Homeowner’s Manual: Grading and Drainage (Updated for 2021!)

Grading & Drainage


Do not allow water to stand near your home’s foundation!

This is the big take-away from the grading and drainage section. Pooling water around a foundation can cause lots of problems, and is often a contributing factor to localized foundation movement.

Positive Drainage or Sloping

Is your property on a hillside that directs water runoff towards the house, or is your lot basically flat? Your goal is to have rain drain off the lot promptly without ponding within ten feet of the house. Remember that good drainage is just as important as proper foundation watering. Clay soils that are too wet will exhibit liquid characteristics and will lose their load-bearing capacity. To ensure proper drainage, soils around the perimeter should have a positive slope away from the house. Lots should be graded to drain surface water away from the foundation walls. The grade away from foundation walls should fall a minimum of six inches (6”) within the first ten feet (10ft.). If adding soil to the perimeter to create positive drainage, remember to keep the soil level about two (2) inches BELOW the foundations brick ledge. In addition, only clayey soils should be placed around the perimeter. Porous, sandy soils should be avoided. Solutions to drainage problems are as varied as the terrain, and may include rain gutters and gutter extensions, French drains, swales and berms, retaining walls, catch basins and even sump pumps. With a little planning and some work, almost any yard can provide a healthy environment for a stable foundation, a dry house, and control of mosquitoes. In many cases, a drainage swale is the most economical of corrections.


Rain Gutters and Downspouts

Properly installed gutters can help solve drainage problems and promote foundation health, but they are not a panacea for drainage problems. Clean rain gutters and downspouts as needed to keep them flowing freely. In an area of heavy trees, cleaning may be required several times a year. Consider the addition of gutter guards to reduce maintenance. Inspect gutters for proper drainage (standing water can breed mosquitoes and carpenter ants), leaks at seams or end caps, loose or missing gutter spikes and loose or missing downspouts. Look behind gutters for rotted fascia, and repair as needed. Splash blocks or downspout extensions should direct water into the yard far away from the foundation.


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