have substantial experience with this work, as a poor drainage plan can often make drainage conditions worse and more expensive in the long run.

Conversations with Your Local Contractor is a new feature by Jim Gardner of Jim Gardner Construction Inc. (with articles finessed by Lisa Gardner).  If you have residential, homeowner questions OR ideas for an article you’d like Jim to highlight, please send an email to jim@jimgardnerconstruction.com.

Jim is a long-time Piedmont resident and has been doing structural repair and basement renovation in your neighborhood since 1983.  To schedule an estimate or for more information please go to our website at jimgardnerconstruction.com

Jim Gardner Construction

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