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The 4 Best Foundation Drainage Solutions

Owning a home is part of the American Dream. It also can become a nightmare. 

Homeownership is a breeze when everything is working properly. But what about when things break down, fall apart, or just need fixing? If your home has issues that stay in disrepair, they can turn into big problems pretty quickly.

That’s why things like foundation drainage solutions are important. Your foundation is one of the most important parts of your home. You need to take whatever steps are necessary to preserve and maintain it.

Sure, it may cost you some money up-front, but not as much money as if you neglect the repairs. 

Take it from us. We know. Lifting a house on jacks to repair the foundation is not something you want to get into. It can cost lots of time, money, and stress.

We want to help you avoid that. Let’s talk about the 4 best foundation drainage solutions for your home.

Here we go!

Why Foundation Drainage Solutions

You might be wondering why drainage of foundation is necessary. Your home’s foundation is typically at, or beneath, ground level. A lot of moisture can build up there from the soil alone.

But, you can also experience additional moisture from rainfall and other weather events. With moisture constantly leaching into the ground, it’s important to protect your foundation by any means necessary.

We’ll talk about foundation repair a bit later. But, for now, let’s just say that it’s something you want to avoid whenever possible. Providing sufficient drainage for your foundation is one of the best ways to do that, especially if you live in a moister area of the country (i.e., Florida, Louisiana, etc.).

1. The Surface

The first and simplest way to provide foundation drainage is with the surface ground surrounding your home. This would be commonly referred to as your yard.

So, how do you use your yard to provide drainage around the house foundation? The easiest way is to grade your yard away from the house. Grading the yard properly allows water to flow off of your roof and off of your property away from the foundation of your home.

Typically this happens during the building process. An excavator will be on-site to grade your lawn before sodding. Have the excavator, or site plan reviewer, check the plans for your home to see the proposed grading plan. 

Ask them to ensure that the proposed grade slopes away from the home’s foundation. Sometimes this can be a challenge, however.

Certain cities or towns may have legislation that would prevent you from doing this. An example would be towns that require you to keep all of your runoff on your own property.

Towns with a law like this on their books may require your yard to slope in a “fishbowl” shape to qualify for permitting and a Certificate of Occupancy.

It’s always important to check with your local city or town when taking on a project like this. Grading is a great way to install drainage around house foundation.

You may also want to address any trees that are in your yard. Trees growing too close to the foundation can cause major issues. There are countless instances of tree roots cracking concrete foundations.

Again, check with your town to see which trees you can remove and which ones you can’t. Usually, towns will be ok with you removing trees if you replace them somewhere else on the property.

2. Gutters

Gutters are a great method for carrying water away from your home and your home’s foundation. Even if you can’t grade your home away from the foundation, you can add extra pieces of gutter. Making the downspout of your gutters longer allows water to travel further away from the house.

Doing so can allow water to reach a portion of your yard where it is no longer a danger to the home’s foundation. Some gutter systems can even drain underground.

Certain areas require you to guide your gutters’ downspouts into an underground pipe. The downspout travels straight down into a coupling near the foundation of the house. The coupling connects to a long run of PVC pipes buried underground. Those pipes end in a structure known as an underground leaching basin.

The leaching basin is a structure made up of concrete rings. The basin holds the water and allows it to slowly seep into the underground soil at its natural pace. You can add or subtract drainage rings from the basin depending on how much drainage your home actually needs.

A civil engineer is typically responsible for calculating the amount of drainage needed. From there, the engineer will determine the number of basins and rings necessary.

3. Foundation Drains

Any steps you can take to attack drainage issues on the surface would be your first line of defense. But it can be difficult to stop all of your runoff at a surface level. That’s why it pays to enlist the help of a sub-surface drainage system.

The leaching basin/drainage ring system we mentioned above is a great tool for the surrounding area of your property. But what about right near the foundation?

The good news is that there are sub-surface drainage solutions for that area of your yard as well. They are known as foundation drains.

Constructing A Foundation Drain

The first step in creating these foundation drainage systems is to line a trench around your foundation with 6-mil plastic. Next, a drain pipe is laid on top of the plastic material inside the trench.

This drain pipe is typically made up of  4-inch corrugated plastic or PVC. It can be a flexible or rigid pipe. The pipe should be perforated as well.

Once the pipe is laid in the trench, it’s covered with clean gravel. The gravel should be graded to keep the water flowing in the desired direction.

Next, a layer of Geotech filter fabric goes on top of the gravel. This is to keep a barrier between the gravel and the soil. It helps to keep the entire system permeable. This helps water to flow all the way through to the piping and out of the system.

Backfill soil is then brought in to cover the sub-surface drain. This backfill should be graded to a “rough grade.” The rough grade is the slope of your yard right before topsoil and sod are added. 

Once you get a “rough grade” on the backfill, you can finish your final grading with topsoil. Be sure to slope away from the house.

Important Points

There are a few things you should keep in mind when installing a foundation drain.

Firstly, the rigid pipe may be a better option. It might be harder to handle than flexible piping, but it will be easier to maintain grading. It also can help you to avoid low spots.

You’ll also want to lay your drainpipe with the slots to the side. Positioning the pipe this way helps to create a continuous channel for the water to run through. The one downside, however, is it still allows rising groundwater or runoff from above to get into the drain.

Your sub-surface drain will still function if the piping is level. As long as the outlet at the end of the system is lower than the starting point, your drainage system should work fine.

4. Drainage Boards

Another great choice for foundation drainage solutions is drainage boards. These boards can be used in conjunction with waterproofing on the foundation walls. The waterproofing isn’t necessary, but it makes for an even more watertight foundation.

These “boards” come in rolls of fabric from 4 feet to 9 feet 9 inches tall. The fabric is dimpled on one side. That’s the side that faces your foundation. The purpose of the dimpling is to hold the fabric about 1/2 an inch from the foundation wall.

If you decide to install drainage boards, and they don’t look exactly like the ones described above, don’t fret. There are many different versions of this product. Some have dimpling on the outside of the fabric to create a “channel” away from the foundation for water to flow.

There are even versions of drainage boards that use solid materials. These create an area for water to flow into the ground away from the foundation. They can provide some additional insulation for the foundation as well.

Important Points

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re installing drainage boards. 

Drainage boards may reduce hydrostatic pressure. The dimpling can move water away before pressure has the time to build up. Nevertheless it’s still a great method how to fix drainage problems around the foundation.

Although it’s not necessary, we recommend a moisture barrier behind the drainage board material. It should help to keep moisture from infiltrating toward the foundation. Obviously, don’t add this barrier if it negatively affects the performance or isn’t recommended by the manufacturer.

Solving The Drain Game

You might have begun this article asking, “what is foundation drainage?” We hope this article has made you more informed. We also hope you now realize that foundation drainage solutions are important for preserving the life of your house. 

If you have any questions about the best foundation drainage solution for your home or property, contact us today. We can advise you on materials and systems, as well as answer any other questions you may have.


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