Newspaper

Be neighborly, avoid rain runoff

The Arizona Republic

While you’re worrying about how much damage this season’s monsoon storms will do to your house and yard, start worrying about your neighbors’ property, too.

If the heavy rain floods your yard and sends water rushing over to the house next door, the feud over who will pay for the damage could get as dirty as the mud and sludge in both your back yards.

That’s especially true if the water chooses a path that you created by altering your landscaping, by grading your patio so it slopes toward another house or by diverting water away from your foundation through drains that allow it to gush into the yard next door.

At best, your friend will be angry about a flooded sun room, a collapsed retaining wall or a mud-strewn garden—and the hassle of cleaning it all up. Not-so-nice scenarios could involve your having to pay for repairs to the neighbor’s house or yard, hard feelings between one-time friends, or even a civil lawsuit that could go either way.

Best bet: Avoid the problem in the first place. Keep the water that falls on your property on your property. Your neighbors don’t need it or want it on theirs.

Think about how what you do in your yard will—even unintentionally—affect the yards attached to yours when it rains.

Some neighborly advice: Consider what kind of damage rushing water can cause to a house. Most devastating: expensive foundation problems. Like you, your neighbors probably try to keep the soil around and under their home dry so it won’t expand and contract, which can cause the foundation or slab to settle or heave. Take pains to keep the puddles that form in your yard from seeping anywhere near their foundation.

Runoff is created by water that doesn’t soak into the ground where it falls. This is more likely to happen when it falls onto concrete or stone surfaces. So:

1. If runoff is a big problem in your yard, get rid of some of the hard surfaces. Replace little-used patios and other slabs with soil, which will soak up much of the rainwater, and with plants and trees that absorb the water through their roots.

A tip: Choose native, drought-tolerant plants that need little or no watering. A lush, green yard might absorb more rain than a stone patio, but it creates an equal problem: You’ll need to water it so much to keep it healthy that you can still send water onto the property next door.

2. Can’t do without your patio? Upgrade your concrete or stone patio and walkway to pavers. Water can seep through the spaces between each paver, which minimizes run-off.

3. Same for the driveway. For extra protection against runoff, consider using permeable pavers, which feature holes in each brick through which water can flow straight into the ground. Or replace your slab driveway with two tire-size strips, which is the only part of the driveway your car touches anyway.  Leave soil in the center of the strips or cover it with decomposed granite so water can flow right through it.

Another option: Add drains to driveways, sidewalks and other hard surfaces that can’t absorb water to prevent it from running off.

4. At a minimum, cover your cement or stone patio when a storm is headed our way. The cover will catch the rain and force it to drip into the ground surrounding the patio, where at least some of it can be absorbed.

5. Keep the rain that hits your roof from spilling onto the ground. Install gutters with downspouts, and connect those downspouts to drains that carry the water into your yard several feet away from your foundation—and nowhere near your neighbor’s.

Another idea: Invest in a couple of rain barrels to capture rain water from your downspouts so you can use it later to water your plants or wash your car.

6. Install a heavy-duty plastic drainage system as part of your concrete pool deck. Point the drains away from all houses.

7. It’s not a bad idea to have your yard graded with a slope of 2 percent to 5 percent away from your house so water won’t pool near your foundation. But don’t slope it in the direction of your neighbor’s house.

If your yard is naturally, steeply sloped toward your house or a neighbor’s, consider excavating to make the slope more gradual. Water flows too quickly down a severe slope that the soil doesn’t have a chance to absorb it.

Keeping up with our own water issues during monsoon season is enough of a chore. Don’t inflict yours on the people who live near you. Be a good neighbor and think about them before it starts to rain.

 For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert for 35 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the Rosie on the House radio program from 8-11 a.m. Saturdays on KTAR-FM (92.3) in Phoenix, KQNA-AM (1130) in Prescott and KAZM-AM (780) in Sedona, KAFF-AM (930) in Flagstaff and KNST-AM (790) in Tucson.

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Rosie and Romey Romero, Every Arizona Homeowners Best Friend
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