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Install a Curtain Drain to Reduce Flooding

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Patrick calling in who’s a firefighter from Chicago who’s just dealing with a disastrous firehouse in need of help. And we found him in a post on Hometalk.

    Welcome, Firefighter Patrick. How are you today?

    PATRICK: Very good.

    TOM: Patrick, what’s going on with the firehouse in Chicago?

    PATRICK: We are located in Garden Homes, right next to Chicago.

    TOM: OK.

    PATRICK: And our firehouse has been around since 1940. The problem with our firehouse is the placement where it’s at, at a bottom of a hill. When it rains, it floods eventually down here and that’s where the water collects up. The water was up to about a foot to 2 feet in some sections.

    LESLIE: Wow.

    TOM: Well, was it that high in the streets?

    PATRICK: Yeah.

    TOM: OK. So no matter what you did, short of raising that building 6 or 8 feet, you were going to flood.

    PATRICK: Yeah. We don’t have the money to raise the building. This has happened time and time again and this …

    TOM: Alright. So is there sort of a hillside that slopes into the firehouse, Patrick?

    PATRICK: Well, yeah. On our north side of the building.

    TOM: OK. Now, one of the ways – now, we – first of all, I can’t help you when, obviously, the entire community floods. We’re good; we’re not that good.

    But what we can suggest is this: whenever you have runoff and water that’s sort of coming down from a higher elevation to a lower elevation, what you want to try to do is intercept that water. The long-term plan is to install what’s called a curtain drain. Have you ever heard of that?

    PATRICK: No.

    TOM: OK. So what a curtain drain is – if you were to dig at the soil level around the firehouse, you put in a drain. You dig a trench that’s about 12 inches wide and about 12 inches deep. In the bottom of this trench, you have a couple of inches of stone, then you have perforated pipe – solid PVC, by the way, not the flexible kind – and that perforated pipe has to be connected to a point where it can discharge. So you go from the highest point to the lowest point, so the water drains out.

    And then you cover it with stone, you put a piece of filter cloth and then you finish the top with dirt. You can put sod, you can put mulch; it can basically be invisible and flush to the yard if that’s the kind of installation.

    And the way a curtain drain works is the water comes down, it hits the trench, it falls into the trench, it comes up into the pipe and then goes through the pipe – the exit point. And that’s – you intercept runoff water that’s coming from the higher point to the lower point. Installing something that intercepts the water and stops it getting to the firehouse walls where it’s leaking through is kind of the idea here.

    And the other thing that we want to suggest is make sure you’re not adding to the problem by taking any roof water that’s coming off the firehouse roof and dumping it too close to your exterior walls.

    Does your firehouse have gutters on it?

    PATRICK: No.

    TOM: OK. So that’s something that’s important. So what happens to the water? It just rolls off the roof, along the sides of the building?

    PATRICK: Yes. It just – it follows the natural flow to the front of our firehouse.

    TOM: OK. So what you …

    LESLIE: Well and that’s not really helping the situation there.

    TOM: Right. What you want to do is manage that roof water. So you want to collect it in downspouts, in gutters and you want to discharge it several feet from the firehouse. But you cannot let the water collect in the roof and then drop right down around the areas where it’s leaking into the walls, because it will.

    So if you manage the water around the house so we don’t contribute to it, if we install curtain drains to intercept water that’s coming down – now, what’s your financial situation? Do you guys have fundraisers to pay for stuff like this?

    PATRICK: We have fundraisers but we run on a very low budget from our town.

    LESLIE: OK.

    TOM: Right.

    PATRICK: Run at $65,000 a year.

    LESLIE: OK.

    TOM: Wow. Well, that’s not a lot.

    LESLIE: But I mean fundraising, you can reach out to everyone in your community, because they support their safety and so it’s in their best interest to make their donations to the fire department. Because, hopefully, they never need you but they might. And there are a variety of ways to do it and you seem like a really resourceful guy.

    And you can reach out even to media relations or press relations for certain companies and manufacturers that might make a product or building material that you could benefit from in pursuing these renovations or remodels or repairs and sort of tell them your story. And you never know; you could get a media person there who really sympathizes with you and relates to the company – your needs – and next thing you know, you’ve got a pile of materials arriving at your doorstep as a donation.

    So I wouldn’t be afraid to ask. You certainly are a worthy cause and what you do is really beneficial to so many people. So don’t be afraid to ask. Be creative. Have interesting fundraisers, have local fundraisers and ask for the money. And you’d be surprised; people will give.

    TOM: Does that make sense, Patrick?

    PATRICK: Yes. And this curtain drain sounds very good. Alright. Well, thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. And thanks so much for reaching us out to us, again, on Hometalk.com. It’s a great site. A lot of good people are available to help folks, just like you and so many more homeowners, with problems and issues that come up in the process of home ownership.

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