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Earth Sense: Seepage more dangerous than flooding in N. Georgia
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Few areas in Hall County are safer from flooding than downtown Lula. At a 1,315-foot altitude, its Main Street follows the Eastern Continental Divide.

Water running off to the north ends up in the Gulf of Mexico via the Chattahoochee. To the south, beyond the railroad tracks, drainage will find the Oconee Basin and the Atlantic Ocean. Consequently, water-related concerns need not be about floods, but seepage below grade. This affects a lot of homes in North Georgia.

Damp basements and crawl spaces are bad news for wooden homes. Wet floor joists and plywood grow mildew and even thick mushrooms. After a few years, the rotten wood needs expensive replacement work.

Wet spaces beneath the house also attract insects and spiders. Where scrap wood is left in a crawl space, termites aren’t far away. They love wet wood, and soon brown tunnels will work their way up the cinderblocks into the main structure.

Two factors seem to be the main causes of such dampness: incorrect grading and drainage from the roof. Houses located on a slope need extra attention, because the uphill side can become a real trap for water flowing downhill, both above and below the soil surface. Ideally, there will be a swale near the uphill wall, routing water away from the building.

Every side of the house should have a downward-graded apron to ensure water doesn’t seep through the foundation walls. If the basement walls leak (cinderblock is prone to do that), putting a paint sealer on the inside probably won’t fix the seepage. It works on that water-filled, paint-sealed cinderblock that some stores proudly display.

But a quart of liquid inside that block doesn’t nearly generate the pressure that a 6-foot column of water puts on the wall through the topsoil. I’ve found that instead of sealing the walls, it’s better to prevent water from getting there in the first place. This means regrading, and maybe adding a French drain.

A less costly prevention measure involves gutters and downspouts. Without gutters, a roof will drip a sharp line of water on the ground, ready to seep downward. Where there are gutters, the downspouts often end in a single elbow, making for an even more concentrated water attack below grade. Inexpensive extensions and pipes can route the roof water away. The ideal distance is 15 feet from the house, or more.

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