Q: There’s a landlocked lot next-door from which water drains onto my property and ends up under my house. Only one side of the house gets this moisture and I have a sump pump at that side. It’s pretty efficient — the most water I’ve seen is about 6 inches in the sump’s well. During the summer, everything’s dry again.
Between my neighbor’s lot and my home’s foundation is a mini-deck and a fence (both mine). Could I remove some of the decking, dig a 6- to 8-inch-deep trench and shove sheet metal into it to prohibit the water from going under my house? I could redirect the water to a storm drain near the end of my property.
Oh, and who the heck is responsible for that water flowing onto my property? The owner is a miserable cur who prefaces every statement with “I’m an attorney, you know!”
A: You might ask “the attorney” if he would care to explain to a judge, in court, why he shouldn’t be held liable for the water under your house that is draining from his lot.
However, court action is the last resort and if you don’t have to go that route, don’t. But if you do, make sure to have all your ducks in a row. You should see your lawyer to discuss the facts of your situation and whether you have legal theory behind any recovery.
But now to more important things — how to fix the problem. You’re on the right track with a trench, but 6 to 8 inches deep and lined with metal won’t do the job. You won’t be able to block the water — you have to divert it.
We suggest that you dig a modified French drain to channel the water flowing from the neighbor’s lot into the storm drain. Before you do that though, check with the city or county building department to make sure it’s OK to discharge the surface water into the storm drain.
A traditional French drain is essentially a gravel-filled tube that reroutes groundwater from one place to another. The trench should be 12 to 24 inches deep and graded so the water runs to the storm drain. The slope should be at minimum 1 foot of drop for every 100 feet of run.
Go ahead and remove a board or two from your deck and dig a 6- to 8-inch-wide trench, making sure that it will collect all the surface water from the neighbor’s yard. Line the entire trench, bottom and sides, with landscape fabric and place a couple of inches of 1-inch washed gravel in the bottom of the trench.
Next, install drainage pipe in the trench. Drainage pipe is plastic pipe with holes in one side. The holes go down so any silt that filters through the top layer of gravel does not clog the pipe. Fill the trench with the same 1-inch washed gravel. You can either install the gravel to the surface or fold the fabric over the top of the trench and cover it with course sand. Discharge the pipe into the storm drain and hopefully that will take care of the problem.
This is a relatively simple job that takes a fair amount of hard work. Maybe your neighbor, the lawyer, would be willing to give you a hand. It doesn’t hurt to ask.