Water management at the exterior of homes is critical. Most people know this and I probably sound like a blow-hard when I keep repeating the same message... but too bad. The message bears repeating over and over.
My latest beef with home builders is poor water management at the exterior of homes, which is mostly about three different things done at the same time: concentrating a lot of water to one location, an anti-gutter policy, and no consideration for gutters in the future. Let me explain.
Concentrating a lot of water to one location
A common design for new houses is to concentrate rain water from several roof surfaces to a small area, which greatly increases the potential for foundation and basement water problems. I marked up the images from some recent new construction inspections to help highlight where a lot of water gets concentrated.
Installing gutters would certainly help in all of these situations, but it usually doesn't happen. Home builders are typically opposed to installing gutters, which is unfortunate. They give poor excuses such as "gutters cause more problems than they fix", but I suspect the real reason is always about cost savings. Gutters prevent a lot of problems with houses, and they can help in almost every situation. I'll admit that if a home is properly designed for no gutters, it will function fine without them, but that situation is a rare exception.
Planning for gutters
Even if a builder doesn't install gutters, it hardly costs any money for them to plan for gutters; all they need to do is toss a twenty foot section of corrugated yard drain at the front of the house, so a downspout can drain under the front walkway.
This never happens though.
Instead, builders do what you see below. Click on the photo below to see a large version of it, so you can really see all of the wood chips washed away. This happened after a very light rain.
After a decent storm this will be a big mess. This was a new construction home in Eden Prairie with nearly a seven figure price tag... and that's how they dealt with the downspout. In my opinion, the only acceptable fix for this situation is to install a yard drain with a receptor for the downspout; the same thing I blogged about last week. This could have been done very easily with about $5 worth of material before the walkway was poured, but now it's going to be a much bigger project.
If you're having a new home built, be sure to cover this stuff early on in the home building process. Even if your builder has a policy saying they won't direct the downspouts to a yard drain / underground, at least have them bury the tubing for it.
Author: Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections