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Proper grading saves house foundations from water damage
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New Leaf Landscape Service installation team leader Matt Pugh shovels dirt Tuesday to level off the ground where he and his co-worker installed a catch basin in the corner of the courtyard at The Holbrook in Gainesville. The basin will catch water underground and keep it from pooling. - photo by J.K. Devine

After one of the wettest summers in years, yards and basements may need a little extra attention to prevent or correct problems brought on by excess water.

“Water is very powerful,” said Richard Lowther, operations manager of New Leaf Landscape Services. “So anything that gets in the way, it can destroy over time.”

Without a clear path to follow, water will carve through yards, wash away vegetation and ultimately erode the landscape.

Lowther said homeowners can help prevent some problems by ensuring the land slopes away from the house to give water a place to go. They also need to fill holes in the yard where water might pool.

Lowther suggested homeowners can determine how the rain affect their yards by standing out in the rain, if it’s safe, and watch what happens.

“Watch where it goes, watch where it’s coming from,” Lowther said. “Watch the volume of water. It may be well-dispersed or channeled into one particular place. Those are the things you need to know in order to be able to correct it.”

Depending on the specific situation and how the water moves through the yard, drainage pipes may need to be installed. Other solutions entail adding rock, grass or another ground cover to the landscape. Lowther said one of the simplest ways homeowners can direct water flow in their yard and prevent problems with their homes’ foundations is by paying attention to and cleaning out gutters.

Water can be directed away from the house by installing piping to the end of downspouts. The pipes can be buried in the yard and lead 25 to 30 feet out from the house to better direct the water flow.

“If gutters are overflowing because (water is) not going down the downspout, all that water is just going to sit along the foundation of your house,” Lowther said. “That’s just going to create problems down the road for your foundation.”

New Leaf Landscape’s installation team added catching basins and connected them to underground pipes attached to a large drainage grate to stop water from pooling in a corner of a courtyard at The Holbrook in Gainesville. Two installation team members then added rocks near the drainage grate to direct water flow into the large pipeline under the active adult community.

New Leaf installation team leader Matt Pugh explained rainwater flowed off the large concrete surface of the patio and into the grate, but washed dirt and grass into the pipeline as well. By adding rocks near the grate, water will flow more easily into the grate without eroding more landscape, Pugh said.

Installing catch basins in the courtyard’s corner also keeps water from pooling and possibly damaging the foundation. If water gets inside the foundation, it can cause flooding or provide enough moisture for mold to grow. Mold may cause health problems if not treated.

Russ McKenzie, project coordinator of ServePro in Gainesville, said flooding has caused several homeowners trouble this summer.

If a leak in the foundation is causing the water to seep into a basement, McKenzie recommends creating a “little swimming pool” around the leaks with sand bags.

He suggests purchasing bags of play sand from a home improvement retailer and stacking the bags around the leak so the water has a place to collect. Some seepage will be under the bags but the bulk of the water will collect in the pool created by the sandbags.

Once the water has been contained, homeowners can begin dry out and remove the saturated materials.

McKenzie stressed the importance of safety when handling a flooded basement or home.

“You don’t want to walk down into a wet area and actually become a grounding rod for an electrical device, like a surge protector that’s in the water,” McKenzie said. “Always pay attention to your surroundings and make sure you’re not going to endanger yourself.”

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