Praise be! Your crawl space passed our free estimate and got a dry passing grade. Or maybe all you needed was a vapor barrier, that is great too! But lets keep it that way. Unfortunately, just because it is dry today does not mean it will be dry tomorrow. Lame, I know, but in a world of shifting water tables and changing seasons it is the harsh reality.
In the wet Spring of 2022 we put in 300’ (!!!) of drainage in a home with 2(!!!) sump pumps. All his down spouts were clear. There was no plumbing leak. AND he had exterior drainage around the home, but the homeowners woke up one morning to 19” of water and approximately 25,000 gallons. After a pump out and during drainage installation we discovered the spring that had popped up under his home.
I don’t share that customers unfortunate story to tell you to install drainage just in case a temporary spring pops up under your home, these are exceedingly rare especially this severe. I do share this story to explain how a passing grade one day doesn’t mean a failing one later in the life of the home is out of the ordinary. We need to mitigate that though. We can’t prevent the unlucky temporary spring, but, we can do plenty of other things to keep the crawl space dry, route water away from the foundation and in turn prolong the life of the home (potentially by A LOT).
Down Spouts and Gutters
Those pipes attached to the bottom of your gutters are almost as important as the gutters themselves. And the gutters are almost as important as the roof! Your home displaces a lot of area, and all that rain water captured by your roof does not belong running along your foundation. But the gutters are meaningless if we can’t take the water completely away from the foundation. Down spouts fail because they get clogged, which is why you need regular gutter cleaning, or they might as well not exist at all. Much too often we arrive at homes and the gutters are just dumping water right at the base of the home. Or the down spouts are overflowing.
Step 1: Regular gutter cleaning and unclogging or fixing down spouts when they overflow.
No down spouts or old and undersized ones? This is common also. We use 3” buried ABS (black plastic pipe) and generally send it to a pop-up emitter or some form of a drywell. Rule of thumb is no less than 15’ away from the foundation, but more the merrier. Any chance you can get to increase the soils ability in and around your home to absorb water you should take it. If running it 60’ away out towards the street is possible and is in your budget you should do that. Once the soil has settled and the grass seed we toss afterwards takes you won’t even be able to tell we were there.
The foundation vents around your home are also very important! If it seems like I have a reoccurring theme of telling you something is important, it is because I see a reoccurring theme of eye rolls and homeowners not thinking anything matters. But, if the soil against your home is not a solid 2”-4” below the opening of the foundation vent then we should install a foundation vent well to keep it so. If the soil is in the vent well or your vents are filled with soil then you have a fairly effortless way for water to intrude into your home. Easy fix. Generally we install something like this for free when doing a full crawl space restoration.
Step 2: Foundation vent cleaning and/or vent well installation
Now we are routing roof water away from the home. We have also cleaned or installed our vent wells. But the wife insist on watering the roses.
No, your sprinkler system is not flooding your crawl space. Could it be attributing to a little pooling because one particular sprinkler is aimed perfectly through a vent? Absolutely. But the cracked pipe you found 3’ away from the foundation that runs for 10 minutes 3x a week 9 months a year is in no way flooding your crawl space. However, I have been to homes where they are severely over water their lawn AND they have bark dust up the bottom of the siding AND their vent wells are full of dirt. That could be one piece of this big puzzle.
Step 3: Be mindful of your watering practices
Gutter water is at the street. Vent wells installed. Ensuring not to over water our lawn and plants, especially near the foundation. Mostly easy and mostly cheap solutions. But I live on a hill and my lawn is always soggy still. That can’t be good.
The exterior drainage system, also commonly known as the French drain, is the biggest tool in our belt. All those rocks and dry riverbeds you see around homes in suburbia do serve a function, and they usually have a drain pipe in them. Generally speaking if your crawl space is flooding and you have done steps 1 thru 3 for the past few years or so then chances of preventing future flooding with exterior drainage is slim. It is also hard to promise that any exterior work will solve the problem, but it will give the interior system the greatest chance for success so it is not a total loss. It also looks nice and can elevate the style of your yard.
Placement of the drain is critical and so is discharge, which can/should/will be a entire blog itself. There are a few quick options, if the goal is to only protect the foundation, we can get it pretty close to the foundation often times. Or if the lawn is obviously pooling in certain areas then we can and should address that too. There are a lot of factors and considerations when contemplating French drain placement and depth. Including but not limited to, discharge, goals, and of course the budget. With cost in mind though we are able to do a lot for the life of the home for as little as $2,000.
Step 4: Drainage
Maybe this seems like a lot. Maybe it seems like a little. But a little does go a long way. Especially when none of the steps have been completed. The order of the steps was thought out. Not only in importance, but in order of ease and cost. A lot of home owners would not have a problem doing one of these steps but tackling all 4 or 2 of them might not be worth your time. If that is the case or if you just want some application advice please give us a shout and we would love to assist you in keep your home dry.