Mahalo, and Merry Christmas from Hawaii.

Drainage Troubleshooting- If there was ever a time to write a blog on drainage I’m thinking now is the time. With record rains this December coming off of past dry years it is an issue that is effecting most of us. We are personally effected at our farm, the wind has created a new leak in the old 1911 farm house, the foundation is full of water that is usually dry and new leaks have surfaced in all of our out buildings. When troubleshooting a property I look at the slope and contour of the property. Slope is an issue that is seldom considered when a property is developed or a house is constructed. I see this problem often on all types of projects both residential and commercial. Engineers are hired to figure out the problems but many of them lack the in the field experience to remedy such challenges and the site usually ends up slightly different than on paper. What ultimately happens is the building, house or project is installed, water challenges surface and the only option is to mitigate the challenge the best way possible, dealing with the environmental and manmade challenges surrounding areas of the project.

Water and soil are always moving. Engineers will do tests to try to determine what is below ground but it is somewhat guesswork as to how the project site will react to a new build or an existing structure as time and seasons pass. Thus, the desire to fix the problem by draining water away from the affected areas. There are many types of drainage solutions and ways to move water. Its imposible to go over all scenarios, but below are a few ideas. It is best to set up an appointment with me so that we can troubleshoot the challenge on site if you need help.

First, I spend some time observing the area of flooding or high water, locate the water or problem, then check the surrounding area for observable physical blockage of the water. It could be as simple as a clogged drain or some buildup of debris that if removed may alleviate the problem. Other possibilities are, a clogged rain gutter downspout, overall property slope, poor soil percolation, lawn draining back into foundation or plant beds blocking drainage and so on.

Next, survey the entire property or area of conflict to determine the high water location and the low points that the water could be moved toward. This can be tricky especially when there are neighboring properties involved, the last thing you want to do is create a problem for the neighbor. If this is a problem, go to them and explain that you want to work on your drainage problem and it may affect their property. Offer to help them with their problem also, working toward a solution.

After doing your due diligence determine the best course of action. If you are the DIY type, that’s great, but it may take a professional to advise or design a system so that it works properly. I see this often, a client calls and says they installed drainage and it is not working properly or no longer is working. Usually, I gently explain that I would recommend another possible solution, present my ideas on the facts and go from there. Drainage must make mathematical sense when finished, it must work or risk having to be re-done at a later time to properly elevate the problem.

Types of drains- There are many, the french drain is used as a loose term for almost all applications. I googled french drain and absolutely every type of drain comes up so again it is a term over used and not really saying anything specific. Mainly a french drain is a trench dug from the high point to a low point with either pipe or both pipe and round rock placed into it so water will flow away from an area. This usually works fine as long as there is enough slope to create a directional flow. Curtain drain- when I googled this It basically got me back to french drain. I consider a curtain drain a larger type of drain to elevate water in a larger area. The curtain drain can be laid out in directions with lateral pipes sloping toward the main line pipe. Do this by creating a grid or herring bone type of pattern with the lateral pipes a few feet apart as to pull the water from the surface to the laterals and then to main line drain or drain field and away from effected area.

Who should install drainage- preferably someone that has experience in property development. This takes me to a touchy subject as I have seen so many poorly engendered projects and improperly installed drains. It is best to use a licensed contractor that has a history of doing quality drainage work, or if the project is large, hire a licensed, certified engineer to draw up plans and help with the city permitting process if permit needed. Also check references, read blogs and recommendations. Word of mouth is also a good bet, if you know someone that has a completed project and it is working successfully there is good chance that this professional can also help you alleviate your problem.

Expense- I recently consulted a client on a project from an excavation company on a large hillside drainage project that, in my opinion, was a little elaborate and more than was necessary to elevate the problem. Not only could we have done the project for less but our solution, in my opinion, would have worked out much better for their application over the long run. Always get 2 or 3 opinions on your project, not that you’re looking for the cheapest job but mainly to confirm the best long term solution. Drainage is tricky and someone with experience may be able to see the larger picture. Always remember water and soil are constantly moving, downward for the most part, and this must be taken into the overall long term plan of the project. Good Luck…. Tim

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