Landslides and Underground Water


I have called out all kinds of properties that apparently have water run-off issues and high underground water tables.  There is no way to change that reality, however, there are steps that must be taken in order to ensure that the structure built on that property remains safe.  There are times I have encountered opposition and resentment from realtors and sellers who are adamant that everything is "normal."  In the spirit of edification, we can all learn something new.

Last fall, I inspected a large house with many amenities but the grounds were wet and there was some standing water.  There had been no seasonal rain yet, so it was very suspicious.  Nevertheless, I had to call it out as an issue that needed to be addressed.   My client backed off the purchase which disappointed the realtor.  A lot of sellers view the moisture intrusion issues as only an inconvenience and do not declare the issue when they put their house up for sale.  But, this is serious, invites termites, compromises the foundation and worse--see the following article.  The front page of the paper shows a home right above the property I inspected.


"County officials reportedly first became aware of unstable ground conditions and structural damage at Lakeside Heights March 21. Five homes have been deemed uninhabitable, the public sewer system has been damaged, and the water system, other homes and roads remain at risk.

"The land is still moving and could keep sliding until the driving forces are reduced or resisting forces are improved, geotechnical engineer Jared Pratt, of RGH Consultants, told the BOS Tuesday morning at the Lake County Courthouse.


"It's going to continue to move until it reaches some sort of equilibrium. We don't know when that is; we don't know how far it is," Pratt added."

Jeremy Walsh, Record Bee (4/23/2013)


 “…according to one of our members, seepage issues have been going on for 20-plus years.”

 “…Hern also questioned how county building inspectors could have missed the foundational problems…”

Melody Karpinski, Press Democrat (4/26/2013)

Last fall, in a different town, I inspected a house on a hillside that had damp ground and standing water under the house.  I called it out in my report and I told the buyer along with his real estate agent in no uncertain terms that immediate action would be required to stop the ravages of the rain water run-off.  They bought the house, adopted a “wait and see” attitude, and sustained severe damage from our first heavy winter storm.  The seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent received a letter from the buyers’ attorney but I did not since the attorney recognized the fact that my report had warned them.  In this instance, the warning was in writing, my conversation with the buyer and my instructions were witnessed and I seriously doubt that the buyer has a leg to stand on.

And in another instance, a block away from where I live, the hillside collapsed right next to the long uphill driveway.  Other homes in the area have standing water in the crawl spaces.  When I moved into my home over two years ago, the walls had stress fractures and it was determined that the front deck which is on the downhill side of the house had fallen an inch or two and had to be jacked up and have new support posts installed.  I immediately installed a French Drain in the backyard to divert the tremendous water run-off that we experience in this area every year.

What many people do not realize is that hundreds of thousands of gallons of rainwater pour off our hillsides, both on the ground and under the ground.

Corrective measures must be taken to stop this water issue.  It is not an option. A common method that is generally adequate is to create a French Drain at or near the back of the house to collect and divert the water, thus preventing a buildup of moisture at the foundation.  If the grading around the immediate area is not properly done, it may also require a catch tank with automated sump pump to lift the water and force it to front of property where there it should be a drainage ditch.