Thursday, March 10, 2016

How Hardscaping Your Home Can Prevent Flooding

No matter where you live, your home is at risk of flooding.

This may sound alarmist, but it is true. Your home doesn’t have to be sitting two feet from a river or ocean to see flood damage. Arid environments are at risk of flash floods that occur when the dry ground can’t absorb precipitation fast enough. Cold environments see floods when the still-frozen ground cannot absorb the melting snow and ice. Tropical storms can cause torrential rainfall hundreds of miles inland.

How would your property stand up to a flood? If your land is in need of a drainage overhaul, make sure you put hardscaping at the top of your list. For those asking “why” and “how,” here’s a crash course on the benefits of hardscaping.

Hardscaping Options

So what is hardscaping? Consider it any non-living part of your landscape. Grass, flowers, shrubs and trees are not hardscaping. Driveways, walkways, patios, fencing and lighting are hardscaping.

While fencing and lighting are important elements for your property, they don’t lend much when it comes to flood prevention. Driveways, walkways, patios and other surfaces are where you want to concentrate your flood-prevention upgrades.

There are two main types of surfaces to consider: permeable and non-permeable. Simply put, permeable paving elements allow water to drain between or through. Non-permeable do not. Popular options such as poured concrete and blacktop are non-permeable. Water runs off them, but it does not drain through.

Permeable elements may include permeable pavers that allow water to drain down the seams between pavers or pervious pavers that allow water to soak directly through the paver itself.

Both permeable and non-permeable systems can help prevent flooding. Non-permeable systems will rely more heavily on grading to ensure runoff slopes away from the home’s foundation. While permeable systems can be more effective, homes that are at risk for more extreme flooding scenarios may require a complex system that combines permeable and non-permeable materials, grading, drain systems such as a French drain or curtain drain, or even a detention pond. An emergency supply of sandbags can provide an extra layer of protection.

How Permeable Systems Work

Permeable systems are gaining popularity and acclaim as they reduce flooding and runoff by helping water to drain directly where it falls. Permeable systems combine permeable or pervious pavers with an underground drainage aggregate.

The water sinks through or around the pavers into the aggregate, where it is temporarily held until it can absorb fully into the ground or drain out through sewer or other drainage lines. With less reliance on grading and surface runoff, permeable systems reduce issues commonly found with impermeable systems, such as erosion.

Benefits for the Homeowner

As flooding is the most common natural disaster in the U.S., the main benefit of permeable hardscaping systems should be obvious. However, permeable systems offer several other side benefits for homeowners.

Homeowners used to dealing with ice and snow are aware of the liabilities of icy walkways. Ice and snow that melt on traditional sealed or non-permeable walkways form a puddle on the surface, and whatever does not evaporate refreezes each night. Snow and ice that melt on permeable surfaces drain through, significantly reducing the risk of ice-related falls.

Permeable systems are modular, which means they are easier to repair. Homeowners only need to remove and replace the affected pieces, not the whole surface. Permeable pavers are also easy to maintain, often requiring as little as a shopvac or a broom to keep them clean.

Want to reduce your water bill? Installing a non-permeable liner below your pavers allows you to direct the absorbed rainwater toward trees or other plant life for irrigation purposes. Liners and drains could also direct rainwater or snowmelt toward tanks for future reuse.

How to Get Started

Hardscaping isn’t a beginner-level DIY task, so be sure to research and weigh your options before deciding whether you will hire a professional or undertake the work yourself.

If you do plan to DIY, be aware you will require more than just pavers, stone dust and a lot of elbow grease. Equipment needs will range. Simple stakes and levels determine slope and a material processor helps break up trees or other plants that require removal.

Bottom line: Whether you hire it out or do it yourself, upgrading or adding hardscaping is a critical investment in the fight to protect your home from flood damage.


Megan Wild is a home improvement specialist who loves learning new ways to improve her home and keep it safe. She can typically be found in her workshop, upcycling her latest find into something new and bright. When she’s not doing that, she’s cataloging her ideas and advice on her blog, Your Wild Home.

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