The biggest investment most of us make is buying a house — and few things will make a homebuyer walk away from a potential purchase more quickly than a water issue. Unfortunately, most homeowners and builders don’t fully understand proper drainage. 

As a homeowner myself, I can’t stress enough how important it is to understand your home’s drainage situation so you can avoid any potential problems in the future. 


Good drainage is simple: water flows downhill. When it collects in a large area or flows a long distance, it can create big problems.

Soggy, poorly graded ground spells doom for lawns, shrubs, and plants. Roof runoff can enter the basement through cracks and leaks, warping floorboards and causing mildew.

Walk the Perimeter of the House

This spring, homebuyers should check for drainage issues before buying. See if dirt near the foundation slopes away from the house. If it slopes toward the home, expect wet crawl spaces, damage, and mold.

Today’s Homeowner Tips

If it’s been dry, improper grading may not show. Check carefully for low, wet spots near the home. Inspect window wells, stairwells and doors. Evidence of pooling points to problems.

Find the Rain Gutter Downspouts

Do they drain to the ground near the home? That signals water intrusion somewhere. Make sure downspouts move water away from the home.

Also, gutters should release water 10 feet away. Too close, and they’ll undermine the foundation. Ask if sellers have made foundation or basement repairs for water issues.

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Look for Cracks in Walls and Foundation

If a quarter fits in a foundation crack, there’s settling. Gutters and downspouts too close to the foundation often cause cracks.

Inspect all sides with a flashlight — even hairline cracks warrant investigation. Ask if any have been repaired.

With New Homes, Review the Drainage Plan

Most new home problems involve drainage. Understand the drainage before buying — visiting during heavy rain to spot issues can also be helpful. Discuss concerns with the builder.

Review their drainage plan to ensure downspouts and drip lines divert water away from the foundation. Ask about foundation waterproofing and about upgrading the drainage system.

More Drainage Tips

In addition to the main drainage issues outlined above, here are some other areas that homebuyers should inspect when evaluating a home’s drainage system:

  • Check if landscape beds slope away from the house.
  • Don’t take sellers’ word about water issues. Verify.
  • Inspect where additions meet the original structure. Settlement starts here.
  • Look for cracked basement walls, indicating water pressure.
  • Make sure window well drains work properly.
  • Walk the property after heavy rains to find standing water or drainage issues.
  • Watch for exterior mold and mildew.

So, Is Checking for Proper Drainage Important?

Good drainage protects your home’s integrity. Drainage problems lead to expensive repairs. When buying, thoroughly inspect for signs of issues. 

I have learned from experience that it’s better to avoid problems than face repairs later. Carefully check the foundation, drainage system, and perimeter grading. Take your time inspecting — it will pay off later.

FAQs About House Water Drainage

How can I spot drainage issues?

Check for standing water, slopes toward the house, clogged gutters, foundation cracks, mold, window well problems and past water intrusion. Also, observe during and after heavy rains.

What are the consequences of poor drainage?

Wet basements, cracked foundations, dead landscaping, mold, flooded crawl spaces, structural damage, and costly repairs.

Should I avoid a house with drainage problems?

Not necessarily, but understand the repairs required before buying. Extensive issues mean major renovations.

What's the cost to improve drainage?

It varies based on grading, gutters, drainage tile, pumps, waterproofing, etc. Budget $5,000 to $10,000 minimum to be safe.

How can I prevent drainage issues with a new home?

Review the drainage plan, request upgrades, and watch how rain flows on-site during construction. You can also ask builders for specifics.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Coty Perry

Coty Perry

Expert Writer & Reviewer

Coty Perry is a lawn and garden writer for Today’s Homeowner. He focuses on providing homeowners with actionable tips that relate to the “Average Joe” who is looking to achieve a healthier and greener lawn. When he isn’t writing he can almost always be found coaching youth football or on some trail in Pennsylvania in search of the next greatest fishing hole.

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Jeff Zoldy

Jeff is a writer, editor, and marketer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been editing on the Home Solutions team for over a year and is passionate about getting homeowners the information they need when they need it most. When he’s not working, Jeff can be found at baseball games, golfing, going to the gym, reading, watching movies, and playing video games.

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