Buying a home with backyard sloping towards house?

sungreenMarch 5, 2010

We are first-time home buyers and have found a house we love. The only thing concerning us is that the backyard slopes towards the house. The side of the backyard slopes downward away from the house. This is a split level with a finished basement. The basement is spotless and doesn't appear to have ever been wet, and the yard looks to be in great shape. The slope is gentle enough that we wouldn't have any trouble mowing, but we are worried about water and concerned about what could happen in the future, even if it looks good now.

Any advice on this situation? I appreciate any help. Thank you.

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lauren17

Hi Sungreen!
We purchased our house 12 years ago with a backyard sloping towards the house. It never even occurred to us that it might be a problem. The basement has flooded once in those 12 years....during a really crazy weather cycle that dumped inches of rain upon feet of melting snow. Many many people in the county also had flooded basements regardless of their terrain. During heavy rains, the water does run towards the house, but the sump pump does its job. I would definitely not purchase the house unless it does have a sump.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 4:59PM
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logic

If the slope evens out to flat ground a good distance away from the foundation, your chances of it being a problem are far less than if the slope ends at or very near the foundation.

Any slope toward the home is categorized as a "negative grade".

Bear in mind that as time goes by, and more homes/buildings/parking lots, etc are built, or smaller homes are knocked down witrh larger homes built on the same lot, there is more impervious coverage, which means there is less area for water to perc into the gorund...and it winds up flowing into people's basements...often where there has never been a water intrusion problem before.

Bottom line is by law of gravity, water flows downhill. If this home has no sign of water intrusion, it simply could have been recently repaired prior to listing.

I personally would not purchase a home with a negative grade...because the potential for water intrusion is for me, too high. IMO, unneccessary potential for aggravation, property damage and expense. Remember sump pumps are great...until too much water comes in and overwhelms the pump and you have no back-up pump...or, the power fails and you don't have a backup power source.
It's just one big PITA.

You can always check into the feasibility and cost of regrading...or, with so many homes on the market, unless this one is extra special in some respect, why not just keep looking?

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 5:35PM
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qdwag

How great is the slope? I currently have a home with a slope towards the home,but not terribly so...The sump runs during rain storms ,but not 24/7...I also installed a battery backup system, and highly recommend it to anyone with a sump pump

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 9:30PM
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redcurls

How old is the house? If it is not a new home and there's no evidence that there has ever been a problem, I just wouldn't be overly concerned. Almost any house can have SOME issue, some unseen.....

    Bookmark   March 5, 2010 at 10:43PM
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susanjn

French drains can also be installed.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2010 at 12:02AM
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jane__ny

We just sold our home of 40 years. We were always known as the 'house with the driveway.' Our house was built on the side of a large hill with the driveway (150ft) going straight down to the front of the house. Everyone who visited would state that we must get a lot of water in the basement. We never got a drop. The finished basement and crawl space were bone dry from the day it was built. Water would gush down the driveway and separate (parting of the waters) right in front of our garage doors. We never had water into our garage or basement.

Couldn't find a good pic. but this gives you an idea of our driveway.

Standing at the top:

From the bottom looking up:

It appears as if the water has no where to go except into the garage. Actually, the water would separate before the garage and half would go down the hill on the left and the rest to the right of the house. When snow piled up on the right, all the water ran off to the left. It was amazing to watch, but whoever graded the driveway and land, did a great job.

Things are not always as they appear. If the basement appears dry, it probably is.

Jane

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 1:19AM
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logic

"Things are not always as they appear. If the basement appears dry, it probably is.

Jane"

Not. You would be amazed at how many sellers go to great lengths to conceal water issues that most buyers do not discern.

Your home was graded very well..sad to say that is often the exception as opposed to the rule when it comes to slopes.

Last but not least, as more homes etc. are built, the less area for it to perc...it has to go somehwere, and a slope generally is a weak point in that respect.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 11:51PM
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stagman

I second the motion--French Drains work very well and are not too expensive to install. We had a similar situation with our basement getting water intrusion during the rains. After we installed a French drain the length of the house our basement has been dry (10+ years).

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 10:26PM
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Moccasin

Well, this year with all the winter rains, the water was coming into the sump area faster than the pump could take it out. But many years ago, DH installed an overflow line above the pump level, and it feeds out of the basement that way, in front of the house. Since we were gone all winter, the neighbor looking after things said it flowed quite frequently and it kept the basement dry.

There was a drainage access easement behind my mother's house. That was supposed to keep the water headed toward the storm drain. However, neighbors further up the hill tossed their leaves and such in there and when that stopped it up, her yard was the route water took. We ended up digging and paving a shallow trench along the back of her house, putting wood walkway over it, and routing its path around the corner of the house where it went underground until it reached the curb drain. With no issues about ice in the winter, this was not a problem. It just helped the water find another route to the storm drain.

Then in my MoccasinLanding house, the neighbor recontoured his yard so that caused runoff and erosion across my yard. It was a terrific problem, and could have led to litigation. But I kept my peace and wound up selling the house to the owner of THAT property. I let him deal with the issues.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 5:41PM
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FatHen

I've lived in houses that were on a slope, and agree w/what Logic said, it depends on whether the slope ends at the house, or if there's a drainage swale in between so the lowest point is not right next to the house. If the lowest point is next to the house, drainage problems can cause leaking basements, foundation failure, sinking of one side of the foundation, and water can even come up thru the floor in houses built with a slab on grade foundation. Can also get in vents where builders put vents in a slab foundation. Water in crawlspaces, too.

It can be remedied but the best thing is to prevent it by proper site grading and foundation construction. Remedies after the fact are usually expensive; often, the damage has already been done.

And yes, Logic is also right that people will conceal water damage. I know of someone whose new house had a drainage problem that led to a basement leak. Rather than pursue the builder for proper repairs they finished the basement so the leaks are concealed. Everything in their basement reeks of mold. They are taking their chances that no one can prove it and sue them when they sell. Stupid and unethical, but it happens.

Far too many new homes are built on slopes where you see every house has the lowest point of their lot against one side of the house as you go downhill. Even on a slight slope it can wreck the foundation to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

Just for future reference to any reader, I would not buy a house with a negative grade unless there was evidence a proper drainage swale and everything else required had been built right in the first place. I have lived in such a house and it never had any of the above problems even with a slope in the yard.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2010 at 9:34PM
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