There are a few pieces of advice I find myself sharing over and over again during home inspections. Among the most common? “The best way to keep water out of a basement is to direct it away from the home.” Here are some proven methods for doing so.
Foundations are porous, and if water is held against them it will eventually work its way in. Even attempts to seal foundations – often marketed as “waterproofing” – will eventually fail. This includes using glass block windows or applying a sealant or rubber membrane at the foundation. Read why these are ineffective here.
Redirecting water away from your home is your best bet – and here’s how:
One way to direct water away from the foundation is to make sure the ground slopes away from the home. If the shape of the landscaping directs water toward your home, it needs to be reshaped to direct it away.As a rule of thumb, the ground should slope away from the home at a rate of 1/4 inch per foot for at least six feet. Anywhere the slope is neutral or goes toward the home can allow water to sit against the foundation for long enough to work its way in. If you have areas that direct water toward the house consider adding soil or rocks at the foundation, or if there isn’t room, you can dig out the area farther from the home.
Here’s an example of proper grading using stones:
Roof Drainage System
The presence of a properly functioning roof drainage system will go a long way towards directing water away from the home. A home without gutters and downspouts essentially funnels all rain water that falls from the roof’s peak down over the edge and down directly to the foundation. This concentrated flow of water can erode the soil and create areas of poor grading. Gutters can catch this water before it becomes a problem and downspouts will safely discharge it away from the building structure. Just make sure your gutters are free of fallen leaves and other debris.
Sometimes it’s just not possible to change the slope of the ground around the home. In this case, the installation of perimeter drains can remove water from the area around the foundation. These are particularly useful in areas where water naturally collects near your foundation.
Bottom line: focus on eliminating areas where water can penetrate your foundation by directing it away from your home. While expensive sealants market themselves as being “waterproof,” they’re a band-aid at best. Use one of the methods above to ensure your basement stays dry and free from expensive water damage.
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