DIY Drains to Prevent Basement Moisture
LESLIE: Mary in Illinois is on the line with a basement-moisture situation. What’s going on over there?
MARY: My neighbor’s house sits a little higher than mine does. And they’ve also re-landscaped since they moved in about three or four years ago. They have an oversized downspout that’s pointed directly towards my house. And when it rains, the water pools from their downspout up against my house. And then, also, after it rains, for days later the downstairs basement brick wall can be moist.
About a year ago, I had a landscaping company come in because I thought I could address this on my own. And they put a French drain in and trenched it out through my backyard and it still doesn’t seem to be addressing the issue.
TOM: Well, have you spoken with your neighbors about potentially extending those downspouts in a different direction? Typically, you can just run them out farther so that they don’t end up on your property.
MARY: I haven’t spoken with them yet. I had another issue shortly after they moved in where they were – again, they are higher on ground and I – and they had their sump-pump line pumping out. And it ran downhill, flooding my backyard. So when I tried to address that with them, although it did eventually get changed, it wasn’t an easy nor very negotiable process. So I was trying to not get into another situation where …
TOM: Yeah. You’re trying to be as nice as you can but – and they’re not being very cooperative. That’s not very neighborly of them, is it?
TOM: Well, I mean there’s always legal recourse but what you might want to do is speak with them and say, “Look, I’m having this issue with water in my basement.” You can blame us. Say, “Hey, I called my friends at The Money Pit Radio Show, who diagnose this problem every single minute of the day sometimes.” And we get so many questions about this. And just explain to them that water that collects around foundations ends up as basement leaks and you’re trying to avoid costly repairs. And if they would simply extend their downspouts, or allow you to extend the downspout so it doesn’t drain water right at the foundation corner, that will be very helpful.
Now, I do think that your landscaper was on the track – on the right track. You said that he put in a French drain. I’m going to guess what you’re talking about is a curtain drain, because curtain drains that are properly installed – and it may very well be that this was not properly installed. But a curtain drain that’s properly installed can intercept that water as it runs down and run it away from your house.
And if I was putting a curtain drain in, I would trench it down about a foot below the surface. I would put in 2 or 3 inches of gray gravel, on top of which I would put a perforated PVC pipe. Not the flexible, black drain pipe that so many landscapers use but a regular PVC pipe with holes in it. It’s a perforated pipe. That pipe has to have a pitch to it, so it has to drop maybe an 1/8-inch per foot or so, just so it has some pitch.
And the holes are on top. What happens, it fills up, the water flows into the holes and then it runs down the pipe, around the house and out. So, on top of the stone, you put the pipe, you put more stone to cover it completely. Then you put filter cloth, which is like a black, sort of burlap-y kind of landscape cloth. Then you could put dirt and sod on top of that.
But if it’s done correctly, it will successfully intercept the water – the runoff – and run it around the house and away from that foundation. You’ve got to start with the simple stuff here, Mary, which is talking to your neighbors and seeing if they’ll extend those downspouts so that they don’t dump into your house and flood your basement.
MARY: OK. Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.