Home insurance

Manage runoff in your yard to avoid trouble

Thursday, January 25, 2018by  Jon Osterberg

Heavy rain floods a residential yardRain will pound the lowlands west of the Cascades for the next week, and meteorologists warn that landslides and flooding are possible.

You can avoid drainage trouble at home by following preventive steps we offered recently. Long-term, you can help avert erosion problems on your property with these precautions:

  • Don't excavate dirt and rocks from the base of slopes

  • Don't dump fill dirt at the top or sides of slopes

  • Plant groundcover with deep roots on slopes

  • Build retaining walls at the base of slopes

  • Don't cut trees from the top or sides of slopes, unless there's a clear danger.

Earth movement can be frustrating for homeowners because most insurers, like PEMCO, exclude coverage for landslides. We can pay to repair your home only if the damage results from a covered loss.

Heavy rain erodes a hillside, causing backyard trees to sagKeep your eyes peeled for warning signs of soil instability:

  • Arc-shaped cracks in the ground

  • Leaning trees, fence posts, or utility poles

  • Trees with bent trunks at the base (indicating the tree has adjusted its growth to remain upright on slowly shifting soil)

  • Large open cracks in retaining walls, driveways, and sidewalks

  • Sagging decks

  • Doors or windows that stick or jam

  • Cracks in plaster or tile

  • Concrete stairs pulling away from the building

  • Bulging ground at the base of a slope.

Water-runoff issues often can be resolved with some smarts and elbow grease. Or with the help of contractors.

My colleague Jessica learned that water from her downspouts and back patio drained directly against her house. While replacing their siding, her husband found that a beam supporting a load-bearing exterior wall had rotted completely on one side, and the adjacent foundation was crumbling. They hired professionals to make repairs and install a French drain system to channel water away.

A new subsurface drainpipe will collect runoff before it pools against the houseI recently had my own water trouble at home. Last fall, we hired professionals to divert runoff coming from rain and natural springs uphill. Our concrete driveway had settled and tilted over the years so that water pooled against our foundation and seeped into the crawlspace, rather than drain into our storm pipes.

Workers tore out our lower driveway, installed channel drains that tie in with existing drainpipe, then repoured the driveway and added surface grates. They also dug gravity-flow French drains in our crawlspace to carry water away from the house.

Because of the uphill springs, our ground settling might have been inevitable. But for many property owners, following the tips above can spare you hassle and expense.

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