One of the most frustrating challenges we hear of from homeowners is the “Squishy Yard” nightmare or water intrusion just oozing up through the concrete floor. Stories abound of homeowners trying to fix it with crazy pipe and drain contraptions to landscape solutions that just don’t work. This is just not something your landscaper is equipped to handle as our environment is changing in ways we never imagined.
The Science of Squishy
Your “Squishy Yard” is a hydrology/soil science matter that is best addressed by a Biologist. Today’s Building / Land Science is advancing too fast for Building Codes and Environmental Regulations to keep up with. There just aren’t rules that regulate “Squishy Yards”. In fact, 2018 has been reported to be the wettest year in NJ history which has pushed many borderline soils beyond their water holding capacity and are now flooding families out of their homes. Talk about “Squishy Yards”.
When Was Your Home Built?
What does the era of your home’s construction have to do with a “Squishy Yard” you might ask? We have found that it has everything to do with it. Construction techniques change over time, new man-made materials are developed, land use considerations expanded, and new environmental rules are implemented. A home built in 1985 has different environmental considerations than one built-in 1940. And it’s all tied to understanding the era in which the home was constructed.
New Jersey- The Wetlands State
Take NJ for example. The State is basically a “Swamp” and decades ago it was normal to relocate streams, fill swamps and dredge out coastal wetlands to create developable land. Farmers liked to plant in wetland buffer areas due to natural irrigation that today might not be the best place to build a house on. With the introduction of the Clean Water Act around 1975, Freshwater Wetlands became protected and could no longer be filled ending this land development practice. But what about all those homes built on old filled wetlands? What about older homes that are now being re-built with bigger (deeper) basements in neighborhoods that historically were prone to water intrusion due to wetlands and their associated headwaters? We see old filled wetlands “re-emerging” to create hidden moisture intrusion in new homes that stimulates all sorts of microbial challenges often resulting in a Water-Damaged Building or full-onset of Sick Building Syndrome.
Ever Changing Development Regulations
Drainage has become such an issue that many Municipalities now require that property storm water be held on-site and recharged into the ground. A variety of strategies abound from giant concrete cisterns and gravel packed “Dry Wells” to French Drains and Flow Wells. But what’s the life expectancy of these devices, how are they maintained, and what about neighboring impacts due to “Water Mounding” (the Hantush Model). Just because you push your drainage water underground doesn’t mean you can forget about it.
So What Do I Do?
Every home has its own unique drainage considerations where there’s no “one size fits all” answer. First, find an experienced Building Biologist to help assess your unique situation. Then, start educating yourself about how your proposed project impacts the natural environment. There is a balance that can be reached. Here are a few resources that might help.
- USGS Water Science School
- USDA and Soils Information
- EPA Wetlands
- NDS Drainage Systems
- NJ Stormwater Best Management
- NJ Stormwater Manual (Draft Update)