You’ve got a pier and beam or other crawl space type of foundation that gets pretty wet and nasty when it rains. It takes a long time to dry out and this worries you. Or does it ever really dry out at all??
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have worked on thousands of crawl space homes in the last 35+ years and know that house leveling jobs get delayed when the foundation area is flooded out. We’ve got some ideas on how to help your crawl space get dry and stay that way.
In this article, we will list the best ways to facilitate good drainage under your crawl space home. We will discuss the options with extra emphasis on the #1 action you can take to get and keep your crawl space foundation dry for optimal home conditions and stability.
A Dry Crawl Space is Important Because . . .
A wet crawl space is *no bueno* for many reasons. If it’s constantly soggy under your home, this can lead to problems like:
- Dry rot
- Foundation problems
Ultimately, all of these ugly moisture-related issues in your crawl space eventually ring up as costly damage that needs to be repaired. The best way to avoid all the above problems as much as possible is to keep water from hanging out under your home in the first place.
The drier your crawl space is, the more likely your home will stay in good condition with optimal foundation stability. Even if you do need foundation repairs, a dry crawl space is important for maintaining overall home health and a stable foundation after house leveling.
Top 5 List for Getting and Keeping Your Crawl Space Dry
Everyone loves a good top 10 list, right? Well, okay I’ve only got 5 but you get the idea . . . This is a list of solutions for improving drainage for the underside of your pier and beam or block and base home, ordered from easiest/best solutions to harder/more challenging to achieve. The best ways to improve drainage to dry out your crawl space are:
- Gutters and downspout extensions
- Surface drainage
- French drains
- Sump pumps
We just wanted to list them first and now we will expand on these a bit. We will spend the most time and attention on the first one about gutters and downspouts because it’s the primary focus of the article and the #1 best action to take.
Also, we are making the assumption here that the ventilation in your crawl space is already adequate. But if it’s not, then you might also need to optimize the ventilation in your crawl space as well.
1. Gutters and Downspout Extensions
If you don’t have gutters at all, installing new gutters is a guaranteed step in the right direction to keep your crawl space foundation drier. Gutters catch the immediate water flow and the largest volume of water that ever gets near your foundation. So getting gutters is step 1.
Clean and Repair Existing Gutters
If you do have gutters, are they clean and working properly? Older gutter systems can easily fall into disrepair and get clogged by debris. Make sure they are clean, flowing free, properly attached to your home, and not leaking. Perform repairs and maintenance on your existing gutters if they need some TLC.
Consistent Gutter Coverage
Make sure that your gutter treatment is consistent all around the home. Homeowners often have gutters installed to keep roof water from disrupting walkways and entries into the home, but this sometimes leaves your home’s water protection lopsided.
If one side of the home sufficiently has water moving away with decent guttering coverage while another side doesn’t have much guttering, it creates an uneven water exposure situation.
Unequal moisture levels can cause foundation issues too. Whatever the situation, it’s best for the amount of water falling around the home to be consistent and equal all around. This limits the opportunity for foundation settlement where one side of the home is much drier than the rest.
Sufficient Downspout Extensions
Missing or severely lacking downspout extensions is an extremely common problem. Nine times out of ten, we see good gutters fall horribly short of their key function and potential by just letting the water flow out right next to the base of your home.
Guess where that water is going to go when it gets let out at the bottom . . . it’s most likely to flow straight to the lowest point – under your house!
Downspout extensions (and things like splash blocks) are really key because they release the water farther away from your home. Optimally, downspout extensions that let water out 8 to 10 feet away from the foundation are best.
I realize this might not always be possible or attractive, but the farther away from your foundation the water is released, the better.
These easy-to-add-on flexible-style downspout extensions are a simple and quick way to add or improve downspout water release. Pictured here.
If you don’t like the look of this kind of above-ground extension, there are buried options that go underground. One option with buried extensions is that they can be taken all the way to the street and released into the roadway gutters. Other options are released out into the yard via a pop-up release that opens when water needs to flow out into your yard.
No matter what style of downspout extension you use, make sure you have something that takes the water farther away from your home. You can have the finest gutters in the world, but if they are releasing water right at the base of your home, then it’s not really helping your situation at all and might even be making it worse.
Sorry, I may have gotten on a bit of a *downspout extension soapbox* for a minute there . . . rant over.
2. 3. & 4. Surface Drainage, Contouring, and French Drains
These next 3 drainage helpers are being lumped together because the emphasis of this article is that big #1 of gutters and downspout extensions. If you try improving your gutter and downspout situation and you still have too much moisture under your home, it’s time to try these next options for keeping it dry around your foundation.
Surface drainage like catch basins can help move concentrations of water away from your home and directs it to acceptable outflow areas. Catch basins are available in various sizes and volume capacities to match the amount of water you are trying to drain away.
Re-grading, ground contouring, and swales are all ways to manipulate the dirt in your yard to create better flow or actual pathways for water to follow.
French drains are a big buzz word and many homeowners tend to jump straight to this drainage solution first. We suggest it later after you’ve dried most everything else. French drains are more complicated than you think and things can easily go wrong if done incorrectly.
We always suggest bringing in a drainage contractor for the proper installation of French drains.
We’ve got a bit more information about each of these drainage solutions in another article if you’re interested: Can I Fix Poor Drainage Around My Home’s Foundation: 6 Steps to Take.
5. Sump Pumps
After you have gone through all the other steps above and you still have a drainage problem and water accumulation in your crawl space, your last line of defense is a sump pump. Sump pumps are commonly used in basements, but can also help with under-home drainage issues in the case of crawl space foundations. They are capable of moving many gallons of water and can handle major flooding situations.
A sump pump is a power-dependent mechanical pump and basin that catches the water and pumps it out of your home or out from under your home. Sump pumps can be installed permanently, or brought in temporarily to handle emergencies.
If you have a large amount of water under your home that you need to remove quickly, this is the way to go. We sometimes bring in sump pumps if too much water is keeping us from doing foundation work and a crawl space home needs extra help to get dried out fast.
Something to Keep In Mind With Drainage and Foundations
*Hard Truth Alert* Improving drainage under a home is sometimes a lengthy and laborious process. Water is just a difficult thing to manage. Try the first proposed solution first, if that doesn’t work well enough, try the next one. Then, if it still needs further help, on to the next item on the list.
We’re not trying to depress you or anything. We just want you to be prepared and patient as the first thing you try might not be a slam dunk every time. Even though improving gutters and downspouts is the #1 solution to try, guttering is not the end of the road to better drainage, it’s just the beginning of your journey to a dry crawl space.
Dry Crawl Spaces and Foundation Work
Let’s say you happen to need crawl space foundation repairs or house leveling right now and your crawl space is overly and recurrently soggy. Steps likely need to be taken to remedy the waterlogged underside of your home first before any foundation work can take place.
I’m sure this is not what you want to hear, but the bottom line is that if it’s constantly wet under your home we cannot make crawl space foundation repairs – it simply won’t work. Your crawl space must be dried out so that we can effectively raise your home.
The raising process doesn’t happen in mud. Instead of your home being raised, it just creates a situation where the jack gets pushed farther and farther down into the mud, and your home doesn’t get pushed up. It’s hard to explain but this video will help illustrate why a crawl space must be dry for foundation work.
If there’s no chance of your crawl space drying out sufficiently on its own, drainage work will need to happen first before any foundation work can begin.
Get or Improve Gutters For Keeping Your Crawl Space Dry
Now you know more about the #1 best action to keep your crawl space dry with guttering (and a few other ideas too). So maybe you’re convinced and want to look into improving your gutter situation.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been helping homeowners handle home issues for 35+ years in the Brazos Valley community. We don’t do gutters ourselves but often get asked the question of who to call for gutters in our area.
We have a few lists of contractors we recommend for certain home improvement projects in our area, and we happen to have one on gutter contractors. Check out: The 2 Best Gutter Contractors in Bryan-College Station.