The Real Estate section finds experts to answer readers’ questions about purchasing and selling, renovation and other issues associated with home ownership. This week’s expert, Ken Fraine, a professional engineer and owner of Drainage & Erosion Solutions in Reston, discusses how to protect your home in the rainy spring season.
I’m concerned about the upcoming spring and summer rains seeping through my foundation walls and into my basement. What can I do now to make sure my house stays nice and dry?
— MQ, Broadlands
There is plenty you can do right now to make sure you and your house stay dry. And the good news is that you probably don’t have to spend much time or money to do it. Mostly, you want to keep water from pooling on the ground next to your foundation.
Here’s how to do that:
• Clean your gutters and downspouts. If they are clogged, the water will just run down the walls and stay next to the house.
• Extend your downspouts away from the house by attaching the black, corrugated plastic pipe that you can get at any home improvement store. The pipes should extend at least 10 feet away from your house or any other structures.
• Re-grade around the perimeter of your home to promote positive drainage away from your foundation. You can shovel compacted soil along the below-grade walls to create at least a two-inch-per-foot slope against the foundation. You can then cover that soil with organic topsoil mix and mulch to make it more attractive and then add plants.
• Check to make sure that no soil is covering siding or brick veneer as this may introduce water on top of the foundation wall and into your basement.
• Be especially mindful of places where two walls intersect, creating an inside corner (such as the place where your chimney meets your house at ground level). These spots are notorious for erosion.
• If you have a sump pump, make sure it’s working by opening the cover and pulling up on the float. You should then hear the motor running. If it does not run, make sure it’s plugged in to an outlet and check your circuit breakers. If it still doesn’t work, have it replaced.
• Make sure the sump pump discharge pipe exiting your house is extended far away from your foundation walls to avoid having that same water infiltrate back into your foundation drainage system. You can use the same type of plastic pipe that you used to extend your downspouts.
• You can also buy a backup power source for your sump pump. If you lose electricity in a big storm, you can still keep the water from rising up through the foundation of your house.
• If you have outside steps leading down to a basement, make sure the drain at the base of the steps is free and clear of debris. Often, in older homes the drain is very small and easily clogged.
• If you have window wells for below-grade windows, remove any debris and buy a clear plastic cover to keep rain and debris out.
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