Heavy rains and atmospheric rivers continue to strain Bay Area homes and yards. As earthquake prevention taught us, it’s best to take preventive measures to mitigate damage. Let’s look at it like underground curb appeal. While nothing can really alleviate the flooding from a storm that sits on the Bay Area for hours at a time, there are yard drainage solutions to avoid flooding from normal rainfall. If you are a home owner, start planning ahead for this type of extreme weather year round by planning ahead now.
Types of Drainage Solutions
There are so many types of drainage for your home and yard. Everything from french drains, downspouts, rain barrel collection, positive slope, rain gardens, and sump pumps.
We recommend consulting with a landscape designer or drainage contractor for serious issues, but below are some of the most basic ways to help control the flow of water in your Bay Area yard. Keep all of this in mind when getting ready to do a landscaping project – this is the best time to add or update your drainage.
Easy Yard Drainage Fixes
Slope away from your house
The first and easiest fix to your yard drainage problems is to slope your yard away from your house. Lucky for us, many Bay Area yards have natural slopes. But with so many older homes – yours may need some updates to ensure proper drainage. When creating a slope, don’t use just any topsoil or mulch, as those are designed to let water seep through to get to plant roots. Instead, pick a harder clay-like-soil that water will wash down the slope instead of through to your foundation.
Install downspout extensions
Affordable and portable, downspout extensions are sold at your local Home Depot, Ace, Lowes, and most home and garden centers. Attaching these flexible plastic tubes onto the end of your downspouts will take the water at least four feet away from your house. The best part of living in the Bay Area is we tend to know when the rain is coming. Downspout extenders can be added during the rainy season and stored away during dry periods.
Switch from Concrete Patios to Gravel
Water cannot permeate solid concrete and it can actually divert water in the wrong direction. Replace concrete patios with pea gravel or pavers with crushed gravel in between. This will allow for water to drain through rather than puddle and flood on top. Another benefit of gravel and pavers – no noticeable earthquake cracks or costly repairs.
French Drain System
One of the most effective drainage methods is a French drain system. The French drain catches and redirects water away from the perimeter to prevent it from entering the crawl space. This isn’t a project that is accomplished on a Saturday morning. The best time to add a French drain is when you are doing a landscaping project. The downspouts can be tied into the French drain system to direct the roof run off water off of the lot.
Do you need a Sump Pump?
If you live in some of the flatter, low-lying areas of Silicon Valley, you may need a sump pump to help keep water from flooding your crawl spaces. When your home sits on a hill, where water can naturally flow away from your foundation, you can most likely get away with other yard drainage solutions.
If you do need a sump pump, we recommend this backup system from Basement Watchdog. This battery-powered backup automatically begins pumping during power outages, when the main pump fails or when water flow exceeds the capacity of the main sump pump. We especially like the wifi capabilities of this sump pump, where you receive notifications of high water present and when the back up battery is in use. In times of heavy rain, like we’ve had, the Basement Watchdog can be a sump pump lifesaver.
Natural Drainage Solutions
Rain gardens can prevent storm surge while also promoting floral resources for pollinators. A rain garden is not a pond, rather it is a group of native plants with deep roots. These are planted densely to not only slow the water down but allow it to penetrate into the soil. But what happens when all this rain stops and we go back into a drought? Good news, many native plants with deep roots used in rain gardens are very drought tolerant – a win win!
Dry Creek Bed
Dry creek beds not only look great during drought periods but they help plan water flow during storms. Rather than letting nature decide where the water flows, you can direct water away from the foundation of your house. You can direct it into a swale, catch basin, or to the edge of your property. There is no one size or style for dry creek beds, so they’re easy to get a cohesive look with the rest of your landscaping.
Does Artificial Grass Prevent Flooding?
Interestingly enough, when installed correctly artificial turf actually drains better than natural grass. The backing of artificial turf grass is very porous and allows more water to the underlying soil than natural grass. As our climate goes from drought to heavy rain, artificial turf may be a beneficial solution to both problems. Look for a properly licensed artificial turf installer and when picking the type of turf, ask for the ASTM drainage rating.
Drainage Solutions as You Prepare Your Home for Sale
The following are some drainage tips as you prepare your home for sale:
- Clear the rain gutters: make sure they are clean and free of any debris.
- Trim tree limbs and branches away from the roof and gutters to prevent build up.
- Address any negative grade around the perimeter of the house.
- Go out in the yard when it’s raining and check water flow. Add rain gutter extenders where they are needed.
- Add a sump pump if you have a basement and you have needed one in the past.
Thank you for reading Drainage Solutions for Bay Area Homes
It’s important to note many of the homes on the Peninsula were built before many of the drainage systems we mention above were in place. Think of the drainage around your home as the underground curb appeal when preparing to sell your home. If we’ve inspired you with this blog or have additional questions or ideas, please reach out to us. We’d love to talk to you more about your home, including your project ideas. And thanks again for reading our blog!