Improper drainage can lead to pools of collected water in your lawn and/or around your home or building, both of which pose a threat. When collected close to your foundation, standing water can potentially cause foundation cracks, foundation movement and flooded basements. When collected on your yard, pooling water gives mosquitoes a breeding ground and can leave your grass susceptible to disease.
Foundations: The most costly issue associated with improper drainage is your foundation. Soil naturally expands when it is wet and contracts when it is dry and as long as all the soil underneath your building expands and contracts uniformly, it is not likely to cause a problem. Damage is done, however, when only part of the soil heaves or settles. This differential movement is most often due to differences in soil moisture. Improper drainage on one side of the building can leave wet soil that remains waterlogged for days or weeks (or in worst cases leaves constant water pooled around your foundation walls) while the other side of the structure has soil that dries quickly following a rain.
The wet side has expanded, and remains so, while the other side contracts as it dries, and this action pulls the walls of the structure away from one another. Repetition of this process will eventually produce cracks in the foundations, walls and/or ceilings. Foundation repairs are not usually covered by homeowner’s insurance policies and can cost as much as $20,000 to $30,000 or more to fix, not including cosmetic fixes to drywall, door jams, bricks, flooded carpets, flooring, etc. Anyone who has experienced a flooded basement or cracks due to heaving can attest to a costly fix! In addition, the drainage issues which caused the problem will still need to be addressed.
Basements: The same issue associated with foundations applies to your basement, with the added problem of letting water into your home through the cracks. In addition to damaging carpets, flooring, drywall and furniture, the water increases your basement’s humidity creating the perfect environment for the growth of bacteria and mold. Mold enters your home as tiny spores, which need moisture to grow and multiply. They can grow on almost any surface and they digest and destroy your home as they do. When disturbed, mold spores are released into the air and can be breathed in by you and your family, aggravating allergies and asthma. A small number of molds produce mycotoxins which can induce nausea, fatigue, headaches and lung and eye irritation when a person is exposed to high levels. Furthermore, mites and spiders can proliferate in a moldy basement as mites feed on mold spores and spiders feed on mites.
Waterproofing your basement can help protect your home and is a good insurance policy, but your first line of defense against a wet basement is improving the drainage in the lawn and all areas surrounding the home or building. According to most engineers and home inspectors, 85 to 95% of wet basements and interiors of buildings can be made dry by improving exterior drainage around your house or building. Flushing the perimeter drains around your home once every two or three years is a good way to prevent problems. We suggest you hire a perimeter drainage Vancouver company to do this for you on occasion.
Mosquitoes: We are all familiar with one of the biggest nuisances of the summer but were you aware that mosquitoes need less than an ounce of water in which to lay their eggs? While standing water is generally the egg-laying site for mosquitoes, some species lay their eggs on damp soil and, if your lawn has poor drainage, leaves your grass as a perfect home for these pests. Needing only two to three days to hatch, your property needs to be able to dry out quickly enough either to prevent females from seeing your yard as a prime location or to dry out eggs that have been laid.
With females laying up to 300 eggs at a time, your yard can easily become infested, driving you and your family inside on warm summer nights. Along with the itching and aggravation of bites, mosquitoes bring diseases such as West Nile Virus, Malaria, Dengue and encephalitis. All are potentially fatal. Your pets are also at risk, as mosquitoes are the hosts for heartworm and can communicate this disease to dogs, cats and other animals. Additionally, West Nile and encephalitis can be transmitted to horses. The American Mosquito Control Association instructs property owners to not only eliminate standing water around your home or building, but to ensure proper drainage on your property to eliminate this potential hazard.
Turf Diseases: As the first impression a visitor or customer has of your home or business, it is no doubt important to you to have well-maintained and inviting landscaping around your property. Death and disease of grass and plants is not only ugly, it is a waste of money invested as well as expensive to correct. Excess water on or in your lawn prohibits the growth of grass, plants and trees by robbing them of their air and nutrient supply and leaving them susceptible to attack by fungi, moss and mold. Fungi, the most common cause of lawn diseases, are microscopic organisms that spread by air- or water-borne spores. The spores act like seeds, sprouting to life and infecting its environment when conditions are right.
Rhizoctonia Yellow Patch, Red Thread, and Pythium Blight are some common fungi diseases which appear in moist environments resulting from extreme soil and surface moisture. Many of the fungi diseases are difficult to control once they appear and damage may remain for two to four years following treatment. While fungicides can be applied to help prevent or control lawn diseases, several strains are resistant to fungicides. The best prevention is the absence of favorable conditions, including improving moisture conditions on top of, and under, your turf.
Mushrooms also need extreme wet conditions to grow. While mushrooms do not harm grass, many of them are poisonous and can be a danger to children and pets that ingest them. Poisonous mushrooms have no features to distinguish them from nonpoisonous mushrooms and identification, therefore, is only possible by those educated about the various genera and species.
Erosion: In addition to the issues associated with standing water, water moving too quickly off your property causes problems as well. As raindrops fall on your lawn, if there is sufficient intensity, the impact will dislodge small particles of soil which can then be carried off by the rain as it flows. This soil will either be carried off to sewers or deposited in another area of your yard, depending on your drainage conditions. Over time, original drainage measures, such as ditches and trenches, can become filled with soil, defeating their purpose and redirecting how water moves on your property. Erosion is accelerated where plant cover is sparse and spaces between plants become larger, leaving no protection for your soil during intense rains. Proper grades and slopes stop water from carrying away your soil by keeping water runoff at an acceptable rate. Slowing down water that is running off too quickly gives soil particles time to settle out of the water and back onto the ground before being transported too far away. Additionally, healthy plant life with deep roots protects and holds on to your soil.
Benefits of Proper Drainage
Structural Protection: Having a comprehensive drainage system in place protects your structure by preventing water’s damaging contact with concrete. Water that doesn’t evaporate and isn’t absorbed by soil eventually goes somewhere and, oftentimes, it sits under and around your foundations. Drainage solutions will keep the moisture content around your foundation stable and uniform, keeping contraction and expansion to a minimum. This maintains the integrity of foundations and helps prevent cracks and water seepage.
Plants and Landscaping: Proper soil moisture is essential for plants and lawns to establish a healthy root system. Removal of excess water in the soil deepens the root zone and increases the air in that area. The increased aeration, in turn, increases the supply of nutrients, many of which need the air to convert chemically before they are accessible to plants. The deep root system which grows will then holds on to the soil and protect it from erosion. Additionally, water will not pool in areas of your property, leaving turf susceptible to disease, and help you maintain the pleasing aesthetics in which you invested.
Recreational Areas: By implementing drainage solutions, recreational areas, such as parks, golf courses and athletic fields, improve traffic ability and increased use of the property. Drains help nature clear out excess water and allow turf to quickly recover from rain. The result is that the recreational area can be open for extended periods of time and for more intensive use, resulting in increased revenue.
Spring Showers Are Not The Only Cause For Concern
The Midwest is notorious for extreme weather changes with a drought one year and floods the next. While St. Louis has an average rainfall around 40 inches, in 2008 we had 50.72 inches pour down on us, with nearly half of that amount coming between June and September. If you have weathered winter snow and spring rains, do not let down your guard thinking you are safe for another year. Summer can sometimes bring surprises and the added deluge to your soil will only intensify existing problems requiring more extensive repairs.
A Note About Water Tables
Water table refers to the depth at which the soil always contains 100% water. In some areas the water table is higher than the bottom of the foundation, requiring a complex system of drains and sump pumps to draw the water away from your structure. High water tables can lead to devastating damage to your foundation or basement and is sometimes cited by professional waterproofers as the cause of a problem because of the expensive measures to correct it. The National Association of Home Builders, however, estimates that only five percent of wet basements are due to high water tables. If you have water damage, you are most likely dealing with surface runoff problems which can be corrected through slopes, grades and drains in your yard, along with proper gutter systems. Modern building codes prevent contractors from building basements where water tables are high and if your home or building is less than 30 years old you can be reasonably sure a high water table is not your problem. If you have a wet basement, be aware of this issue! Inform yourself by contacting your local building inspector and getting information about your local water table.
Do You Have Drainage Problems?
Try this experiment: dig a hole one foot across and two feet deep and fill it completely with water during a dry spell. If the hole drains completely in less than five minutes or in more than 15 minutes, you have a problem. A more simple way to spot problems is to look at your lawn during and following a rain. If you have water flowing quickly across the yard removing topsoil during a rain or pools of water on driveways, parking lots or lawns following rain, then you have a problem. Other indicators include yellowing plants, yellowing or thin turf although it receives plenty of sunlight and has no obvious disease, fungus or mold on the lawn, stagnate water smell and water seeping through door sills, basements and garages.
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