Our Approach to Wet Basements and Stormwater Management

With each heavy rain, our office receives a lot of ‘wet basement’ phone calls. Here are a few pointers to help assist in finding the problem and knowing potential solutions for stormwater management before calling the professionals with our ‘top/down, outside/in’ approach!

What to look for from the ‘top/down, outside/in’:

  • Poor or damaged roofing materials
  • Gutters and downspouts aren’t working properly, are misplaced, undersized, or clogged
  • Lawn/shrub irrigation system discharging too much water next to the house
  • Poor site grading – The landscape is unable to deal with onsite/offsite stormwater
  • Leaky basement windows and clogged window wells
  • Hydrostatic pressure – Caused by the water table rising under a foundation, groundwater in water-saturated soils is then pushed into the basement.
  • Your neighbor’s water and how it rolls off their property can also be your issue
  • Foundation cracks, holes, and other entry points
  • Improperly functioning sump pump


Why does my basement get wet at certain times and not every year?  

  • Mother Nature & our changing climate – Large, infrequent storms, unusual weather patterns, high winds & rain
  • Development impacts – Increasing impervious (impermeable, water-resistant) surfaces within your watershed (I.E. a new house/addition, garage, shed, & even landscaping can have negative impacts)
  • Poor &/or the settling of soils or other hard surfaces – this can change water flow direction toward the house over time
  • Circumstance issues – A recent natural occurrence that can impede proper drainage (I. E. animal burrow or den in drain or pipe, fallen tree branch, neighbors plugged downspout, damage from tree roots, etc).

Structural improvements (Exterior) 

  • Damaged roofing materials
  • Downspouts and gutters
  • Leaf or gutter guards
  • Window wells and protections
  • Winter note: Do not pile snow against your house given it can melt and possibly come in over the walls.

Site improvements – Two approaches

1) Keep water away from structures – Utilize the landscape and soils to convey (move), store and filter stormwater (landscape/soil solutions).

Regrading/redirecting water – Shaping around the structure by raising or lowering the grade

Drainage systems & conveying water – Moving away from the structure (above ground and underground)

Rainwater infiltration – Managing away from the structure

  • Rain gardens (yard and terrace) and native plants
  • Infiltration trenches – Long, relatively shallow excavated areas, lined with filter fabric, then filled with rock
  • Consider subgrade/subsoils and water table

Rainwater harvesting – rain barrels

2) Make changes to impervious surfaces – Reduce, Resurface, & Reslope (next to our rooves, driveways make up the largest percentage of impervious surfacing on a site!)

  • Reduce – Ecodriveways
  • Resurface Porous/permeablepaving, etc.
  • Reslope – Draining impervious surfaces into a rain garden or redirecting drainpipes away from driveways can help.


How to Hire a Professional

  • When selecting a landscape contractor, you should find one that has experience and a good track record with water issues.
  • They should pitch an integrated top/down & outside/in approach.
  • The contractor should work well with other contractors (I.E. basement waterproofer, remodeler, etc.) and only use other reputable contractors.
  • Contractors should warranty their work, have good references, and provide you with an understating of how to maintain your water solutions.

Want to learn more? Email your questions/issues to: info@formecology.com or check out the ‘Events’ page for our upcoming ‘Landscape Your Way to a Dry Basement’ presentations.