Standing water in your yard or drainage and erosion issues should be addressed as quickly as possible because they can lead to substantial repair costs. If you are planning on refinishing a basement, it is imperative that you solve any water issues first, else you will be tearing everything out later to try to find the source of water in the basement.
If you already own a home with a finished basement, common water leaks or high basement humidity levels are usually caused by foundation issues.
Most water issues in crawl spaces or basements are caused by improper, or non-existent, drainage systems outside the home. Most minor water problems can be addressed by the average home owner, but you are going to have to get dirty first.
Drain Downspouts Away from the House
The downspouts that drain your roof should be carrying the water away from your home to avoid standing water issues. It is usually not enough to simply drain that water a few feet away into the open yard. To solve water issues around your foundation you need to carry that water off to another location on or off your property.
There are two options for outdoor drainage pipe: flexible black pipe and hard, non-flexible PVC pipe. Both come in solid pipe versions or can be purchased perforated meaning that have been puncture in various places all around the pipe to allow for water in the soil to leech in and drain to another location. Both work well to remove standing water in the yard and get it away from the house. This is particularly important if you have a crawl space or basement to prevent water from entering those areas.
If your sole purpose is to drain water from a downspout, non-perforated pipe is best because it will not dissipate water into the ground along the way to its exit. Also, if you are running your line near established trees and bushes, non-perforated pipe will not allow roots to find a way inside.
Black Corrugated Pipes
The black flexible pipes have corrugated valleys within it to help slow the speed of water exiting a downspout and I recommend using this type of drainage pipe for downspouts because they will be draining a high volume of water from your roof during downpours and you don’t want to create Niagara Falls somewhere else on your property where the pipe will be exiting.
However, if you have standing water issues near your foundation or around low spots in your yard, choose a non-perforated pipe so that you won’t have water dissipating from the pipe back into the water table along the way.
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The hard white PVC pipe are more durable and easier to maintain a downhill grade to keep water flowing in one direction, but as I said, they have no built-in “brakes” to slow the water down at it travels through the pipe.
Hard, non-perforated PVC pipes are the best option if you are draining near or past trees or bushes because their root systems will not penetrate it.
For both options, it is imperative that you apply a thin white sleeve cover over the outside of the pipes to prevent soil from entering the perforated openings and eventually clogging your drain with build-up. Both options come with various other fittings such as "Y" and "T" adaptors to redirect water to multiple paths.
Make sure you run the pipes at a slight decline to keep water moving away from the house. You can drain it to a storm inlet on your property, street curb or other area where it will run off harmless away from the main area of your property. Just have the decency not to drain it off into someone else’s yard and creating a water problem for them.
How to Install a Weeping Tile Drainage System
There are generally two types of water issues associated with basements: standing water that is seeping in from somewhere around the foundation and standing water around a basement window, which is probably causing the first issue.
Once again, before you begin any digging around your home, call 811 and schedule someone to come out and mark your utility lines so you don’t inadvertently puncture one, especially a gas line.
To prevent the water from entering your basement foundation wall, it is best to install a whole house system of drainage pipes all the way around your foundation. This system will allow water to leech in and be carried off to another area of your property or storm drain. This will require some digging so this is how you get started.
First, excavate the dirt directly against the foundation to a depth of at least a foot. Next, put a layer of landscape fabric down in the trench allowing for excess to eventually wrap around your drain pipe.
Next, pour some pea gravel around the trench all the way around your home, then begin lay the perforated pipe butted up next to the foundation wall. Be sure to cover the pipes with a drainage pipe sock which is available in the same area of a home improvement store where you buy these types of drainage systems.
Use wye connectors that form a slight angle to join all of the pipes. This will keep the water flowing in the direction you want it to flow.
At various locations around the house, you will need to dig a trench outward away from the house to join your new weeping system to existing drain lines. Hopefully you already have some of these draining your downspouts, if not, this is a great time to do a whole yard system.
Now cover with more pea gravel, and then cover with dirt and re-sod if necessary. This system works be allows standing water to slowly leech into the perforated pipe allow it to be carried away harmlessly to another location. You might think that this could not possible accumulate a substantial amount of water through seepage, but you would be surprised especially after a lot or rainfall. If not for a system like this all around your foundation, that ground water sits on top and just underneath in the water table and slowing filter through any cracks or gaps in your foundation.
If you have serious foundation issues, you will need to hire a foundation repair company. Typically they will do what I just described, only the process will be on steroids. They too will excavate the area adjacent to the foundation/basement wall down all the way down to the bottom and place a durable plastic weeping membrane to the wall using adhesive, then install drains all the way around the house. If you have serious water problems, this is the way to go.
Build a Window Well
If you have a basement window, it is important to get that water drained properly away from that area so it does not find a way to enter the foundation wall.
First, excavate the dirt directly beneath the window to about a foot then begin digging a trench at a slight angle to carry the water away from the window. It is best to redirect the corrugated pipe to an existing drainage system using a "T" connector when they finally meet.
Using a piece of flexible plastic mold or corrugated steel, place a wall around the sides of the hole beneath the window. This will function as a retaining wall of sorts to keep the soil from falling in on your new French drain you are building beneath your basement window.
Place some porous landscaping fabric in the bottom of the hole under the window, and then pour several inches of pea gravel on the landscape fabric. Place your drainage pipe in the hole and direct it out the trench slightly downhill toward another drainage run-off pipe if possible, and tie it in with connectors. Be sure to place a landscape sock over your drainage pipe as discussed in the previous section
Finally, pour pea gravel over the rest of the pipe in the hole until it is just a few inches below the lip of the window. Fill the drainage pipe in the trench with pea gravel, and then cover the rest of the trench with some the of dirt you excavated.
The pea gravel will allow the water to leech through into the perforated drainage pipe and be carried away from the foundation.
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As Ben Franklin used to say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you are planning on finishing a basement or need to address any water issues around your lawn, creating an intricate draining system is in your best interest.
It will require that you get dirty but nothing I just described in this article is especially difficult. If you own a shovel, you can do it. Just remember to keep your grade at a slight angle moving away from the foundation.
The overall cost is minimal and doing this can save you large amounts of cash later by addressing minor water issues sooner rather than later.
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