Comment of the Day: The Swale Solution

COMMENT OF THE DAY: THE SWALE SOLUTION “I had this problem at my house. Over the course of 100 years, about 6 to 8 inches of soil had been added around the house. The ground comes up almost to the top of the first step to my front porch. I dug down and found an old gravel walkway under all the built-up soil. During heavy rain, a lake would form under the house and take about a day or 2 to drain out. I had 4 different contractors come out and look at it. Quotes ranged from $3,000 to $24,000 for several variations on french drains and more elaborate drainage systems. I would have gone for it, except that all of the drainage designs would direct water to the drainage ditch in front of my house. That ditch fills up and holds water about as long as the lake under the house does. I then decided to wing it with a DIY solution. I put down gravel paths along both sides of the house. I dug out about 6 inches of dirt for the path and put the dirt under the house. The gravel path had about 2 to 3 inches of sand under 2 to 3 inches of gravel. Problem solved. The gravel paths fill up with water during a downpour but drain out pretty quickly. The added soil under the house keeps it from filling up with water. All in cost was about $500 plus a weekend of back-breaking labor.” [Old School, commenting on Comment of the Day: The Key to a Happy Life Atop Your Pier and Beam] Photo of pier and beam construction at 1648 Harold St.: Jeff Grant

2 Comment

  • Don’t you love the old house foundation problems?!

    I had the exact same issues, but mine was maybe a little deeper than that. Also, on one side, the new town homes that went up had patios that were about six inches higher than my yard, so all of their water flowed to my house.
    I had the pooling under the house as well, and one day, a neighbor offered two rail barrel collectors, they had cracks, so they were useless to him, but I figured I could use it as a sump. And so I dug a hole about 3.5 feet in diameter, by 4 feet deep. I then put that rain collector in the ground. I cut a hole on the side to fit one of those 4 inch sock drains from the box store, and then dug a channel to the middle of the house, with about a 1/4 inch rise every foot and laid the pipe in it, and covered it back up.
    I then purchased a good float pump from All-Pump & Equip on Kansas St, I think that thing pumps out 300 gallons per minute. A good steel, non rusting pump. Anyway, I put it in the sump, ran an extension cord to an outside outlet and problem solved. Now and again I can hear it come on after a heavy rain. It drains into the 4 inch PVC drain I had installed earlier for the gutters and empties out into the street.
    Also, the neighbor who purchased the town home next to me put in a new fence, and I was there when the workers were installing it, and I convinced the workers to bury the 2×12 a few inches into the ground to keep the neighbors water from flowing to my house. Speaking Spanish came in handy that day. :)
    The pump was about $250, but the rest was my time and labor. I’d hate to know how much someone would have charged me to do it. I never have water collect anymore, and it is usually bone dry down there.

  • Good job!
    It should be bone dry under a pier & beam home. The lot should fall away from the drip-line of the roof.
    Then you can insulate your floor without fear of moisture reducing its effectiveness. Staple hardware cloth (wire mesh) to the floor joists to bolster the insulation batts. There’s no reason to freeze in a P&B home.
    Keep varmints out from under the house with a house skirt that will allow air flow. Lattice is the traditional material.
    (Similarly, the attic should have air flow to remove the humidity that living people naturally make. Insulate the house ceiling not the roof!)
    That said, gardening and the mulching of leaves does raise your lot to cause a drainage problem. Also you can’t control the neighbors raising their lot even higher.
    It may be impossible for a P&B on a city lot to coexist with infill projects on raised slabs.