Drainage systems can benefit your home in a variety of ways. Water damage is among the biggest issues your home could experience, leading to flooding, mold and mildew issues, and even foundation problems. Proper drainage can help you prevent that from happening.
Homeowners look into drainage systems for one of two reasons. Some simply want to be sure that water damage never becomes and issue. But most react to past damage, seeking ways to prevent it from happening again in the future.
Regardless of your reason for looking into the subject, you probably have some questions about what it means, how much it costs to install a drainage system, and what you need to know in the course of the installation. Consider this your guide to making sure that your home is protected from water problems, both now and in the future.
Simply understanding that you need proper drainage is not enough. Now, depending on the type of water problems you have or anticipate, it's time to pick a system that matches your needs. Three common types of solutions exist:
This system takes advantage entirely of gravity. It consists of a ditch filled with gravel and a perforated pipe, which guides water away from the area susceptible to damage. French drains make the most sense in one of two areas of your home:
Around your home's perimeter, and
Underneath your basement floor.
In both cases, it helps collect excess water and guides it away from your foundation in order to prevent water damage.
Especially if your property is relatively flat, be mindful of standing water in your yard after rain falls. Your water table will rise, leading to increased risk of water damage to your home. In that case, a system of drain pipes that distribute water equally throughout your property can help solve your issue.
Sometimes, your water problems may be caused by an issue as simple as improper gutter drainage. Make sure that your downspouts lead far enough away from your property in order to avoid risking damage to your foundation.
Hydrostatic Pressure Drainage
Don't think of water as only coming from above. Depending on the water table in your property, groundwater can be just as dangerous. Hydrostatic pressure can cause your basement walls to leak, even during dry days and weeks. To ensure proper drainage in that case, the solution is typically to install an interior alternative similar to french drains, in combination with a sump pump to guide the water back outside.
In most cases, you will want to work with professionals to solve your drainage problems. A variety of underlying causes could be the driving force behind the symptoms you see, and finding these causes in order to implement the right solution is paramount.
That said, you can try to install your own drainage system if you think you have detected the issue and possess the skills and knowledge necessary to fix it. Depending on the complexity of the project, installing your own drainage system costs between $100 and $500. A sump pump adds another $130 to $500 to your project.
Whether you are looking to install your own drainage system or want to work with professionals, a number of considerations will help you solve your water damage problem reliably. Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about this type of home improvement project.
How Long Does it Take?
The exact answer depends on the complexity of your project. Installing a simple french drain that leads away from your foundation, or a new downspout that keeps the water from your roof away from your home, can be done within a few hours on a single afternoon.
On the other hand, a more complex drainage system, especially if it involves a sump pump and/or work directly on your foundation, will take longer. In that case, expect your contractor to work on it for a few days, up to a week.
When is the Best Time to Install New Drainage?
While you can install a drainage system during most seasons, you should try to schedule your project for a relatively warm and dry day. Especially if you or your contractor plans to work on the foundation itself, you will expose it during the project, and could risk serious flooding if the weather turns.
You don't always have the choice of season and weather, of course. If your basement experiences acute water damage, you need a solution sooner rather than later. But if you are proactively installing your new drainage system, try to plan it for warm and relatively dry days.
How Do I Know I Need Better Drainage?
Some of the signs for drainage are obvious: if your basement floods, especially if it's not an isolated incident, you probably need to start thinking about solving the problem. Other signs, though, can be just as instructive:
Overflowing gutters during rain. The solution could be as simple as cleaning them. But it could also be a symptom of gutters that are too small or improperly pitched.
Water puddles near your foundation. A variety of causes could lead to this phenomenon. Your soil could be improperly (or not at all) pitched away from your home, your downspouts may not point far enough away, or you need a french drain. Either way, you should look into better drainage options.
Basement water stains. Don't wait for the actual flooding. If stains begin to appear on your basement walls and floor, and they won't go away, improper drainage could be the cause.
Persistent yard puddles. If, after a heavy rain, puddles begin to form on your property, don't be alarmed. But if they don't go away an hour or two after the rain stops, you probably need better yard drainage.
Can I Combine This Project With Others?
The short answer is yes. Especially if you or your contractor is about to work on your foundation, consider other measures to protect your home. For example, treating your foundation with waterproofing paint can help prevent the inevitable groundwater from seeping in even after your new drainage system is installed.
What Questions Should I Ask My Contractor?
Naturally, you want to find a professional that can get the job done and install new drainage reliably and protect your home from water damage for a long time to come. To help ensure that will be the case, here are 5 questions you should ask your contractor:
Are you licensed and insured?
Will you obtain a permit?
Can you provide a free evaluation?
Do you offer a warranty?
How can we keep the drainage system running over time?
All of these questions will help you determine the quality of your contractor, and provide clarity of what will happen once they begin to work on your property. The last question is often overlooked, but can be crucial. Especially if the new drainage system includes a sump pump, you have to make sure how to operate and maintain it to avoid water damage not just immediately after the installation, but for years to come.