Rain, rain in the drain, hopefully

Today is a visually stunning spring day in Wyckoff, NJ – the sky is the most beautiful blue with just a smattering of puffy clouds.  It is a welcome sight after the many days of continual rain and drizzle we just had.  As much as I am itching to start writing about all things green, a soggy wet area in my neighbor’s lawn is prompting me to broach a very different subject – drainage.

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The peaceful sound of moving water is truly a joy for the senses.

Ah, water.  It is a life giving force.  It quenches the thirst, softens the skin, makes our gardens lush, and keeps us cool in the summertime.  That is, when we are in charge of what it does.  However, water also has an angry and often dangerous side, as we’ve witnessed in the recent tsunami in Japan.  We can’t begin to imagine the kind of suffering Japan is enduring, and our hearts most certainly go out to her people.  Here in North Jersey, we’ve had more than our fair share of rivers flooding from Mother Nature’s generous spring rainfall.  Without a doubt, even the most well prepared of us will suffer some kind of damage and loss from natural water disasters.  Fortunately, for the run-of-the-mill heavy rainstorm, there are solutions.

Surely as the sun rises and sets, spring rains bring drainage issues.  Sometimes these are temporary situations from an unusual rain fall event, but most times it is due to winter damage to leader drains, or changes in the water flow through the ground, or from property changes such as additions or new construction either to your own property or a neighbors….. sometimes even from someone several homes away up the block from you.

What causes water problems around your home?  Here are the most common things we run into:

  • Clogged gutters
  • Leader pipes that dump onto the ground near the house
  • Outside property areas are pitched toward the house.
  • Clogged or crushed footer drains
  • Hydrostatic pressure (usually caused by failed French or other drains)
  • High water table

Of these causes, clogged gutters are the easiest to observe, and the easiest to fix.  Quite simply, if you see a waterfall spilling over your gutters during heavy rains, it’s blocked.  Keep them from getting blocked by having them cleaned twice a year.  A general rule of thumb is to clean them after the trees are done dropping all of their spring ‘goodies’ – seedlings, pollens, flowers, etc., and again when they are done dropping their leaves in the fall.

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Before the repair – water leaking against the house and going no where

The next easiest, and something the ambitious digger can do him (or, her) self is installing a seepage pit.  Your leader pipes (the pipes that connect the gutters to the ground) should empty into seepage pits that are set into the ground at least 10 feet from the house, and the grade where the pits are installed should be lower than the ground that meets the foundation of the house to allow natural gravity to pull the water away.  If the seepage pits are installed too close to the house, or if the ground pitches toward

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After the repair – the leader has been rerouted to a seepage pit.

the house (that is, slopes upward from the house), or if, heaven forbid, the leader pipes simply dump the water on the ground at the foundation without directing it away, it is going to find its way into your basement or crawl space.

Changes to outside property pitches, clogged, broken and failed drains, and problems from a high water table all require professional intervention.  Repairing these issues often requires expertise in water management – let’s face it, the water has to go somewhere, and if you’re going to divert it from your house, it has to be done in a way that doesn’t affect someone else’s.  There are many factors to consider when making these types of more invasive drainage changes.  I will cover these issues in a future blog.  If you have any questions about any of these possible solutions, you can, as always, email me or call us at 201-848-0022.

A really neat and useful website that Mike found showing the effects of water damage on your home is that of The B-Dry System.  If some of those pictures don’t motivate you to solve your water problems, nothing will.

According to our forecast, the next few weeks seem to be following the same April showers pattern, so now is the perfect time to pay attention to pooling water around your home and to the seepage of water inside, and to take care of those drainage issues before they become major headaches.  I just hope that with all this rain and the warmer temperatures that my perennial garden doesn’t get too far ahead of me!