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Replacing the Decks

  French Drains  
 
 


I had to figure out how to keep the inside dry. One possibility was investing in what are known as French drains. These are perforated pipes buried in a bed of gravel, and designed to wick moisture away. Years ago, the prior owner had pounded 2 by 12 boards into the dirt along the perimeter to keep some of the dirt and moisture out. Perhaps it helped at one point, but it didn't stop the problem.

I had Forster Pump and Engineering, (Roy Forster, 56 Woodland Avenue, San Rafael, CA, 415-459-4770) come out and propose a french drain solution. Roy suggested a few possibilities. First, a new subdrain along the uppermost outer perimeter of the house approximately 30 feet long by three feet deep. This drain would continue along the north side of the house to a point of discharge below the house. The estimated cost for this: $14,550.

As a backup to this, a French drain was proposed inside the crawl space, against the lower floor. This would be tricky, since the house was supported on piers, supported on concrete wedges, and my understanding is you do not want to carve within ~45 degrees of the pier's contact with the soil.

Included in Forster's quote was a retaining wall inside the crawl space made of 2 x 12 lagging, with a drain behind that. The wall would be about three foot high. Estimated cost, $19,250.

As a lower-cost alternative to this crawl-space drain, Forster proposed a shallower sub-drain limited to area behind the living room portion that had leaked the prior year. This would be 18-24" deep, 15' long, leading to a basin and sump pump, and only $6,500.

So I had a French drain solution of $35,000. Tempting, but would it solve all the problems?

Then there was the other concrete ad found on Craigslist Foundation Specialists for Cheap. Apparently Manuel worked on a regular crew but did work on the weekend with his other Guatemalan buddies. I contacted Manuel and had him come by the house. About three or four guys showed up. They looked around, poked around, and thought that they could actually create a foundation for the house with a drain in the middle for a labor cost of $20,000, concrete of $4,000, and other materials of $2,000, exterior French drains an additional $10,000, for a total of $36,000. Another low number, but what would I really be getting? 

Perhaps I would have to go with a proper foundation repair. The tough thing, $100,000 later (or more!) this house would still look the same.

 
 
Part of the water problem was the result of having no perimeter foundation...
The prior owner had shoved boards against the side wall, and buried plastic sheeting just under the dirt. Maybe it helped at some point, but it wasn't enough now.
 
 
 
 
 
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Last Updated Feb 2014.