Hacks for House Hunters: Why Home Buyers Need to Include Drainage on Home Inspection Checklists

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To help make sure water-related issues are top of mind for summer house hunters, NDS's Dr. Drainage recommends several checks for prospective home buyers

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“The biggest investment most people make is buying a house, and there are few things that will make a home buyer walk away from a sale more quickly than a water problem.” - Ryan Larsen, technical services manager, NDS, Inc., aka "Dr. Drainage"

As the summer residential real estate market heats up over the next several weeks, NDS, Inc., a leading manufacturer of drainage and stormwater management products, urges prospective home buyers to check out drainage-related issues on any property before signing on the dotted line.

“The biggest investment most people make is buying a house, and there are few things that will make a home buyer walk away from a sale more quickly than a water problem,” said Ryan Larsen, a civil engineer and technical services manager at NDS, Inc. He is also known as “Dr. Drainage” in NDS’s YouTube instructional video series about how to properly use and install stormwater management and drainage products. “Overlooking existing or potential drainage trouble spots before you buy can very well mean hundreds if not thousands of dollars in unexpected repairs later on. This is why house hunters need to make sure that drainage is on their list of things to check before making an offer.”

The human health costs of poor drainage on a property can be significant – poorly drained runoff from roofs can enter basements or flow inside homes through foundational cracks or leaks where it can warp floorboards and turn finished rooms into disastrous, mildewy and moldy messes that can attract insects and rodents. Outside, inadequate or non-existent drainage from gutter downspouts can also create standing water that can harbor breeding spots for mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus, Zika virus and heartworms.

The financial costs of poor drainage can be substantial:

  • Drying a basement of toxic water due to poor drainage ranges from $1,000-$10,000, according to the U.S. National Flood Insurance Program
  • Repairing damage to a home’s foundation as a result of poor drainage can range anywhere from $3,500 to $25,000, according to the National Association of Realtors
  • Replacing a landscape washed away from heavy rains averages $7,500 and can run as high as $30,000, according to HomeAdvisor

Further, soggy, poorly graded ground spells certain doom for lawns, shrubs and plants, and current estimates are that a home with a major drainage problem or foundation damage can reduce a home’s value by 10-15 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors.

To help make sure all water-related issues are top of mind for summer house hunters, Larsen aka Dr. Drainage recommends several checks:

  • Walk the perimeter of the house: Make sure to check and see if the dirt adjacent to the foundation slopes away from the house. If the grading of the property slopes toward the home, this could lead to damp or wet crawl spaces, structural damage and toxic mold.
  • Find the rain gutter downspouts: Each inch of rain that falls on 1,000 square feet of a roof produces more than 600 gallons of runoff—enough to fill 10 bathtubs. This makes properly working gutters and downspouts critical. In checking gutters, do they drain directly to the ground? Has the water created a low spot for water to collect adjacent to the home? If so, there’s a good chance there’s water intrusion somewhere. Make sure gutter downspouts are carrying water at least 10 feet away from the home.
  • Look for cracks in the exterior walls and foundation: If a quarter can slip into a crack, it is a sign that there are foundation settling issues. Primary culprits of major cracks are gutters and downspouts that have failed to deliver runoff water far enough away from the foundation.
  • Check the basement for water stains: If you see stains high on a foundation’s wall, it most likely mean that water is coming into the house from an overflowing gutter, or that surface runoff us backed up against the house because the soil around the foundation doesn’t slope away adequately.
  • Ask “What happens when it rains?”: Don’t be afraid to ask this basic, direct question to the existing homeowner or, if buying a newly-constructed home, to ask the developer about the drainage plan for the new home and/or development.

For more information about how homeowners can diagnose and fix the 8 most common water problems around their homes and in their gardens, landscapes and yards, visit the NDS Home Drainage Center.

About NDS Inc.:
NDS is a leading manufacturer of stormwater management, efficient landscape irrigation, and water flow management products and solutions for both residential and commercial markets. Headquartered in Woodland Hills, Calif., NDS’s products are sold at major retailers and wholesalers throughout the U.S., and online at http://www.ndspro.com.

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Michiko Morales

Michael Tebo