There are four main ways for water to damage your residential property. We will discuss each of them in order of their severity, starting with the least damaging and working our way up to the most
Assessing Residential Water Problems
Dated: May 22 2022
There are four main ways for water to damage your residential property. We will discuss each of them in order of their severity, starting with the least damaging and working our way up to the most severe situations. The four main ways water can enter your home are:
1. Seepage -
2. Mechanical Failure -
3. Sewer Backup -
4. Flood Conditions -
Seepage - A home's foundation creates a barrier between the basement or crawl space and the surrounding earth. The properties of water around your foundation coupled with force of gravity create hydrostatic pressure which pushes against your foundation. Under normal conditions, the concrete foundation walls and proper grading of the surrounding landscape are sufficient to keep that water at bay. However, cracks and crevices in your foundation and/or basement floor may give that water a place to go if that pressure increases due to rain or flooding conditions. Water will follow the path of least resistance. The goal of every homeowner should be to first understand how water behaves, then to know your home’s weaknesses, take steps to prevent water entry if possible, and finally, be prepared to minimize the damage if it happens. We are not likely to eliminate the possibility of water entering our property entirely, but we can make great strides in reducing the likelihood of such occurrences.
In the case of seepage, determining why excess water and pressure are outside your foundation is key to addressing the problem. Possible reasons include; heavy rains, a high water table, or poorly sloped earth surrounding the foundation allowing water to collect near the foundation rather than channeling it away from the house. Channeling rainwater away from the foundation is key to reducing/eliminating the instances of seepage. Adding extensions to gutter downspouts, creating a swale to channel water away from low-lying areas, or re-routing gutter downspouts altogether may be necessary. A "Downpour tour" around your home while it is raining heavily will provide a rare opportunity to identify weak links in your water defense system. Grab an umbrella (fiberglass or wood handled) and galoshes and walk the perimeter of your home during a downpour looking for pooling water around the foundation, gutters that are spilling over, disconnected/leaking downspouts or any other malfunctions that show themselves. If it is lightening, you should probably not take the risk. The likelihood of you being home and ready during a downpour is fairly small, so don't pass up the opportunity should it present itself. If you see pooling water, this is something that you should address. Keep in mind, these pooling conditions are often short-lived and may disappear after only 10-30 minutes after the rain stops. This does not mean that you do not have a problem. In times of heavy rain, the ground may become saturated and those pools could remain for days, or if it rains during the winter when the ground is frozen, pooling can quickly occur and have nowhere to go. If you have pooling around your property, you should address it immediately or risk future seepage. If you need help, a landscaper may have some good advice.
Creting a swale - A swale is a depression on your property that creates a route for water to go when it collects near your foundation. This could be as simple as digging a small depression in the soil or grass that leads from the pooling water to a lower part of your property and hopefully to a storm sewer or other path designed to move storm water. Remember the goal of this exercise is to limit water from collecting near your foundation.
How seepage occurs -
There are three ways water can breach the foundation; 1. through a crack in the foundation. 2. where the basement floor meets the foundation. And 3. Over the top of the foundation or through a window well. All three of these routes can be reduced by directing water away from your foundation. Water coming over the top of the foundation is clearly a big challenge and you should seek competent, professional advice. See part 4 - Flooding conditions for more on this problem.
Drain tile systems - Most home foundations built since the early to mid 1950's have a drain tile system at the base of the foundation that collects water from around the outside of the foundation and routes it into a sump pit in the crawlspace or basement. The sump pit then pumps the water into the home's sanitary sewer system (now illegal in many municipalities) or onto the home's property. If your sump pit pumps the water onto your own property, it is important that it is directed far enough away from the foundation so it doesn't end up back in the sump pit. This drain tile system is sufficient for 90% of the rain episodes we encounter. However, the drain tiles can fill with silt over the years and become less effective over time. This is why you have probably heard of people who have installed an interior drain tile system to address ongoing seepage problems. Once the house is built, the soil around the outside of the foundation cannot be removed in large amounts as the foundation needs the soil pressing against it to perform its function. Thus, putting a second drain tile system on the inside of the foundation usually fixes the problem. See the links at the end of this article to see examples of the terms and systems described in this article.
Our 32 years as Realtors have allowed us to see hundreds of homes with water issues of one kind or another. All of the three homes we have owned over the years had water issues that needed to be addressed. Finding a house free of water issues is a rare find to be sure. But understanding how water interacts with your structure is the key to addressing your water issues. Please text/call/email us with any questions comments or suggestions regarding water issues or this series.
Tom & Mary Zander
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServicesStarck Real Estate
300 W. Golf Road, Mount Prospect, IL60056
Swale explained -
Interior drain tile system -
Tom & Mary Zander, both Chicago natives, have been residents of Mount Prospect since 1983 and have been actively selling real estate in the northwest suburbs since 1989. Tom & Mary love what t....