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interior drainage installed in basement

Poor Drainage

If your property has poor basement and foundation drainage, it could be at risk of developing a number of serious forms of damage.

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Your property’s drainage capabilities are incredibly important to the health of your home. If your foundation becomes saturated on a regular basis, you could be facing extensive damage to your home. Homes around Cleveland, Ohio, that have poor drainage capabilities are more likely to experience foundation problems, structural instability, and persistent problems with dampness (as well as all of the issues they can cause). 

There are a number of things that can impact the drainage capabilities of any property, as well as many warning signs you can look out for. Staying on top of these issues could help you to avoid a huge number of issues in your property. Here’s what you need to know about poor drainage around a home. 

What Causes Poor Drainage? 

Poor drainage in and around a property can be caused by a number of internal and external factors. As a homeowner, you will be able to exert some control over these factors and manage them, but others will require professional intervention and may not be noticeable until they have caused damage. 

Expansive Soils 

Expansive soils are those that are highly reactive to water because of their absorbent nature. These soils tend to have high proportions of materials like clay in them and will grow or shrink in volume depending on how saturated they are. This can put huge amounts of pressure on a property’s foundation and foundation walls and even cause it to crack or buckle. 

Properties built on expansive soils are far more likely to experience poor drainage, as well as all of the problems that this can cause. Foundation saturation can cause many problems for a property. 

Damaged or Blocked Gutters 

Your property’s exterior rooftop gutters and ground-level drains (both interior and exterior) are incredibly important to ensure that excess water is properly drained. If these drainage systems become blocked or clogged with debris, dirt, or sediment, you may see slow drainage, overspill, or even flooding. 

Likewise, if your gutters and drains become cracked, corroded, or otherwise damaged, water can start to seep out into the ground around them. This will allow water to build up around a property’s foundation (an issue that will only be exacerbated by expansive soils). 

Leaking Window Wells 

Any windows that sit partially or fully below ground level will have window wells, whether they be traditional basement windows or larger egress windows. These wells allow natural light into the space and provide a viable means of exit in case of an emergency. If you do not keep their drainage areas clear, they can become flooded. 

This results in water building up in the wells and causing damage to the window and its frame. This leads to water leaking into the basement beyond, which will create a generally damp climate. 

Internal Leaks 

Internal leaks contribute to interior flooding, dampness, and damage, but they will not cause your home to have poor drainage. However, if your drainage options are inadequate or damaged, the water will build up in your home very quickly and cause many different problems. 

The most common kinds of interior leaks that affect homes in Ohio are corroded pipes and damaged appliances. In some extreme cases, you may find that a pipe bursts during a particularly bad cold snap. 

Improper Outflow 

Interior foundation drainage methods are particularly important when it comes to preventing water that has gathered inside your property from simply being dumped outside your property perimeter. If this happens, the water will sink into the ground around your home and pool by your foundation. 

If your property’s foundation is damaged, this will allow water to seep back into your home and create a cycle of flooding and drainage that will prevent your property from ever being truly dry. 

Damaged Sump Pumps 

Most properties around Cleveland, Ohio, have sump pumps in place to ensure that their basements or crawl spaces are properly drained when water does get in. If a property’s sump pump becomes damaged, its ability to drain water will be either undermined or entirely removed. 

This will lead to several issues like flooding, water damage, and all the problems that are connected to dampness. The most common causes of sump pump damage and failure are power outages, damage to the floating switch, and debris blockages. 

These are just some of the potential causes of poor drainage around a property, but they are the ones most commonly found in Cleveland, Ohio. When issues like these combine to create foundation saturation around a property, many kinds of damage can form as a result. 

What Damage Can Poor Drainage Do to a Home? 

Poor drainage can lead to many kinds of structural and foundational damage, especially when paired with expansive or absorbent soils. The most common kinds of damage that can come about as a result of poor drainage include: 

waterproof a leaking basement

Spreading Cracks 

Spreading cracks are caused by ongoing pressure on a property and should not be ignored. Unlike hairline cracks, which are too small to fit a credit card into, spreading cracks can be really quite large. As these cracks form in response to pressure, they can be caused by multiple underlying issues. This means that they are general problem signs, rather than ones that can be used to give an accurate diagnosis of the issues at work. 

Spreading cracks can also lead to other forms of damage in your home. Cracks that are a result of foundation damage can let water, dirt, and pests into your home.


Flooding, leaks, standing water, and general dampness are common side effects of poor drainage and structural damage in any property. Dampness can cause many problems and have many side effects on your home. For example, cosmetic issues like peeling or bubbling wallpaper, or stained concrete, can be signs of persistent leaks and dampness. 

Another common sign of dampness is condensation. Condensation can be recognized by the presence of beads of water on cool surfaces like glass and metal. This happens when the level of relative humidity in a property or area reaches 100 percent. At this point, the air can no longer hold excess moisture. This will not only create a damp environment and cosmetic damage, but can be dangerous to your health. 

Mold Formation 

Mold and mildew are pretty much guaranteed to take root in any home that has persistent problems with dampness and humidity. Spores are found across the U.S. and can grow on almost any surface. There are some forms of mold that grow best on wood or textiles, while others thrive in HVAC vent systems. Most forms of mold are relatively benign. While they will produce a bad smell and could cause skin irritation, they are not dangerous. 

There are others, which can cause serious physical side effects, such as migraines, rashes, infections, dizziness, lightheadedness, respiratory problems, and even nose, throat, and eye inflammation. Thankfully, mold is easy to spot and relatively easy to remove

Wood Rot 

Wood rot goes hand in hand with dampness and mold but is unfortunately more difficult to deal with. That’s because it affects the structural integrity of the wood it spreads through. Over time, rotting wood can become very dry and brittle or soft, crumbly, and slimy. This will give off a horrible smell, create the perfect environment for certain species of mold, and even attract pests. 

Most worrying, however, is the fact that wood rot can lead to sagging or collapsing floors and walls. This is most common when the rot has taken root in a load-bearing joist or beam. It can take time to make its way through these structures, but when it does, the results are catastrophic. 

Pest Infestation 

Pest infestation is more dangerous to your health than your home because the most common pests in Ohio are generally quite small. Spiders, cockroaches, termites, and rodents are the most common pests in and around Cleveland, though you may find larger animals in more rural areas. While most of these pests will not cause large amounts of damage to your home, they can carry all kinds of dirt and bacteria. 

This can lead to a huge number of health issues, especially if you have underlying respiratory issues or an auto-immune condition. You can recognize pest infestation by droppings, shed skin, and nest masses. 

Each of these issues can be linked, if somewhat tenuous, to poor foundation drainage, dampness, and flooding in a property. Each can be dealt with by first repairing the underlying damage and then addressing the visible issues. Of course, preventing damage in the first place is by far the most preferable option. Managing soil saturation is one of the best ways to do that. 

How to Prevent Perimeter Saturation 

Preventing perimeter saturation is simply a matter of increasing your property’s drainage capabilities. Depending on the type of soil your property rests on, the condition of your home, and the age of the structure, this can either be a very simple matter or a complex and intensive undertaking. Either way, you should consider it a sound investment. 

Broadly speaking, there are three main areas on which you should focus your attention. 

Yard Improvement 

Your yard can be an incredibly powerful secret weapon when it comes to improving drainage around your home. Making sure that it is properly graded, healthy, and planted cleverly can increase the soil’s ability to manage moisture and drain excess water exponentially. Yard grading is quite tricky and should be undertaken by a professional landscaper. Planting your yard, however, is something you can do alone with research and patience. 

Planting a good mix of perennial and seasonal plants, bushes, and even trees will increase the soil’s ability to absorb water, prevent soil erosion and washout, and even prevent the soil from receding and cracking during periods of drought. 

Exterior Drainage 

All properties have some form of exterior drainage systems in place, but these systems are not always adequate. Undertaking and sticking to seasonal maintenance is incredibly important to ensuring optimal drainage and protecting your property from foundation saturation. Cleaning out rooftop gutters, window wells, and keeping downspouts clear can make a surprising difference. 

You should also consider the placement and capacity of your drainage systems. If you find that your property’s perimeter is saturated, despite a regular and robust maintenance schedule, you should consider investing in new gutters, extended downspouts, or even extended discharge lines for your interior drainage systems. 

Interior Drainage 

Most properties have some form of internal foundation drainage in place, even if it is rudimentary. If your basement is consistently damp or humid, it may be time to consult with a professional about your drainage options. Updated perimeter drains, for example, may be a great addition to your home. 

However, for many Cleveland properties, it will be necessary to consider more robust interior drainage options. A sump pump, for example, is a fantastic appliance for those who have issues with regular flooding. 

At the end of the day, poor drainage is a complex issue you really should not tackle alone. There are just too many issues that can be connected. The right professional can identify the causes of your drainage issues and formulate a tailored solution. 

Poor Drainage


Your property’s ability to drain water, either from the inside or around your home, is all-important to maintaining its structural health and well-being (as well as your own). 

Issues within Your Home 

Poor drainage inside your home can impact your property in a number of ways. This is most likely to affect the lower reaches of your home but can lead to issues that spread throughout your whole property. The issues most likely to be the result of poor interior drainage include, but are not limited to, mold formation, wood rot, pest infestation, bad odors, and cosmetic damage. 

These may not seem like serious issues, but they can have an escalating effect on other parts of your home. Dampness and condensation, for example, can corrode pipes and appliances, leading to breakdowns. Likewise, humidity will increase your energy consumption and bills quite noticeably over time. 

The Problems with Saturated Soil 

The biggest issues that can be caused by poor drainage around your home are foundational problems. Incredibly saturated soil, no matter its nature, does not create a healthy environment for any structure. Very loose soils, for example, may shift when they are saturated. This can lead to foundation movement in even the healthiest of properties. 

Expansive or absorbent soils, by contrast, are more likely to swell and cause issues like sinking or settlement. Subsiding, or sinking, can be caused by how certain soils become very soft and marshy when they are wet. Settlement, by contrast, is generally caused when the soil is incredibly dehydrated. There is also the chance of foundation heave. 

Spotting drainage issues early is one of the best things that you, as a homeowner, can do. Catching this issue early will allow you to act quickly, thereby preventing avoidable damage. 

Soil Testing 

The kind of soil your property is built is one of the most influential factors at work in most situations. The kinds of problems you are likely to see change depending on whether your home is built on expansive soil, loose sandy soil, or weak and unstable soil. Knowing what you are dealing with will help you to anticipate issues before they rear their heads. 

This means investing in soil testing. Unless you’re an avid gardener, it is unlikely you will be able to identify the kind of soil around your home without help. Thankfully, soil testing is a relatively simple and often affordable procedure that only takes a few weeks (depending on the need to send away a soil sample). 

Visible Signs 

If you would rather not undertake soil testing, you can inform yourself as to the most visible signs of poor drainage that may present themselves around a property. The most obvious sign is pooling water. Whether you see water pooling on your basement floor or you notice that there is always water around your property perimeter, this is a sign you should not ignore. 

Other signs of poor drainage include signs of damage to the drainage systems around your home. For example, if you see water spilling over the top of your rooftop gutters, this is a sign that there is blockage at work. Likewise, if you hear grinding sounds from your sump pump, this is a sign of deterioration. 

If you have noticed signs of poor drainage or foundation drainage around your property, either inside or outside, you should call a professional immediately. There are some things you can do, but it is far better to have an expert on hand to help. 

Maintenance and Cleaning 

If you are noticing sluggishness, slow draining, or overspill in any of your property’s drainage systems, a process of deep cleaning and maintenance could improve drainage very quickly. This is especially the case for rooftop gutters and basement window wells, which are exposed to debris like falling leaves and moss. These organic materials can quickly rot and build up in layers. 

These layers of sediment can also freeze in winter. The weight of this alone can start to pull rooftop gutters away from the property, or even cause damage to the basement windows in question. Preventive maintenance and cleaning are far more effective than reactionary processes, so we urge you to take care of your drains before damage takes root. 

Don’t Try DIY Repairs 

Once you start to see signs of damage around your home, there is really nothing you can do as a non-professional. DIY repairs are notoriously unreliable and can often lead to more serious damage forming in the areas that are impacted. There is also the chance you could cause injury to yourself during DIY repairs, especially if the repairs are structural in nature. 

This is what professionals are here for—to deal with specialist work quickly, efficiently, and effectively. Expert services offer a better result at a generally lower cost than DIY repairs. This may seem counterintuitive, but this value for money is created by the fact that professional repairs tend to be permanent in nature. You will not need to redo professional work, and that has many benefits.  

Call Ohio Basement Systems for Foundation Drainage Options 

If you are worried about your property’s drainage systems or surrounding soil, call the Ohio Basement Systems team. We are a group of professionals with years of experience in foundation protection and repair. 

Whatever the issues with your foundation look like, our team has the tools and skills to rectify them. It all starts with a thorough inspection. We offer free inspection appointments to homeowners in our service area without the obligation to book repairs. If you have concerns, set a time with our inspectors to assess your home for warning signs and damage. 

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1 Marion Ave, Suite 309
Mansfield, OH 44903
(567) 275-8588


7950 Bavaria Rd.
Twinsburg, OH 44087
(330) 235-1229


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Westlake, OH 44145
(330) 235-1229


35475 Vine St, Suite 216,
Willowick, OH 44095
(440) 332-4339


8531 Market St.
Youngstown, OH 44512
(330) 400-3783