Flooded Basement Anyone?
It will never cease to amaze us how difficult it has been to get the word out about how important it is to keep water away from a home’s foundation. Take gutters and downspouts for example. There couldn’t be a better way to collect roof water and prevent it from dropping onto the ground adjacent to the foundation. Believe it or not in some places local codes don’t require gutters or downspouts. Fortunately for some the idea of surface water management is taken very seriously. In many communities strict rules are in place where gutters and downspouts are not only required, but they also must be connected to an underground drainage system that transports collected water to a public storm drain system. It gets even more complicated. These same lawmakers require that watershed from these systems not cross OVER sidewalks. That’s right, the pipe has to go under the sidewalk. It can’t daylight on your side of the sidewalk and run out to the street over a public walkway. We think these are good rules. Regardless, these rules are not enforced against existing homes. If you don’t have a gutter and downspout system chances are you will never have to install one unless you decide such yourself. As far as your rights are concerned the latter is probably sweet music to your ears. On the other hand, as a homeowner it may cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix your home someday. Water can take its toll.
If you have downspouts then at least you are properly collecting damaging roof water and funneling it into a management system that will possibly save you big time heartache down the road. However, if you do have gutters and downspouts and the water isn’t being collected into a drainage system you may be in for it anyway. Collecting all of that water and letting it out NEAR the foundation can be even worse than not having gutters and downspouts at all. Collecting all that water and letting it fall next to the foundation in massive quantities can literally destroy your home over time.
Hey, we don’t know anyone who has an unlimited pocket book. And you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars developing a fancy underground aqua duct. But you do need to pay special attention to what is happening to the water that your roof collects. Think about it. If you have an average size American home your roof collects water from an area over 2000 square feet in size. That’s a lot of collection area. Suddenly, all of that water ends up coming down about 6 or 8 downspouts – altogether less than 2 square feet. Talk about a build-up of water. Anyone got a puddle?
One thing that you can do if you don’t have an underground water delivery system is to extend the downspouts so that they don’t discharge water near your home. The experts tell us 3 feet is sufficient we think that is an absolute minimum distance. Twenty feet is probably better. A lot depends on the soil around your house. You might want to call a soils engineer in your area. Most will be able to answer over the phone.
In addition to an extension you will also want something that will prevent the rushing water from eroding your landscape. Rivers move mountains and downspout discharge can literally move your landscape. The experts usually recommend that gravel or rocks be placed at the end of a discharge pipe to reduce the chance of erosion. With homes the common practice is to use something called a splash block. Discharge water beats on the block not the ground. Splash blocks are OK most of the time, but may be lacking in torrential downpours.
So, what’s the answer you ask? Well, we both have underground drainage systems on our property because we want it to be there when we get old – the property that is. But, if the thought of an underground system makes your pocket book shudder then you should at least install extensions on all downspouts that terminate within a foot or two of your foundation. How far should they be extended you ask? As far as you can afford to extend them. And it doesn’t take anything fancy. Flexible plastic drain pipe, a section of downspout, metal, plastic or concrete sewer pipe – you choose. Whatever you do choose at least one. And that’s all there is to it!
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