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John Kogel

Bad design is causing headaches

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My clients are planning to buy this 20 year old house with a drainage problem.

The front yard slopes steeply down to the entry. There is a crawlspace with a three foot foundation wall under the entry way. On the left is a garage on a slab, and a driveway sloping down to it. The living room juts out on the right. A downspout empties into this entrapment area as well. Nice. A slab sidewalk has been poured in the strip between the garage and the living room. They don't want to break up all that concrete and dig a deep ditch in front of their new house, eh?

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Water is seeping under the footing and into the crawlspace. I know the best fix is to break up the sidewalk and dig down 3 feet, install new drain pipes, and seal the below ground walls of the crawlspace.

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My client's friend is suggesting repairs inside the crawlspace, sealing the skim coat, smearing this and that on it. I know this won't work.

I suggested maybe a ditch in front of the sidewalk area like a curtain drain, running from the corner of the garage to past the living room, might carry enough water away to alleviate the problem. Has anyone had experience with something like that?

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Just so I've got this straight: In this, the best buyer's market that these people are likely to ever see in their lives, they've chosen to buy a house built on a sucker lot. A lot that, if I were shopping for houses, I would drive by without ever getting out of the car. Do I have that right?

If so, then, OK, a curtain drain might help, but it'll have to be deep enough. A little trench a foot or two deep won't do squat. If you want it to have a chance of working, it's got to be as deep as the footings.

Or you could do a proper drainage system as you described.

Or you could just get a magic feather and stick it on the chimney. That'll keep out the water and they won't have to do all that nasty digging.

Jim Katen, Oregon

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Just have them hire an interior waterproofing company. They'll paint the foundation with some magical paint, and guarantee their work? Then when it fails, they'll come back and re- paint again and again until the client's get sick of complaining. Then, they can take your advice and do it right. [:-monkeyd

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Is there somewhere else, as far from the house as possible, to route that downspout to? Add up the square footage of roof that is draining to that one spot, multiply by inches of rain, you may be surprised how much water is being collected and dumped in front of the house.

I had the same problem starting just after the roofers decided to install gutters and downspouts (HOA), but left them to dump right by the foundation. After leading the water away with an extension, problem cleared up.

Why not try the least expensive fix first? Couldn't hurt.

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Could try relocating the downspout, add more downspouts, make sure the gutters and downspouts are the larger size, not the smallest size, have a landscaper look at installing a yard drain system - some slope away from the home with catch basins and underground leaders to drain the water into the neighbor's yard. Trench drain across the drive. These are just maybes because it is a bad situation.

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The suggested fixes are good ideas.......especially the concept of starting small and escalating until the right mix of fixes does the trick. That said, this approach applies to the current owner of the property.........the prospective owner should plan on the correct fix (i.e. most costly) and base their purchase decision on that. I'd pass on it.

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Curtain drains work, but they have to be big. Honestly, I'm surprised one wasn't required when it was built. There could be enough water caught between the garage and living room bump outs to collapse the foundation wall between them, the current owner is fortunate it's spilling over the footing-all that pressure has to go somewhere!

John, I think there's been a mistake in translating this post to English from Canadian. That "crawl" has higher ceilings than my basement. [:D]

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Multi-Flow...maybe two of them, plus contour the first 10 feet from the front elevation of the house. Can't take the credit...Learned about it from Mike O recently.

Marc

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Hi,

I don't think the fix is to break out the sidewalk. It's too close to the foundation. Placing a curtain drain within 3 ft of that foundation won't do you any good at all; you'd want it no closer than six feet, and, if they're smart, they'd put them in in echelons about six feet apart all the way to the street.

I know that you said that the front yard slopes all the way to the front of the house, but which way does the street slope in those diagrams - right to left or left to right?

Instead of placing a bunch of drains in the front yard without any idea whether they will work or not until they're in, they might consider reconfiguring that entire front yard. I recently did a house with that configuration where they had very nicely notched out the front yard and placed a very nicely terraced set of segmental block retaining walls between the drive, public walkway and neighbor's property and had added a grated drain across the driveway.

The landscaping contractor had placed very good drainage below the lowest retaining wall to gather everything coming off the slopes and what was now draining toward the retaining wall from the front of the house. That drain looped around the base of the wall and ran down along the retaining wall on the side of the property (what would be the right side in your photo) and I was told it emptied into a 6 by 6 by 6 drywell at the back corner of the property.

They placed a nice little paver patio in the front yard and furnished it like an outdoor living room with wrought iron furniture and chairs. Even though it was outside it felt almost like being in an atrium with the raised plantings wrapping the area on three sides and lots of stuff planted there.

They took a front yard that used to drain all the way to the house, completely reversed the direction of runoff, collected it well away from the foundation and then drained it off the lot sensibly without sending it underneath the house.

If my danged scanner would talk to this new 64-bit computer I'd have scanned your photo, drawn in what I was talking about and posted it. Unfortunately, I can't get this computer and that scanner to talk to one another, so you'll have to envision it in your mind.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Thanks all. To keep it brief, the street slope is down towards the right. So the natural slope would be toward the right, away from the driveway.

I can picture what you are saying, Mike. I will run the idea past my clients.

Jim, the house is pretty inside. He is a builder-type, so nothing will scare him off. [:)]

The downspout is a big source of that water, I agree. I'll bet the downspout pours right into the perimeter drain beside the footing. I will recommend routing the runoff from that downspout out and around in a dedicated solid pipe.

Around here, if you have to block up the legs of the pool table, it's a crawlspace. [:)]

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Well, that picture doesn't match your initial description of "the front yard slopes steeply down to the entry." I had imagined something much worse.

What you've got there is actually pretty easy to deal with.

  • Install a drain channel across the lowest part of the driveway and have it end in a catch basin.

Excavate a trench across the front yard from the driveway to the right side of the house and run it toward the back until it daylights. The bottom of the trench should be as deep, or deeper, than the bottom of the house footings.

In the trench install, filter fabric, 3" of drain rock, a sock-covered drain tile, 3 more inchs of drain rock, fold the filter fabric over the rock like a burrito, then fill up the rest of the trench with drain rock.

Regrade the front yard to slope away from the house - it won't take much - plant some grass seed, and you're done.

Of course, someone has to ensure that the front downspout's discharge doesn't leak into the front yard.

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