Rainwater Management in the PNW
During months of downpours, managing where water goes is of utmost importance. Gutters, sump pumps and French drains are the unsung heroes of Northwest winters, protecting homes from flooding and foundation damage. These basic methods are a good place to start when it comes to keeping your home healthy and habitable for years to come.
Submersible, Pedestal & Backup
Sump pumps are many a basements’ salvation. Installed at a home’s lowest point, a sump pump moves water from Point A to Point B to help prevent flooding. Ranging from $85 to $250, a sump pump’s price is a pittance in comparison to the cost and hassle of flood damage.
Electrically powered with a standard 110v outlet, sump pumps may be either submersible (in water) or pedestal (above water) in design, with manual or automatic operation. These are motors. They make noise. Installed in a recessed sump pit, submersible pumps are quieter than pedestal pumps, which operate above ground.
Look for a model that automatically turns on when water is detected. Manual pumps work, but only when you’re not fast asleep as the basement floods.
When the power goes out, your sump pump won’t work. That’s why battery-powered backup kits exist. These are about $200 and automatically kick in when the main pump fails or when power is lost.
Clean & Secure
Snap on some gloves and get your mind in the gutter. Gutters have the crucial task of channeling water away from your home and its foundation.
Designed to whisk water away, these troughs also pick up pine needles, leaves and other organic detritus. It’s up to you, good human, to keep them clean.
Unless you possess the power of levitation, gutter cleanout requires a ladder. Unsure about getting on a ladder? No shame in hiring someone—it’s cheaper than an ER copay. Muck out gutters before the rainy season, for ease and safety.
Once the gunk is gone, use a hose to make sure gutters run freely and downspouts are connected and draining. At downspout outflows, check and replace splash blocks as needed, ensuring water isn’t puddling.
After gutters are clean, take a walkabout to suss out the sitch from ground-level. How are your gutters hanging? A little low, a little bowed? Saggy spots and wee waterfalls need fixing. Ferrule not! You can nail this DIY task. For limp-looking gutters, here’s an inexpensive fix: replace gutter spikes with gutter screws and fresh ferrules.
A ferrule is a metal cuff that surrounds a gutter spike for added strength; a gutter spike is a long nail that connects gutter to fascia boards. Gutter screws give greater grip, hence replacing spikes with screws.
Less French, More Function
About as French as fries, these subterranean water whiskers are so called for their namesake, Henry Flagg French. He wrote the book on drains, literally. Published in 1859, French’s book Farm Drainage was kind of a big deal—Ralph Waldo Emerson event wrote the forward.
So what is a French drain? Simply, it’s a gravel-filled ditch that is first lined with gravel, then with tile, perforated pipe or the like, on a 1 percent grade from high to low. This ancient method relies on groundwater percolation—pushing from the ground upwards—into the space between tiles or perforations, where gravity takes hold and moves it along.
Today, however, homeowners can DIY a French drain the gravel-less way using prefabricated drain pipe encased in polystyrene aggregate (think packing peanuts) held in place by flow-through “sock.” These prefab pipes slice instillation time in half by eliminating the need to transport, shovel and move heavy gravel.
Sideways rain, sprinkles, showers, drizzle & deluges—our wet weather is nothing unusual for the Pacific Northwest. Taking the time and money to prepare now can save you thousands of dollars later, come heck or high water.
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