Sunday, March 14, 2010

Water, Water Everywhere

The nor'easter that swept up the Atlantic coast arrived here yesterday morning. By late afternoon, light rain had given way to a steady downfall and the wind picked up as the storm collected itself into a force to be reckoned with. Wind-whipped rain pelted the house all through the night, and the wind gusts, up to 60 miles per hour, rattled the wood shutters and made it impossible to sleep.

I know that some people like storms, but I'm not one of them. Will I lose power? There were over 90,000 Connecticut residents who did. Or worse, will the wind send a white pine limb crashing into the house? These are the thoughts that go through my head.

Owl Hollow is situated toward the lower end of a hill. The front yard slopes downward and then levels out; the back yard is level for about 30 feet from the house; beyond that, the incline becomes much steeper and continues upward another 100 feet until leveling out. This topography, combined with a seasonal high water table, has always meant water "issues" here.

In the basement, I have French drains. (The concrete is cut out around the perimeter of the walls and gravel-filled to collect water.) I don't get a wet basement in the way that some homeowners do, as in, several inches of water on the floor.

The water in my basement infiltrates in two ways: 1. Through the porous cinder block walls, as high as three feet from the floor. To witness a dozen or so pinholes through which water streams, much like a faucet, during a storm is really quite shocking. (This has largely been addressed with Thoroseal and Thoroplug concrete products which plug up tiny pinholes in the cinder blocks.) 2. The high water table creates damp spots on the concrete floor, particularly in the garage, which is about 6 inches lower than the basement.

So over the years, I've tried to address these issues, first by installing a sump pump, which I might add has been cycling on and off regularly since last evening. It works quite well, but that alone is not enough to handle the incredible volume of water coming down the side of the hill.

I've also had an underground drainage pipe installed in the backyard. It was dug toward the rear of my backyard lawn, where the level lawn meets the uphill brushy area filled with brambles. The piping runs parallel to the house to divert water that would otherwise rush straight down the hill toward the house. The pipe carries the water along the north side of the house and the water exits the pipe at ground level in a brushy area.

That's the white pipe on the left. I noticed after the heavy rains we've had that the northeastern side of the front lawn is quite soggy due to all the water draining out that pipe.

Here's the area just down hill from that pipe. It doesn't concern me too much since it's a seasonal thing that occurs in March and April. By May, things are generally drying out.

Further down the front yard, though, where the "lawn" meets the woodsy area bordering the road, you can see some erosion occurring under the crab apple tree. Last fall, I'd dumped a few wheelbarrows full of pine mulch underneath the crab apple to prevent wild mustard from taking over, but you can see how the force of the water coming down through the yard carved little rivulets through the mulch. I'll have to try mulching again once the area's dry enough to work in.

The force of the water coming down the hill doesn't end in those woods you see beyond the yard. Although there's a culvert there, the water often washes out the road in spring and often collects in large puddles there. It's really amazing how damaging all that water can be.


  1. We took a walk around our property and neighborhood to find very full streams and a few eroded areas, but no major damage. Trees down in the woods and branches everywhere, and a total of 6 inches of rain from Friday pm to Sunday pm, but we were lucky.

  2. You really have some challenges. The sun was out in CT today and everything was lovely, but squish squash squish everywhere I walked. Some garden plants are in a few inches of standing water, not good. But we escaped the devastation that leveled some of Fairfield. Hope you dry out soon.

  3. Drainage can be really tough to figure out and fix. We often have a really soggy lawn. I've been using this online guide to landscape drainage to plan a system to fix it. Wish me luck!