Water falls have an almost magnetic attraction. The sound of rushing, cascading water is soothing, compelling. Nature's white noise. It's similar with the sound of the surf, a babbling brook or a summer rain, the sound of moving water is calming.
Water can also be said to either be destructive or constructive depending on your view. Erosion shapes new landscapes, while simultaneously destroying the current surroundings. So it is that houses are built to manage water and the force it exerts on the humble home. Drainage systems are the basic element built into houses to alleviate waters inexorable power. Yet like any system, it is only as good as the installation.
The basic and most obvious component of the house's drainage system is the gutters and downspouts. Also quite arguably one of the more neglected. The gutters are there to capture the water that falls on the entire roof area. The downspouts channel the water to the ground and are supposed to send that water away from the foundation. Often water infiltration issues in the basement or crawl space can be due, entirely or in part, to downspouts placed against or very near the foundation. In a few instances, foundation damage can occur, particularly over time.
During a recent home inspection, the power of misdirected water was very clearly demonstrated.
At the exterior front corner of the masonry block constructed garage, I found the downspout for the gutter buried into the concrete for the steps along the side of the garage. Buried downspouts are common. The water is sent into a perforated pipe surrounded by gravel to be dissipated throughout the ground and most importantly away from the house foundation.
Apparent right off was settling of the driveway and concrete block in the immediate area of the downspout. Looking at the wall, a top to bottom step crack was present in the wall on which the stairs run. The crack can be seen just below the blue shovel, running down to the right.
What is occurring is erosion to the soil below the front and side walls. The walls are essentially levering downwards causing the cracking. This condition would likely indicate the downspout has simply been buried into the concrete step without a pipe sending the water away from the foundation. I classify this as a progressive failure. Eventually, and this will take many years, the wall will fail.
While the sound of cascading water is soothing, it is also patiently doing its work of reshaping the landscape...
including wearing away at our homes.