Given the weather these past couple of months I would bet that someone, somewhere in the Chicagoland area, is being rained on, lost in a cloud of fog, or smothered by the humidity. To say that May and June have been wet months is an understatement. In fact, the WGN Chicago Weather Center reports that we’ve already received 5.14” of rain in June (70% more than average) and 4.98” of rain in May (35% more than average). At this point, the ground is pretty well saturated and unfortunately many of the North Shore communities are in flood plains or at low elevations. So while much of the west and southwest are battling drought, we are working to mitigate the effects of our seemingly daily downpours.
How to Manage Water on Your Property
- Get the water away from your house! This may seem like an obvious statement, but many people who are experiencing flooding in their homes should first look at what is happening around their foundation. Do you have positive pitch away from your house, meaning does the ground slope away from your foundation? And are your downspouts discharging water away from the foundation, at least 6’ if possible? Fix these two problems and you are already increasing your odds of having a dry basement. If there are still water issues, you may need to install drain lines along your foundation to capture any water sitting along the foundation. In extreme case, you may need to look into waterproofing your foundation.
- Create compensatory storage! A dry creek bed/rain garden is not 2” of gravel spread over the soil with some plants and boulders around it to make it look nice. A dry creek bed needs to be excavated to at least 18” depth (or deeper depending on the site’s needs) and backfilled with large gravel in order for it to be able to hold water. The boulders and the plants are secondary features of the dry creek bed that enhance its beauty.
- Regrade and redirect! Now that you’ve moved the water away from your foundation, let’s look at the rest of your property. A poorly graded site will create pockets of standing water and a generally unsightly appearance to your lawn. By regrading your lawn area you will be able to redirect stagnant water to the compensatory storage area.
- Tie into existing storm water systems! If your community allows you to tie in your drainage system into their existing storm water sewer system, do it. Being able to take your water off site may not be the “greenest” choice, but it can be a good alternative to manage your water problems if your property doesn’t have space for a dry creek bed or if the dry creek bed isn’t enough to manage all the water you’re receiving.
- Hire a professional! There are a lot of do-it-yourself articles out there to guide you through diverting your downspouts or creating a dry creek bed/rain garden; some of them are good and others are not so good. These are not the impossible task, but they are difficult and if you don’t manage to grade your drains properly you’re going to end up having a problem with the water sitting in your drains or back pitching towards your house. When it comes to regrading large areas and tying in to existing storm water systems, you really need a professional who knows what they’re doing and can do it right the first time.
- Maintain, maintain, maintain! Any system that you have in place needs to be maintained. Clean your gutters and your drains. Remove debris from your window wells and make sure those drains aren’t clogged. Make sure your sump pump is functional and discharging as far away from your house as you can manage. If you are prone to power outages, get a backup generator. Don’t let all the work and money you’ve put into managing the water go to waste.
Hopefully your home is not in a flood plain or at the lowest elevation amongst your neighbors, but if you are help if just a phone call away. Over the years we’ve worked on all types of drainage issues and have implemented a variety of ways to handle them. With the right tools you can keep your home and your property dry, or relatively dry depending on your specific situation and the rain event. Nothing is guaranteed, but you can hedge your bets by putting some of these practices in place at your home. A rainy day is the time to curl up with a movie or a good book, not to scramble trying to bail out your basement and watching as your backyard becomes a small pond.