How to Identify Drainage Problems Around Houses

Updated February 21, 2017

Drainage problems are found in many residential areas, especially when there are grading issues in yards or improper drainage systems. A house's gutters, downspouts, sump pump and various drainage pipes are all part of the property's drainage system. Problems with any of these items can lead to drainage issues. The trick to fixing drainage problems before they create substantial damage is to proactively identify and correct water issues in and around the property.

Study how rainwater and water runoff drains in the soil at different locations throughout the yard. Rainwater and water coming from drains in the landscape should be quickly absorbed by the soil. If water pools or diverts into runoff toward another part of the yard or near the house, there is a drainage problem.

Look for damp spots, enlarging cracks and other moisture problems in your house's foundation, crawl space or basement. Musty odours, mould and dampness can indicate a drainage problem around the house.

Study the slope of the yard around the house. Ideally, the yard should slope downward about 6 inches in elevation in the 10 feet immediately around the house and then descend at a rate of 1 foot or more per 100 feet beyond that. If the yard is completely level or slopes downward toward the house, there is a drainage issue.

Inspect the soil immediately around the house's foundation and near basement window wells. The soil near the foundation shouldn't settle or create a basin where water can pool. If the basement window wells collect water, there is a drainage problem.

Inspect gutters and downspouts, as well as other drainage lines around the house. Clean all leaves and other debris from the gutters and check for any leaks or broken parts in the system. Ensure that the gutter downspouts divert water at least 10 feet away from the house. If you notice depressions in the yard from the water flow from the downspouts, install splash guards to properly channel the water.


Correcting drainage problems can include a variety of remedies. For example, installing screens on gutters and a removable connection between the roof drains and downspouts can help prevent the drainage system from becoming clogged with debris. Installing foundation drains, drywells or French drains around the house can help divert water away from the home. A sump pump in the basement or crawl space can help prevent flooding indoors, pumping excess water outside, preferably far away from the house.


Avoiding planting trees and shrubs with invasive or large root systems near drainage pipes, where the roots can cause damage. Also, avoiding non-permeable materials for creating patios, driveways and walkways can help improve the drainage around a house. Use materials such as paving blocks, gravel or porous asphalt instead of concrete.

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