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The Effects of Poor Drainage Systems

Poor drainage caused by the shape of the landscape or inadequate drainage systems can damage buildings and move soil from where it’s needed to where it causes trouble. The effects of poor drainage systems extend beyond single properties and can have an impact on roads, waterways, and health.

Damaged Foundations and Heaving Sidewalks

Water falling or gushing from downspouts close to the foundation will sink straight down next to the foundation wall. The sodden soil expands, pressing against the foundation, causing bowing or cracks. Water will seep through the cracks, causing further damage. It all gets worse when freezing weather comes around. Water turns to ice in the soaked soil above the freeze line, expanding and causing more cracks or heaving under sidewalks and driveways with improper underlayment and drainage.

Keeping gutters clear and extending downspouts away from the house are the easiest solutions to many of these problems. Regrading may be necessary to ensure a six-inch downward slope, extending from the foundation to ten feet away.


A common problem with poor drainage is erosion—water that runs over land and down slopes without catch basin or trench drain containment carries soil, mulch, and debris with it and robs trees and plants of nutrients. When the water runs off over poor soil, it can cause the property owner to compensate by overwatering plants and trees, causing rot and disease. An erosion control system coupled with appropriately sited and installed drain systems can help alleviate the problem.


Insects and wildlife are attracted to water. Standing water in a landscape is a health hazard because disease-carrying mosquitoes and other pests breed in it. Water-damaged foundation walls admit these insects into the home. Standing water in the basement or next to the home can cause rot and mold.

All structures and landscapes require adequate and appropriate drainage. Inspect your building and your grounds to identify trouble spots and note evidence of the effects of a poor drainage system. Contact professionals who can help with regrading or installing new and more effective drainage.

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