Home buyers would do well to learn how to spot drainage issues. Water is not your friend; if it's not controlled it will bite in a number of different ways and every one will hurt. The first and most obvious tell is the position of the home; is it declined from the road? Gravity ensures that water takes the path of least resistance; will that be rushing down an expansive driveway that lets it blast into the house or garage? Will that be an area of yard that becomes a trench due to erosion?

Walk all areas of the yard to see where the water is coming from, where it goes and what damage it's doing and may have already done. Be aware of street drains; where do they lead, where do they dump the water? Remember; headwalls, culverts, swales and similar systems likely have easements in place for maintenance. This could impact the use of the yard and prohibit things like fences, pools or other features. That yard and headwall is a major influence on that home. There is a significant water load landing right there and it's clearly been neglected over the years.

The easiest thing to control surface water is the proper use of gutters and downspouts. 6" wide gutters are the best option and downspouts of the same size are best. Connect them to plastic piping, bury that and let it empty down and away from the home. The key is to make it easy for the water to move down and away - this is also the best way to keep basements and crawlspaces dry. Water is lazy; it will look for the easiest route to take so use that to your advantage. Down and away. Down and away.

Developers use "down and away" as well. With all of the building, the amount of "impervious surface area" is closely watched by governing municipalities. Most have a percentage limit for each lot; roofs, streets, driveways, hardscapes, decks...water cannot permeate these materials so runoff develops. Developers must control this runoff and allow it to collect in an area that will not cause damage. Retention ponds are often the answer, collection points in the lowest area of a community. Depending on the need, there can be several scattered about. Homes are often adjacent to these areas; some buyers consider this added greenspace and privacy, others see potential safety issues and breeding grounds for inspects and critters. 

Drainage issues can be easy to spot and if addressed promptly, can be quickly corrected or controlled. If left to fester, problems will develop.  Not every issue will be readily obvious; things like erosion are easy to see but hidden problems like mold, decay and insects can go on unnoticed. It's like going to the dentist for a cleaning and leaving with a root canal. Brush twice a day, floss and control surface water.

Posted by Hank Miller on


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