This week I was awakened by one of our police officers at my house around midnight during a rainy stretch – you’ve probably noticed that the midstate has experienced a few of these recently.
The cause for his visit was to ask me to come down in a mayoral capacity and view a home whose foundation was collapsing and needed to be put off-limits for habitation by the borough. Not a happy occasion.
When I arrived, the fire department had already locked down the scene and a county geological representative was there assessing the yard for sinkhole possibilities. We all waited in the drizzle for the zoning officer to arrive, and when he did, we descended to the basement.
Sure enough, the supersaturated earth outside had collapsed the block foundation inwards, crumbling the concrete and pouring dirt into the (unfinished and empty) basement. The first assessment of the zoning officer was that the lack of proper drainage around the house had been a principal contributor to the building failure.
Since that night, I’ve thought about my house and what I can do to ensure that it is as safe as can be. Many of us have been through a home inspection and heard the speech about properly extending our downspout at least 6 feet from the foundation – but have we really? Having a good slope of earth away from the house is equally important – but the years of mulching and inattention makes the slope go away over time.
Hydraulic pressure of water building up in the earth outside your basement walls is nothing to be trifled with. Make sure in all this rain that you’re completely aware of what is going down outside your foundation.