Solving water problems can be an interesting challenge involving a multiple of items from roof pitches and downspouts to the topography and soils of the surrounding area.

We bring a unique perspective of knowledge and understanding of building, construction and landscape that helps us properly diagnose and solve water problems. Many times when people have called us thinking they have a site problem we have determined they really need to address gutter or flashing issues.

In cases where there are disputes, we have expert witness experience and have worked with attorneys and insurance companies to provide analysis, reports and testimony.

About Water problems

Most water problems occur where heavy clay soils are prevalent and where water either flows toward the house or pockets in low areas and can’t escape.

Water problems usually become more apparent in the summer after heavy rain falls or during the winter or spring after a rapid snow melt

Significant structural problems, cracking and heaving, can develop over the course of many years from heavy saturated soils, expanding clays, freeze thaw cycles and hydrostatic pressures.

Common Water Problems:

  1. Wet and cracked basement walls, mold and efflorescence
  2. Water coming into the basement at the floor or through the walls
  3. Standing water or water logged lawns
  4. Drowning and anemic plants
  5. Dead lawn areas
  6. Cracked and heaved concrete in garages, on walks and patios
  7. Water coming into the garage
  8. Water flooding down from uphill runoff

Unusual or less frequent water problems:

  1. Continually running sump pumps
  2. Water coming up through cracks in the floor
  3. Seepage under siding
  4. Cracked masonry on the above grade walls
  5. Water coming in through the window wells
  6. Rotted siding or floor joist below grade

Solutions: Easy repairs (but sometimes easier said than done)

In many cases an easy fix may take care of your problem. In these cases you can do it yourself or a lawn service can help you.

1. Clean out your gutters and downspouts

2. Make sure your downspout extensions are attached and exit at least 4 feet away

3. Make sure your soil pitches away from your foundation. This can be deceiving as gravel or bark mulch on the surface may appear to pitch away but the underlying soil pitches back toward the house.

Solutions: More complex repairs (Frequently involve many components)

In some cases many items may need to be addressed to correct a problem. In these cases you need a knowledgeable and experienced expert to properly diagnose and design a solution. Items may include:

1. Grading and excavation:  swales, berms

2. Drain tiling:  French drains, downspouts/sump pump, catch basins, sump pumps

3. Upper foundation work: masonry repairs, tuck pointing, water proofing, flashing, window wells

4. Construction items:  Concrete, retaining walls


#1 Basement problems and wet and soggy lawn areas are the most common reason people call us.  Once a wall has developed severe cracking you will need to call in a basement specialist for a major repair.  However, basement problems as well as wet and soggy lawn areas are usually the result of poorly handled exterior grading and drainage, gutters and downspouts, sump pump discharges, or cracked and settled concrete.  Many times a combination of exterior drainage issues combine to create the basement or lawn problem.

Photo 1A:  Poor grading resulted in wet lawn area determine

Photo 1B:  Peeling paint at base of basement wall

Photo 1C:  Mold on basement wall

Photo 1D:  Cracks in basement wall

Photo 1E:  Cracks in basement floor

#2 Gutter and downspout repairs are easy fix solutions to keep water away from the base of your foundation.  Keep them clean and make sure the extensions are attached.  Sometimes downspouts are poorly located or additional ones are needed.  Sometimes larger gutters may be needed.

Photo 2A:  Downspout poorly located

Photo 2B:  Downspouts dump water too close to foundation

#3 The grading immediately at the foundation is a frequent problem we see on older homes as well as many newer homes.  A flat or sunken grade does not facilitate water to flow away.  This is a particular problem on south and west facing walls of two stories or more when large amounts of water flow down the walls during rainstorms.

Photo 3A:  Water drains down south facing wall and cannot run off due to flat  grade

Photo 3B:  West walls and low grading at foundation collects water sheeet draining down siding

Photo 3C:  Flat grade does not allow water to flow away

#4 Grading can be a problem even when it’s not obvious.  Planting beds with gravel or mulch beds can have the underlying soil pitching back toward the foundation or can trap water and not allow it to flow away.

Photo 4A:  Concrete walk set too high;  soil too high on siding

Photo 4B:  Grading under mulch and weed fabric too low and pitches toward house

Picture 4C:  Stone mulch bed traps water

#5 Frequently the elevations of structural items have been improperly set.  Concrete walls and patios are set to high, air conditioners are set too low, and driveways pitch back toward the garage.

Photo 5A:  Driveway pitches toward garage

Picture 5B:  Grade pitches toward house between house and sidewalk

Picture 5C:  Existing grade pitches toward house

Picture 5D:  Sunken patio area traps water

Picture 5E:  Sunken Patio area set too high against house

#6 The original rough grading may have been set too high or swales are not properly constructed resulting in water running back toward the house.  Mature vegetation may need to be removed to correct the grading.

Photo 6A:  Swales not properly constructed;  water cannot run away from house

Photo 6B:  Grade pitched toward building; Tree will need to be removed to correct grading

#7 Downhill properties may have runoff coming toward them that can cause basement and flooding problems.  Water may seep out of a hillside to cause wet or soggy areas.

Photo 7A:  Water seeps out of hillside and  causes soggy areas

Photo 7B:  Water from higher elevation runs toward house

Photo 7C:  Sunken area terraced up toward property lines

Photo 7D:   Water runs off from higher property and large roof area

#8 Correcting a drainage problem improperly can cause rotting and structural damage, water over the top of the foundation, water coming through weep holes and moisture on the upper walls.

Photo 8A:  Soil over top of foundation causes rotting and water to come over the top of the foundation

Photo 8B:  Improper grading along foundation can cause rotting and structural damage

#9 Settled and cracked concrete can result in water flowing toward the foundation instead of away.

Photo 9A:  Settled concrete causes water to flow toward foundation

Photo 9B:  Cracked and buckling concrete pitches toward foundation

#10 Grading under decks is a very common problem from improper pitches to settling around posts and against the foundation.  Gravel under decks along with hap hazard grading can cause water to pocket.

Photo 10A:  Hidden settling under deck

Photo 10B:  A low grade and gravel under decks can cause water to pocket

#11 Holes along the foundation and under stoops and broken joints in the masonry are common sources of water coming into the basement.

Photo 11A:  Hole under stoop causes  water to enter house

Photo 11B:  Hole along stoop causes water to enter basement

Photo 11C:  Hole under patio causes water to enter basement


Problem: Water would come into the basement during a heavy rain.

Assessment: The house had originally been built into a hill with a 15 foot wide level area and retaining wall behind it.  Water would run downhill into this area along with the downspouts and sump pump that discharged here. The original grade had been set too high and was very flat with little ability for the water to flow out.  A sidewalk and patio, when installed, were set too high, resulting in a sunken area immediately against the foundation.  The window wells and the air conditioner were too low.

Photo 1:  Existing grade pitched toward house

Photo 2:  Window well too low

Photo 3:  Sump pump discharge was leaking and recirculating

Photo 4:  Air conditioners too low

Solution: The principal parts of this solution involve a French drain with catch basins connecting with the downspout and sump pump discharge.  New window wells were installed and the grade was raised.  The French drain system, consisting of six inch schedule 35 PVC pipe, collects surface water, water from the sump pump and downspouts and discharges in the front yard.  Gravel in the French drain is left exposed to the surface but soon becomes covered with grass to make it all but invisible.

Photo 5:  Installed French drain and catch basins

Photo 6:  Air conditioner raised; sump pump and downspouts buried and connected to French drain

Photo 7:  New window wells raised


Problem: Water would come into the finished basement area at the floor level during heavy rainstorms.  The stairwell would flood and the well wall was cracked and buckling.

Assessment: The lawn was pitched back toward the house and the concrete patio that was cracked and buckled, pitched toward the house as well.  Gravel mulch in the planting beds pocketed water against the foundation. The window wells and the air conditioner were low.  Water could over top the gutters and dump water along the foundation.

Photo 1:  Gravel mulch pocketed water against the foundation

Photo 2:  Stairwell flooded frequently; wall cracked and buckling

Photo 3:  Air conditioner low; mulch high on foundation; actual grade pitched toward house

Photo 4:  Cracked patio pitched toward house

Solution: The Air Conditioner and window wells were raised, and the concrete was removed. The soil was graded away from the house and a new stoop was added.  New larger gutters were installed.  The stairwell was excavated and repaired.

Photo 5:  Stairwell excavated and repaired

Photo 6:  Repaired stairwell painted; grade pitches away from foundation

Photo 7:  New stoop added after grade corrected

Photo 8:  New stoop, repaired stairwell and corrected grade


Problem: Water would come into the basement at the northwest corner.  Horizontal cracks were beginning to develop along the back yard wall.

Assessment: The backyard was very flat with no pitch away from the foundation.  Rainwater or water from the downspouts could not flow away.  The deck along the back obscured most of the view of the foundation.  Upon removal of the decks, severe settling along the foundation became obvious.

Photo 1:  Existing deck hid grading and settling problems

Photo 2: Removal of deck exposed settled grade along foundation

Photo 3:  Removal of deck showed grade pitched toward house

Solution: As the owner desired a new outdoor living space, the decks could be removed.  Grading and filling was done to pitch water away from the foundation.  A PVC and black poly French drain system which collected surface water and connected to the downspouts was installed to drain water out to the front yard.  Special attention was paid to the materials and compaction under the new landings to prevent settling and keep out the critters.  Gravel in the French drain is left exposed to the surface but soon becomes covered with grass to make it all but invisible.  The new patio is a lilac colored Bluestone trimmed with a Lannon cobble detail.  The combination repeated a theme from inside the house, creating a continual flow of space from the inside to the outside.

Photo 4:  Air conditioner was raised; downspouts buried and connected to installed French drain system

Photo 5:  Window wells were raised; grade pitches away from house; draintile installed

Photo 6:  Finished project with new landings and patio


Problem: The back yard remained so wet you could sink up to your ankles even during dry periods, making the yard virtually unusable.  A previous drainage system installed three years earlier did not solve the problem.  During heavy rains, water flowed from the surrounding properties into the back yard, creating flooding conditions.

Assessment: The back yard is a sunken area terraced up toward the property lines.  Three surrounding lots, all 8 to 10 feet higher, drained toward the back yard. The yard itself is further recessed, creating ponding conditions.  An original drainage system collected only surface water, still leaving the ground very wet.

Photo 1:  Sunken area remains soggy

Photo 2:  Soggy back yard terraced up toward property lines.  Upper properties drain toward this area.

Photo 3:  Sub-surface ground water exposed during trenching.

Solution: The solution needed to address the flow of surface water toward the back yard as well as the flow of sub-surface ground water toward the back yard.  Ground water can frequently ooze out of the side of a hill or bubble up in a low area. The flow of ground water is affected by topography and soil type.  The solution involved two parts.  The first part was to construct a diversion structure on the upper level of the terrace, directing water into catch basins which connected into the lower system.  The divesion structure prevents water from flowing over the terrace walls and directs the water to the catch basins where it can be drained away.

The second part was to construct a network of French drains connecting to a central lateral which directed water out to the front of the yard.  The French drain collects the surface and sub-surface water that previously could not flow away.  Gravel in the French drain is left exposed to the surface, but soon becomes covered with grass to make it all but invisible.

Photo 4:  Trenching for French draintile

Photo 5:  Draintile and catch basins installed; shooting elevations to determine proper pitch

Photo 6:  French drain section

Photo 7:  Finished French drain system before grass starts to grow