Storm Water Control

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Weather is not always good. Every house is inundated with storm water from showers, thunderstorms, hurricanes and blizzards. How this storm water is controlled is critical to keeping water out of below grade areas. The storm water control system is unique to each house. The most common elements of this system are gutters, downspouts, downspout extensions, grading, sump pumps and drain tiles. The purpose is to get the system to discharge storm water at least 5 feet away from the house and direct the flow away from the house.

Storm water control is high maintenance, it’s always something. A common issue is storm water collecting next to the house and not flowing away. The water sinks into the ground and adds pressure to the foundation wall. Another storm repeats the cycle. Get enough storm water there and it will find its way into below grade areas. It takes 15-20 years for the grading and the driveway around a new house to settle to its final grade. Typically at this point the grade and driveway slope toward the house. Ground cover next to the house hides grade settlement.

Below grade areas include basements and crawlspaces. 90% of crawlspaces have ongoing water penetration because it is out of sight, out of mind. Below grade area storm water control consists of sump pumps and drainage tile. Around the house foundation perimeter is a drain tile system that directs storm water to the sump. The sump pump is activated and drains the storm water out of the sump. This drainage can go outside, underground or into the sewer pipes. Knowing where the drainage point is critical, too many times I see where the sump pump discharges next to the house. At this point, storm water is circulating through the system, not a good outcome.

Most storm water control repairs are easy and cheap. Get the storm water to a point where it gains speed away from the house. Placed correctly, storm water will stay out of below grade areas. Repair issues are complicated when the downspout discharges to the driveway next to the house. Sealant and backer rod is the repair for this condition. Downspout extensions that discharge onto lawns lose every time to lawnmowers, discharge them into landscaped areas. Extensions can be run underground for 6-10 feet and discharge through a pop up drain cover.

Some storm water control issues present a larger issue. If the foundation is damaged then more expensive repairs are needed. A typical repair is when a contractor saw cuts the basement floor about 2 feet from the foundation wall. The concrete is removed, a drain tile is installed and the concrete is replaced. The drain tile discharges to the sump pump which sends the storm water to a proper discharge point. This system does not stop the water penetration, it controls it, big difference.

Another repair option is done outside. The grading is excavated down to the footings, the exterior basement wall is waterproofed and the grading is put back (see note above about grading settlement). When excavating down 10 feet, the excavation must be 20 feet wide. This is very expensive and used only as a last resort.

A house with a slab on grade foundation does not have to worry about 95% of what I said above. Make sure the storm water does not sit next to the house.

Go outside after the first heavy rainstorm to see how the storm water control system works, and then make repairs. I go outside after a heavy rainstorm at least once every three months, because conditions change. The weather can rip a downspout from a gutter, it may not be seen. Keep gutters free of debris. Gutter guards keep debris out of the gutters, but the gutter guards must be cleared of debris. In cold weather, icicles jump the gutter guards. I tried them, now I keep my gutters clear with my leaf blower.