drainage advice needed

remodelingchickOctober 29, 2009

hi, i am in over my head with my home remodeling project and would appreciate any advice i can get. One of the major issues we have is that our neighbors house is built up much higher than my house. When it rains i get all of their runoff plus their gutters are aimed at my property. One side of my house from front to back fills up with water, several inches, and takes two to three days to dry out after a good storm. My contractor is suggesting we build a slab up most of the length of that side of my house, from front to back about 70ft long, 5 inches wide and 4 inches thick. Does anyone have any experience with a project like this? I am concerned that 4" is not thick enough and maybe we should be putting down a slab that is 10-12" thick. The ground is just so soggy, how do I ensure that the concrete stays secure?

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Before you talk to any contractors about this problem, you need to talk to your personal attorney.

Water runoff problems caused by a neighbor's bad landscaping can be solved legally through the courts...and should be.

Call your lawyer.

You should not have to pay for water damage created, caused, and perpetuated by your neighbor.


    Bookmark   October 29, 2009 at 8:44PM
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Hi, I did talk to my attorney and was told that this is a difficult issue to address in court and would be cheaper for me to just fix the problem instead of paying his fees. I dont know, this house is wearing me down with one problem after another ....

    Bookmark   October 29, 2009 at 9:02PM
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I would talk to a reputable landscape contractor about a retaining wall and hope that your neighbor will go in halves with it. By all rights, they should pay for it all, but typically a "go in halves on it" settles any friction.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 8:49AM
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if he does agree to pay half, get it IN WRITING. and get checks from him along the way. my parents replaced the rear fence at their house several years ago. it was technically the neighbor's fence and he agreed to pay 1/2 of it. when my stepdad gave him the bill he said ok i will call you tomorrow. never heard a word from him again and when we go outside they slip back inside, even now 4-5 years later!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 5:22PM
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Existing house I bought, the property that sloped to the South. The neighbor to the North was uphill from me and their gutters dumped on the South end of their house, closest to mine. Both houses had down spouts dumping on the ground. When I decided to bury drain pipes for draining my gutters away from my house to the South end of my lot (a creek), I asked the neighbor if I could run pipes up to his downspouts, connect to my new drainage system and carry that water away from my house. He agreed. Easy fix, did the whole job at once.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 1:54PM
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Your instincts are correct about your contractor's proposed fix. Given the height difference of the properties, a "slab" like this could simply cause almost all the water to go under it and then still run into your house. Even a deeper wall might still not resolve this.

You want to intercept and conduct the water away, rather than damming it, which is what would occur with a concrete wall.

This problem could probably best be fixed with some type of French drain, which is where a trench is dug and filled with a perforated pipe and gravel. The trench and pipe should be sloped so that the water is lead away by gravity toward a drain or sewer.

If I were you, I'd consult another contractor...one who is a specialist with drainage issues.

The other comments above about getting your neighbor's cooperation are also good ideas.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 2:17PM
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Can't you just ask your neighbor to re-direct his runoff, point the downspouts somewhere else, different direction. Explain to neighbor why you need him to re-direct HIS run off. Unless its a big problem. I would think there is a least some kind of city code about someone directing their runoff onto someone elses property.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 4:25PM
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hi everyone, thank you for all the replies. i have been doing a lot of research on this and some of it is pretty clear, the law states that you cannot alter the natural flow of water. I am going to have to wait till Monday to consult with other attorneys as it looks like this is not a simple fix. We also have a fence up on part of the house with the water issue and the neighbors house is so high that we are holding back several inches of dirt with our fence. In other words, if I choose to remove my fence on that side their dirt is going to start to shift towards my house. This is such a mess....

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 5:46PM
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You might want to check out the legal definition of the" natural flow of water", in my mind it has already been altered by the presence of your respective houses. I can't imagine that any court would rule against your protecting your property. I would go with the French drain, it worked for me.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 7:58PM
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Adding to my previous post, the French drain was my Plan B.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 8:33PM
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Generally speaking, when a locality talks about not interfering with the "natural flow of water" they mainly mean natural watercourses (e.g., they don't want you to get a bulldozer and redirect the flow of a trout stream). I would further argue that much of what you are experiencing is not the natural flow of water. It's an unnatural flow of water caused by the way the land has been terraced and by the water that comes off your neighbor's house. My limited understanding of water law is that, while you can not require your neighbor to redirect this flow, you are also not required to accept it and may divert it and redirect it as necessary to prevent damage to your property. Your locality may have some requirements about where you move this water to, but I doubt they can prevent you from taking measures to prevent damage. I agree that this is a bad situation, but you need to proceed from the premise that it can be fixed by employing some very commonly used measures. Don't get caught in the trap of making the most restrictive assumptions about what you can do. I agree that it's not a bad idea to talk with an attorney, and I hope that on Monday you will be feeling a lot better about what options are available to you. Good luck.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 8:58PM
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hi, i just wanted to post some pictures so you can see what I am talking about. My house is on the left side in the pictures. Half the poeple I talk to tell me to just fix this on my own and the other half tell me it is partially my neighbors responsibility. I honestly dont know what to think at this point. One of the things that bothers me is that it really looks like my fence is being used to hold up their soil level, maybe i should just remove the fence

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 11:25PM
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The only issue I can see with the fence is that the bottom part of the fence that is in contact with the soil will probably deteriorate from rotting. If it were me, I wouldn't remove the fence, I'd simply use a circular saw to take out the bottom 4" or so to make the bottom of the fence just a little higher than the height of the neighbor's soil. That is not that much of a difference in elevation levels, and if you remove the bottom few inches of fencing, it doesn't look like the neighbor's yard will do anything. After you get your drainage issue fixed, simply put a little berm on your side for a gradual transition between the two soil levels, and plant flowers there.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 12:53AM
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A concrete contractor friend told me about a similar situation they had in a house they once owned where he formed and poured a concrete "ditch" and diverted it out to the street. Your picture reminded me of that story. I also remember concrete diversions on our street growing up in San Diego as we lived on a cul-de- sac on a steep hill. It's just a simple concrete base with curbs each side to allow the water to be directed. If you have experience with concrete projects, you could D.I.Y., or get estimates as I would think it wouldn't be too pricy a project.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 10:26AM
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It appears that the yard slopes down towards the back, from where the photos were taken.

Google "swale" - it doesn't probably even need to be a concrete swale, as sierraeast mentioned.

I'm not reading anything in the original post suggesting that the water is IN the house or that the uphill neighbor is being uncooperative. (Though lwayer contact imples an unwilling neighbor, it may have been preemptive.) It might help to clarify these two things. Also, a "slab" makes little sense, so something may be getting lost in translation.

Hooking solid drain tubing to the downspouts would obviously help. The tubing can be buried and terminated in a french drain or just ended above ground in the back yard at some distance from the house.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 12:36PM
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Normally rainwater is evenly distributed and soaks into the ground. I have designed houses near the ocean where gutters were required and the downspouts had to go into drywells because the concentrated flow of rainwater off the roof was considered an erosion problem.

The requirements were even stricter near a wetland or preservation area.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2009 at 12:36AM
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