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What are the Most Common Drainage Problems?

By BJ McCarley
Updated: May 17, 2024

Drainage problems for a structure can be caused by any number of factors. These generally include poor soil conditions, incorrect grade, and lack of proper drainage equipment. Although these cases can cause massive drainage problems, each instance typically can be repaired without too much difficulty.

Lack of soil porosity is one of the most common drainage problems. Generally, top soil that is mixed with organic materials will allow water to drain through the surface of the soil quicker and more efficiently. Clay soil that compacts, however, will not allow water to drain through its surface, thereby causing a water backup that can be increased exponentially in low-lying areas. Adding organic materials to layer the soil can help prevent this type of problem.

Low-lying soil grades or poorly graded soil can prevent water from running away from the affected area, thereby causing another one of the most common drainage problems. This could happen when a new grading is done for a structure. When the soil slopes toward and not away from any large structure, then water typically will drain directly into the structure and pool up against the base. The way to fix this type of problem usually is to slope the soil away from any low-lying areas or structures that may impede water runoff. A person may also need to add some amounts of soil to low-lying areas in order to build up the soil surface, thereby forcing the water safely away.

Another major cause of drainage concern is the lack of drainage materials installed against the footings of structures. The lack of drain tile installed at the base of a basement or foundation footings can result in standing water in the soil surrounding the foundation. This, in turn, can cause the soil to stay wet and soggy, and, in most cases, will result in wet basements as the water from the outside soil passes through foundation walls into the interior of a home. Although the homeowner would need to remove all of the soil against the basement/foundation wall, adding drainage materials could greatly improve drainage around the foundation and allow the water to drain away from the soil to an area less affected by standing water.

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