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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!

Preventing Drainage Problems Saves on Costly Repairs

submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
This article appeared in the August 31, 2003 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

Musty odors, soil erosion, lingering damp spots and damage to a home's foundation could create a homeowner's nightmare. However, costly repairs for patio, pool and home foundation damage caused by poor drainage can be prevented by surveying the area around a home and making simple, inexpensive changes.

Poor drainage allows moisture to leak through cracks, placing intense water pressure on a foundation. It can amplify existing cracks and cause new fractures. Poor drainage also can create gullies in a yard as water drains from downspouts.

However, identifying causes of poor drainage can be difficult. Surface runoff is the most common cause of drainage problems and includes runoff from rain, sprinklers, supersaturated soil, underground springs or a high water table. Runoff also carries polluting materials toward a home or into streets, where they creep into water supplies through gutters and storm drains.

Sources can be steady, seasonal or sporadic. Paved surfaces, bare soil, slope of the yard, lack of vegetation, soil type and house design could be helping water cause problems.

Some problems can be fixed easily and inexpensively:

  • Watch how quickly rainwater soaks into the ground. It should not puddle or create runoff. Consider adding dirt or improving clay or silt soil with organic matter.

  • Examine the yard's slope. It should drop six inches in the first 10 feet from a structure and at least one foot per 100 feet beyond that. The slope should be gentle enough to allow gravity to move excess rain toward the street while letting some water be absorbed into the soil.

  • Watch for runoff from the street, other homes, hills, patios and play areas. It should not drain toward a home. A yard should effectively divert water at least 20 feet from the house.

  • If basement window wells collect water, install covers. The fill soil next to the foundation should not sink or settle, causing water to collect near the house.

  • Gutters should be free of debris, in good condition and should slope toward a downspout. Downspouts should carry water at least 10 feet from a home. A splash guard might be needed where water exits to absorb forceful energy used to create gullies in the yard.

  • A basement, even with a footing-level drain tile system, should not remain damp or leak clear subsurface water.

Check your home and yard for potential problems and fix them before they cause extra expense and work.

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