Drains and Plumbing

Waterproof Your House Foundation and Avoid Costly Repairs

Aside from diverting runoff, preventing basement flooding and other costly repairs, there is something else you can do to keep water out of the basement. You can have your house foundation water proofed. Don't get water proofing confused with damp proofing. Many builders spray on a thin coating of asphalt, which meets the minimum building code regulations. True water proofing is a mix of asphalt and rubber. The rubber works by continuing to cover even when basement walls develop small cracks—a fairly normal occurrence in basements. The rubber's elasticity keeps it from being rigid, so when the material in the foundation expands, contracts or breaks, the water proofing compound stays sealed.
There are myriads of water proofing compounds. Some use plastic, some synthetic rubber, and some use bentonite, a natural clay that can absorb 20 times its own weight in water. Water proofing your foundation will not only keep your basement dry—it will preserve the foundation, resulting in fewer repairs and less overall long term maintenance.

Water proofing your foundation keeps the wet out, but the water still needs to have a place to go. Drain tile installation around the foundation solves a lot of problems right from the start, as it channels water away from your house before it has the chance to do any damage. Some builders try to ignore drain tile—it's one more detail on a really long list. And some builders install drain tiles improperly, so they never really work right to begin with.

Many builders install the drain tile on the top of the foundation. This method isn't nearly as smart as installing the drain tile alongside the foundation instead. Think about it: if the pipe runs along on top of the foundation, the water level has to be several inches higher before the pipe can start collecting the water. Getting that drain tile right into the ground means that the water will be diverted from the time it starts hitting the ground: you won't have to wait for it to increase six inches (or more) in depth before it drains away.

Sometimes builders also don't put in drain tile on a shallow foundation or a slab. I'm not sure of the reasoning behind that, but I am sure it's faulty! Foundations are always susceptible to cracking because the soil around them moves and changes with the addition and loss of water in the soil. Many regions have soil called "expansive clay", meaning the soil swells when there is more water in it, and shrinks when the weather is dry. As the soil moves, particularly when the foundation is shallow and rests in the upper 6-8 inches where dryness seriously affects the ground, the cement of the foundation can break from the pressure in the earth. Our parents called it "settling", as the house creaks, cracks and groans from the movement of the soil. Settling isn't an especially good thing—it can cause large cracks not only in the basement, but the in walls of the rest of the house as well.

Some expert builders recommend installing drain tile around shallow foundations not only for the purpose of diverting storm water but also for providing a way to get water back into the soil when it gets too dry. Since dried out soil can also cause cracking in the foundation, you can minimize cracking in dry weather by watering the ground around it.

If you live in a place where the soil becomes very dry, your builder can install drain tile with an extra pipe that rises just above the ground in a "T" fitting. Keep the pipe capped except when you are using it to add water to your foundation. When the weather is very dry, you can take a hose and irrigate the drain pipe, which will send a controlled amount of water around the foundation and stabilize the soil, preventing your foundation cracking. Let the hose run on low overnight once a week as long as the weather is dry.

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Natural Drain Cleaner for Clogged Drains

The first thing you need to know before working on a clogged drain is that the drain cleaners you see advertised on TV or on the supermarket shelves are made of dangerous chemicals that will eat through rubber gloves, skin, certain kinds of pipe, wood and anything else they touch. If their fumes are inhaled, they can cause damage to the lungs, nose and mouth. If they are eaten, they will kill, even in small amounts. Even when they are used "properly", they can ruin septic systems, pollute groundwater, and destroy pipes.

For a more healthy and safe alternative, try a natural drain cleaner, such as Drainbo, that is made from natually occuring bacteria that will fix a clogged drain, but won't hurt your drain pipes or the environment.

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