You really don’t have to be an expert to know that the appearance of puddles of water in your basement or a developing lake on your lawn (that you did not put there) are definite signs that your property has a drainage issue. However, not all potentially very troublesome drainage issues are quite so obvious. If however you become a little more familiar with the subtler signs of poor drainage then you could end up saving yourself a lot of headaches, hassles and expense in the long run. Here is a little about just some of those signs:
Gutters That Gush
A veritable mini Niagara of water gushing over the side of your gutter after a rain storm should tell you right away that something is wrong, probably that the guttering is clooged with debris and needs to be cleaned asap. But you don’t need to wait for the rain to spot other gutter problems. If you see streaks of dirt running vertically on the outside of your gutters, mud splatters on your home’s siding or vertical strips of peeling paint on the house near the gutters these are all signs that you have a problem. Left unaddressed gutter problems can lead to ruined paint jobs, rotten siding and eventually to structural water damage.
In the best case scenario here all you will need to do is get those gutters cleaned up and then resolve to try and keep it that way. If that does not help you may have gutters that are either undersized for purpose or incorrectly pitched, leading to the possible need for reinstallment or even replacement. Which will be a pain, but far less of one than what you’ll face if you ignore the problem.
Downspouts That Dump
Did you know that for each inch of rain that falls on 1,000 square feet of a roof more than 600 gallons of runoff is produced—enough to fill 10 bathtubs to the very top? If your downspouts are dumping that much water too close to the foundations of your home it’s probably only going to head one way, down, into your basement or crawl space. The continual water dump also puts pressure on the foundations themselves and over time they will begin to crack, putting the whole safety of the property at risk.
Fortunately, the answer to this problem is usually to install gutter extensions to ensure that all the water is carried away a safe distance from the home. And at $10-15 a piece and maybe a couple of hours learning how to install them (YouTube it) they are an absolute bargain compared to what could happen and how much that would all take to fix.
Water Stains Below
Basement water stains should always be at least a small cause for concern. But depending on just where they have shown up you can begin to tell why. If they are high on the foundation wall then the problem is often that water is coming from an overflowing gutter, or that surface runoff backed up against your house because the soil around your foundation doesn’t slope adequately (6 inches for every 10 horizontal feet is best). To solve the latter problem you may need the help of a landscape contractor but it will be money well spent.
If the water marks extend themselves in a line around the lower part of the basement then you may have a bigger problem on your hands. This often indicates that a basement floor has been set below the level of municipal storm drains and the water seeps in when they back up during heavier rains. Or the stains may be an indication of a high water mark caused by a fluctuating water table. Either way a proper interior drain and sump pump system should solve the problem, keeping both your home and your old hockey trophies dry.
Basement Walls That Flake
If you begin to notice spots of whitish/greyish crusty ‘stuff’ on your basement walls that is something called efflorescence, the mineral deposits left behind after water evaporates. It’s not actually harmful to your home but just where the water came from is something you’ll need to investigate further. And yes, you can just scrape it off, and you’ll want to because it’s pretty ugly.
If on the other hand the walls are flaking in big patches spalling is likely to blame. Spalling occurs when water has seeped inside the masonry. It too can just be an eyesore issue but if the new cracks run deeper than a half inch, or seem to keep growing it may be a sign that poor drainage is threatening the foundation’s integrity.