Considering the amount of snow we have received lately and warm weather just around the corner, water intrusion should be on our minds. This time of year is a great time to discuss some of the most likely suspects and how we can mitigate those potential issues. The most common question we get when it comes to wet basements and crawlspaces is “how can I fix it?”
While installing drain tile, a sump pit and pump is an effective way to prevent basement water from soaking your basement or crawlspace floor, the most important aspect of preventing water intrusion is to control water at the exterior of the home. There are two very basic systems that will prevent water intrusion in most cases; proper grading around the home and effective gutter systems.
Proper slope away from the home is super simple, yet incredibly crucial to preventing moisture from traveling towards your foundation and preventing moisture intrusion as well as foundation damage. A majority of the homes I inspect, including new builds, have either neutral (flat or level) or negative grade (sloping towards the home). What you are looking for is positive grade, which simply means that the soil around your home is sloping away from your home. A general guideline that you will hear me pass along to every one of my clients is to ensure that your grade drops 6 inches in the first 10 feet away from your foundation. I attached a diagram below that shows up in a large number of my reports. If you can do that, you are well on your way to keeping water away from your foundation.
Gutters, Downspouts & Downspout Extensions
Paying close attention to the condition and configuration of your gutters, downspouts and downspout extensions is the other primary consideration when determining whether or not you are ready for the next torrential downpour. Without gutters, rainwater travels down the roof and lands within a foot or two of the foundation. This is inherently a bad idea, right? Right…I totally agree.
The only thing that may be worse than not having a gutter system installed is having a gutter system and downspouts installed, but no downspout extensions. In this scenario, the gutter system is channeling an enormous amount of moisture to one concentrated location…often right next to the foundation. Downspout extensions simply carry the water away from the foundation. I recommend installing extensions that are 6 feet long to carry the water an adequate distance away from the foundation. Below is another diagram that shows up in quite a few of my reports.
Additionally, the dreaded task of cleaning your gutters in the spring and fall is another great way to ensure your gutter system is working efficiently. Gutters full of leaves and other debris will eventually clog the gutter and the downspouts. A heavy rain storm will overwhelm the clogged system and the rainwater will overflow the gutters and land near the foundation.
Following these simple suggestions will eliminate a majority of the issues I see regarding wet basements and crawlspaces. It will take a little elbow grease and some preparation on the front side, but it’s definitely better than walking downstairs with dry socks and walking back upstairs with wet socks.