Drainage standard prevents flooding
My first experience as captain of a vessel came long before I knew of oceans, lakes and rivers. It came in the spring of 1970, when I was five years old. A steady rain began on Saturday. The next morning, my brothers and I stood on our front porch in our pajamas, amazed by the volume of water still cascading down from the sky. Water shot out of gutters like a fire hose. The edge of our front lawn became a beachhead complete with waves from torrents of water running down our street like bulls in Pamplona.
After church and Mom's chicken dumplings, the skies cleared leaving warm air and bright sunshine. My younger brother John and I went out to play and splash in our backyard that was underwater. We found our sandbox was submerged, and our four foot, round plastic kiddie pool was full of water and sunken. Using brute force, we pried up one side of the pool shell and dumped out all the water. With surprise and joy, we discovered we had transformed our pool into a private sailing vessel. John leaped in, wrapped his tee shirt over his head and yelled "Look Greg, I'm a pirate!". I grabbed a piece of floating wood as a make-shift paddle, jumped in and hailed: "I'm captain!"
While my brother and I looked forward to the lake formed in our yard every spring, my parents were not so pleased with the mess and cleanup that ensued. No home should suffer occurrences of regular flooding that results from poor and inadequate drainage. Toward that end, Florida instituted revised building requirements starting January 1, 2008. The new requirements call for the ground around every new home to slope down and away at least 5% in the first ten feet. That means that if you stand 10 feet away from any exterior wall of a house, the ground at that point will have be at least six inches lower than the ground surface adjacent to the house.
In the case where the edge of a lot is within ten feet of a house's exterior wall, the ground must still slope at 5%. However, for such closely built homes, a drainage swale must also be provided that slopes away at least 2% (1 foot per 50 feet), and which leads to a storm sewer or collection point so as to not create a hazard. This new standard will help prevent water intrusion into homes and will help eliminate the problem of water collecting in yards and between homes.
For existing homeowners with water issues in their yard, it is prudent to hire a local grading contractor to evaluate and create a drainage plan for your lot. With slight adjustments to the pitch of ground surfaces around your house, you can greatly reduce the odds that water may enter your home. Keeping the soil below and around your home dry is paramount to avoid erosion, settling of soils leading to a failed foundation, dilution of termiticides, and high moisture that attracts wood destroying organisms.
Floating in our new boat, John and I shoved off and sailed clear over to the garage, where our collie, Duchess, was barking and wagging her tail. "Come on girl, come on!" yelled John, as I whistled. In a single bound, she cleared the prow and landed in the center of our circular schooner. Immediately, we sailed to the middle of our new inland sea. We sailed into and out of our neighbor's yards. We navigated the perilous straits of our swing set and rounded the shoals of our parent's Plymouth station wagon. We sailed the waters behind our home all day, the envy of every kid on the block. Oh, what I would pay now for a ticket to again board that cruise ship with my little brother John.
Greg Bertaux is a licensed professional engineer and home inspector. His company, ISLE Management Corp., provides property inspection services along the entire Treasure Coast. For more information call (772) 569-2141, or visit www.IMHomeInspector.com
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