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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    9

    Default Regrading around old house/stone foundation

    Hello all,

    We're going to be closing on an old house built in 1910 in a few weeks, and I'd like to do as much as I can to limit the amount of water seeping into the basement. The basement only houses the mechanicals, and because of the state its in (low ceilings, damp, musty) I can't see it being used for much more, so I'm not looking to waterproof anything. I've been told by a couple of people that regrading around the foundation will help, and as a theory, it is obvious why that will help. However, I'm curious as to how this usually gets accomplished. Would I add fill around the house to create the slope away from the foundation and add taller window wells, or remove material a few feet out from the foundation to create the slope? Seems like if you remove the material you'll just have a little valley that will collect water even worse than before, even if it's further away from the house. Also, what is an acceptable slope for water runoff?

    I'd really like to accomplish better drainage with some landscaping work, I don't want to install french drains and have another set of headaches. I'm pretty much resigned to the fact that yes, every now and then the sump pump in the basement will have to work, but I'd like to cut that down to as little as possible.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,381

    Default Re: Regrading around old house/stone foundation

    You probably need an inspector or professional to look at your situation. But here are a few guidelines. Look around the foundation for weep holes. These are holes or gaps in the mortar between the stones that vent the wall spaces. These must be above the dirt and water line. In other words, you can add material as long as you don't cover those holes. There may be building codes that specify a certain distance that these have to be above the grade. You don't want the grade too close to these holes as it will make it harder to detect termite tubes.

    You want to slope away at least 8 feet or half the distance to your neighbors. Local codes may require even more. Even beyond that, there has to be a path for water to drain away from the house. For example, lets say you are on a slope. The grade away from the house on the uphill side will form a trough. Water in this trough should be able to find a path around the house to the downhill side of the house.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Regrading around old house/stone foundation

    Thanks for the advice Keith, one of the people that recommended regrading was the inspector, and didn't mention anything about the possibility of weep holes. I'll take a good close look when I get out there.

    I don't really know to what extent the basement leaks. It was dry when the house was inspected and every other time I was there (6+ times) But there is a sump with a pump in it, with a hose rigged to go outside and empty just past the foundation, so I don't know how much help it ever was. There was also another pump sitting next to it on the basement floor...made me think they had a lot of water at one time and needed to have two pumps running. But I did notice a water line on the furnace about 3 inches up. The previous owner also left the house (its located in southern CT) and spent her winters in FL, so I'm thinking that maybe the thaw after last years tough winter coupled with an absent owner may have provided the local handyman with a surprise when he went over to check on the house and make sure there wasn't a foot of water in the basement.

    At any rate, the yard is level, there isn't a slope to it at all, until it drops off at the very back (377' from the street) into wetlands and a river inlet. So I feel like I would only need to add a couple inches all the way around the house to achieve what I'm looking for, to just aid the water in running away from the house. I wouldn't be looking to create much of a slope, as on one side of the house I don't have much of a side yard before you hit tall hedges, with the neighbor (a large plant nursery) on the other side. I want to say the side yard is about 14' wide.

    Is this something that normally would require a permit? Like I said, I'm not doing anything major. Like I'd be spending the weekend with a shovel and a couple loads of fill.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Tennessee
    Posts
    1,381

    Default Re: Regrading around old house/stone foundation

    Wetlands, the magic word. Normally you would not need a permit for this, but if you have protected wetlands, then you need to find out exactly what you can and can't do. You will need to talk with local authorities on this.

    Worse case, it is a protected wetland for some endangered species nobody has ever heard of and you have to insure that any change in the runoff from your property will not damage the fragile environment of said unheard of endangered species. This can turn into a nightmare.

    The old "better to ask for forgiveness than permission" won't work here, they slap you with hefty fines and make you pay for a certified contractor to put it back. Said contractor will not be cheap either.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Regrading around old house/stone foundation

    Thanks Keith, hadn't thought about that in regards to the wetlands. I'll check with Town Hall and see what my sort of requirements they have. Who knows, maybe water infiltration will be minimal? Of course, its been such a dry winter, this won't be a particularly representative spring as far as melting and runoff.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Posts
    1

    Default Re: Regrading around old house/stone foundation

    Flying tim, what did you end up doing? ANy updates would be appreciated. I have a similar situation. Thanks!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    9

    Default Re: Regrading around old house/stone foundation

    Kiwi, to be honest I haven't done anything. Since we moved in many, many more pressing issues have cropped up that demanded my attention! However, I did extend the downspouts away from the foundation, and I haven't yet had any water at all in the basement. The sump well is probably 24" deep, and the most water I've seen in it has been about 10". Needless to say, nothing on the floor. Of course, we have very sandy soil, and it drains really well. I really don't think I'll have to worry about changing grades, but then again, we haven't been there when the snow starts to melt...

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