Column: The importance of water management

GV16OPvassalloCOLBy Rob Vassallo
Guest Columnist

Water management is extremely important in order to avoid the pooling areas of water that leave your home vulnerable to moisture intrusion.
Those of you who have experienced flooded basements, parking garage pools, and yard swamps can attest to this. If water stands around your foundation for long periods of time it can actually cause damage.
Concrete foundations, either block or poured, have waterproofing barriers that help prevent water entry. Occasionally, water can move through the barrier and can wick into the basement, or even lead to foundation cracks during the freeze, thaw cycle.
It is for these reasons that a proper water management system needs to be in place.
A water management system entails three main components: slope away from foundation, gutter systems and drainage systems.
Slope away from foundation
When it comes to grade, the most crucial area is the first 10 feet from a foundation.
Building code specifies that there needs to be a 6-inch drop in grade within the first 10 feet of the home.
This means that the grade around your foundation gradually slopes away from the home. The significance of this concept is clear. If the grade slopes away from the home, then water will be directed away from your foundation; if the grade around the home is higher than along the foundation, water will move toward the home and pool up along the foundation.
This can lead to basement leaks or even foundation cracks during the freeze thaw cycle.
If you are noticing standing water close to your home, then your water management system is lacking adherence to this drainage code.
Gutter system
The next component for an effective water management system is a gutter system.
If gutters are not installed, water will run off the roof and collect along the foundation. Instead, this water needs to be collected into gutters and led away from the home.
It is important to have the correct downspouts and gutter extensions installed. If a downspout lacks an extension, the water could be pooling along the foundation rendering the whole concept useless. An effective gutter system combined with a proper grade is paramount in directing water away from the home.
Sometimes there are obstacles that prevent a positive slope around the foundation, such as neighboring properties, retaining walls or other barriers. In this case, other drainage measures need to be utilized.
Depending upon the situation, French drains can be set up to collect the water and pipe it to another drain away from the house.
Another factor to be aware of is how landscaping and trees affect your drainage. If trees are too close to the home, their roots can actually grow into the foundation. If you combine a negative grade and trees in close proximity to a foundation, the tree roots will actually follow the water (which is trapped near foundation from negative grade) and may cause serious damage to the home’s foundation.
As a homeowner, it is important to notice how effective your water management system is in order to prolong the longevity of your home. If you are noticing areas of water build up, there may be a flaw in your system. Next time you are outside, walk around your home and observe. Do you see a positive slope away from your foundation, gutters with extensions that shed water away from the home, and ultimately any pooling water or trees in close proximity to the home?
For any questions or help determining if your water management system is effective, consult an expert. Sometimes all it takes is a simple fix to meet your water management needs.

Rob Vassallo is the principal of Complete Building Solutions, a Golden Valley-based engineering and consulting service.