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Old 03-13-2011, 10:48 AM   #1
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


First, great site.

I've been a DIYer with cars forever, but our home is a different story.

We moved into a townhouse and are having a seemingly impossible issue with drainage. We are the center house in a row of eight, and our backyard is level, approximately 40' deep by 21' wide. The lot is flat, and backs up to an incline and a wooden area that has train tracks about 15' into the woods.

The big issue is when it rains, the water rolls down the hill on the public land and settles into the yard. After a moderate rain we have a few inches of rain that eventually dissipates.

The previous owner put a rock bed down and some flower boxes for "beautification". Our neighbors have all flooded their basements, and I think our time is coming.

Fwiw, we do have two sump in the basement.


Thanks in advance for everything, and I look forward to input.


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Old 03-13-2011, 11:06 AM   #2
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


Just to add, we are vocal with the neighbors. We spoke with them about a French/trench drain that travels through the center of all the yards and exits at the community drainage at the end of the row. The neighbors didn't want to participate which makes the issue harder to overcome.

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Old 03-13-2011, 12:23 PM   #3
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


Hi, I can imagine it is frustrating when the neighbours don't want to help resolve this problem. I've lived in my home for two years, which backs onto a huge hill, and although I was fortunate enough that the builder had installed swales (small ditches) in between each house, there was still a lot of run off coming straight down the hill and settling in my yard. There were puddles everywhere...just a wet soggy mess. So, when I cut some flower beds and pulled up the chunks of sod, I lay them upside down along the back property line thereby creating a small hill and amazingly enough it completely worked. Apparently a couple of inches high is all it took. In your case it will send the runoff into your neighours yard, but if they're not interested in working with you, then I would think ethically speaking, it's ok to take care of yourself. It's just my opinion.
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Old 03-13-2011, 12:40 PM   #4
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


Adding on in case I wasn't clear. The flower beds were cut elsewhere, the sod was placed upside down so it did'nt continue to grow, and the runoff was diverted nicely because of it. Are the flower boxes at the back property line and if so, can you somehow drop some sod over the fence and in behind them.
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Old 03-13-2011, 12:42 PM   #5
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


Thanks for the reply. Our next door neighbor had spent a lot of time building up his yard a foot or so, because he had measured it and it was somehow lower than the others. This was before we bought the house. It has since sunk back to the original level and appears to just have been a waste of time and money. I'd be concerned that we would have the same outcome.

It would be a longshot, but due to the leveling and architecture of the land, would the county be responsible for terracing, or re-leveling the public land to end the issue if it is petitioned?
We spoke with the HOA, and they pawned it off to the county. Vice versa when we spoke with the county.
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Old 03-13-2011, 01:03 PM   #6
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


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Adding on in case I wasn't clear. The flower beds were cut elsewhere, the sod was placed upside down so it did'nt continue to grow, and the runoff was diverted nicely because of it. Are the flower boxes at the back property line and if so, can you somehow drop some sod over the fence and in behind them.
The boxes are in the center of the yard, cutting the front half of the grass (VERY slighty sloped away from the house) and the back half (where the hill begins) in half. The boxes are surrounded by limestone from the left side of the fence to the right, and there is also a limestone walkway up to the door. It appears that it was in attempts to direct the water to the "rock garden" and flower boxes in the center of the yard, and away from the house. When it rains more than a trivial amount, the yard saturates and we'll have inches of water in the front, the walkway, and the rock garden due to the lack of grading... I would assume.
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Old 03-13-2011, 01:10 PM   #7
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


I can't speak for your area, as I'm in Ontario, but you make a valid point. I'm guessing HOA stands for home owners association and you are involved with this organization because its a townhome complex? If I were you I'd call my Realtor who can/should help get to the bottom of who responsibilty it is to sort this mess out. I'm a Realtor and I personally would do whatever it takes to keep my clients delighted with their purchase and my services, even though the Realtor could'nt have known about the drainage issue. Good luck, keep at them and remember "it's the squeaky wheel that gets the oil'
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Old 03-13-2011, 01:19 PM   #8
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


Oh yeah, not to be contrary, but if your neighbour used just topsoil when he did his, then it probably just washed away over time. Thats why I used sod, besides it was free.
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Old 03-13-2011, 07:07 PM   #9
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


The French drain should run alongside the foundation down at footing level, either just outside or just inside (under the basement floor). And lead to a sump pump pit. It is perfectly okay to install one just the length of the back of your unit. It will probably protect your basement from flooding even though it does not extend behind your neighbors' units.

You will need somewhere to dump the water from the sump pump. Does the front yard slope away from the building?

You might try building a berm at the extreme rear of the property to cut down on the water coming down from the woods. Use dense soil, not sand or gravel. You can move the flower gardens back there to make it look more attractive.
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Old 03-13-2011, 08:23 PM   #10
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


Since you live in a townhouse complex, whatever basement issues your neighbor has, you will have also since you share the same foundation walls in between your homes.

It is shocking to me that your neighbors who have had flooded basements are unwilling to cooperate.

The city is not responsible for your drainage issues. In fact, the builder who built those homes should have had a county approved drainage plan.

Depending on how far above your house is above ground level, you should attempt to grade up towards your house to direct water away from you.

Where does the water from your gutters dump out to?
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Old 03-14-2011, 09:13 AM   #11
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


Is this a condominium or does each owner own the strip of land directly behind his home?

The land back there should be regraded so a swale is created at the extreme rear across all of the back yards.

If you want to you could do just yours and use the manually excavated dirt to create the aforementioned berm on your side of the swale (or ditch depending on how steep the sides are).

If your shoveling encroached on the public land, chance are no one would notice provided you re-beautified it.
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Old 03-14-2011, 03:57 PM   #12
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Need to catch up. I dont have access to a computer at work.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AllanJ View Post
The French drain should run alongside the foundation down at footing level, either just outside or just inside (under the basement floor). And lead to a sump pump pit. It is perfectly okay to install one just the length of the back of your unit. It will probably protect your basement from flooding even though it does not extend behind your neighbors' units.

You will need somewhere to dump the water from the sump pump. Does the front yard slope away from the building?

You might try building a berm at the extreme rear of the property to cut down on the water coming down from the woods. Use dense soil, not sand or gravel. You can move the flower gardens back there to make it look more attractive.
I did some research today and found that the previous owner had a drain installed at the foundation, and it does connect to a sump in our basement. It is on the exterior wall that has the build-up of water. I assume that has been our saving grace thus far. Our recent neighbor with a flood issue had water come in from the basement window (in-ground). Our drain is under the sill and buried with little rocks.

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Since you live in a townhouse complex, whatever basement issues your neighbor has, you will have also since you share the same foundation walls in between your homes.

It is shocking to me that your neighbors who have had flooded basements are unwilling to cooperate.

The city is not responsible for your drainage issues. In fact, the builder who built those homes should have had a county approved drainage plan.

Depending on how far above your house is above ground level, you should attempt to grade up towards your house to direct water away from you.

Where does the water from your gutters dump out to?
The water from our gutters dump to a corrugated piping in the front and down into a drain. the back is an issue. It leads to the downspout, and out to the center of the yard, then dumps in the center. the grade of the yard form the center back is too steep to re-direct elsewhere.

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Is this a condominium or does each owner own the strip of land directly behind his home?

The land back there should be regraded so a swale is created at the extreme rear across all of the back yards.

If you want to you could do just yours and use the manually excavated dirt to create the aforementioned berm on your side of the swale (or ditch depending on how steep the sides are).

If your shoveling encroached on the public land, chance are no one would notice provided you re-beautified it.
The lots are privately owned, and thus far everyone has tried their own approach with failing results.

I believe the reasoning that it cannot be regraded behind the yards is the extreme grade of the slope. Clear as mud I'm sure, but from the train tracks it is pretty level. Then a 30* slope or so for ~12', then fences marking our property. The property line is approximately 3' higher than compared with the center of the yard.


You can see the drain where the rain water let out in the center, as well as where the grass won't grow due to pooling. The pooling has spread, as well as the lack of grass.



Ground level





It's going to take some work. These are when we first moved in. The sod that the previous owner put down that died within a month or so from the time we moved in.
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Old 03-14-2011, 07:37 PM   #13
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


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Originally Posted by creeper
... do whatever it takes to keep my clients delighted with their purchase and my services...
If you are a broker, not hired as a buyer's broker, and you point out water pooling in the back yard without the buyer's asking first, you might be violating your fiduciary responsibility towards your client the seller.

Where does the drain out front that accepts the water from the front gutters llead to?

One esoteric solution that may or may not be suitable is to dig a dry well covered with a sewer grate right in the middle of the back yard at the lowest point It would not be filled with gravel but instead would have a sump pump of its own with the outlet pipe run back up, through the house nonstop at basement ceiling level from back to front, and emptied into the front drain. The pump would be removed for winter.

From the looks of the back yard it appears as if an undulation could be dug (a little behind the dog) so some of the water coming down from the woods pools up back there instead of in the middle your yard.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 03-14-2011 at 07:43 PM.
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Old 03-14-2011, 09:06 PM   #14
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Drainage issue w/ townhome


The original grading plan probably has a swale cutting through the backyards of all the homes. Over time, people have probably put up fences and other obstructions that restrict the flow of water. This grading plan probably restricts any building within the swale's boundary.

Your HOA should be responsible for making sure everybody complies to ensure the proper flow of water. Even if you fix your problem, your neighbor's water will probably come towards your house.

Beyond the trees, what is there? Does it slope down?
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Old 03-14-2011, 11:41 PM   #15
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The railroad track is behind the trees and as described by the OP, is slightly higher.

A swale is often mentioned as an easement in the deed in favor of the owners of nearby properties when the properties are not part of a condominium or otherwise under control of a homeowners association..

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