Before Buying a House, Check the Drainage Situation – On the House

Before Buying a House, Check the Drainage Situation

By on March 3, 2016

Four drainage issues to check before buying a house

The biggest investment most of us make is buying a house. Moreover, there are fewer things that will make a home buyer walk away from a potential purchase more quickly than a water issue.

Most homeowners and, unfortunately, many builders do not fully understand proper drainage. The key to good drainage is simple: water flows downhill. When it collects in a large area or flows a great distance, it has the potential to create significant problems.

Soggy, poorly graded ground is certain doom for lawns, shrubs and plants. Poorly drained runoff from roofs can enter your basement, or flow inside your home through foundational cracks or leaks, where it can warp floorboards and turn finished rooms into mildewy messes.

As the Spring house hunting season begins in earnest over the next several weeks, prospective home buyers should check out four drainage-related issues before signing on the dotted line:

Walk the perimeter of the house. Make sure to check and see if the dirt adjacent to the foundation slopes away from the house. If the grading of the property slopes toward the home, this could lead to damp or wet crawl spaces, structural damage and toxic mold.

Find the rain gutter downspouts. Do they drain directly to the ground? Has the water created a low spot for water to collect adjacent to the home? If so, there’s a good chance there is water intrusion somewhere. Take a look at the water flow through the downspouts to make sure the water moves freely away from the home, especially the foundation. Further, make sure gutter downspouts are carrying water at least 10 feet away from the home.

Look for cracks in the exterior walls and foundation. If a quarter can slip into a crack of the foundation, it is a sign that there are settling issues. Primary culprits of major cracks are gutters and downspouts that have failed to deliver runoff water far enough away from the foundation.

When buying new, ask about the drainage plan. Most problems with new homes relate to drainage issues. If you are buying a newly-constructed home, make sure you understand how a property drains before you buy. If possible, during a heavy rain, visit the site and observe how the water flows. You’ll then be able to discuss any drainage concerns with the builder and get his plan for dealing with potential problems.

An important part of buying any home is investigating its potential problems and hazards. Overlooking potential drainage trouble spots could very well mean hundreds if not thousands of dollars in unexpected repairs later on.

Happy house hunting!


By Ryan Larsen
, NDS, Inc.

Ryan Larsen is a civil engineer at NDS, Inc. He has nearly a decade of experience in civil engineering, land development and the building materials and construction industry, and is an authority on issues and solutions related to drainage for homeowners and businesses. He is also known as “Dr. Drainage” as host of NDS’s educational YouTube video series on drainage systems and storm water management. 


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