Home Repair And Improvement: Landscaping To Prevent Water Damage

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

With record rainfall in June around much of the state, property owners have had to deal with seeping basements, leaking roofs, and leaking walls. Larry Meiller learns strategies to keep water out of your building, without creating problems for the next property owner downstream.

Featured in this Show

  • Plants, Strategic Landscaping Can Stop Water From Seeping Into Home

    April showers might bring May flowers, but June downpours have led to a lot of wet basements around Wisconsin.

    Luckily, landscaping can offer solutions for many water seepage issues with more options than ever before, according to John Gishnock.

    “With the advent of things like rain gardens and bioswales and the use of native plants on a residential scale, we’re coming up with not only functional solutions to manage water in the landscape, but also solutions that look good,” said Gishnock, the owner of Formecology, LLC, a Wisconsin-based landscape design/build/and care firm.

    There are a variety of techniques to draw water away from the foundation using landscaping, and incorporating them during the planning stage will yield the best results.

    “If you’re thinking about water as you design the landscape, you’re going to be much better off than treating water as an afterthought,” Gishnock said.

    One technique is reducing, instead of increasing, the soil brought in for plantings. Gishnock said that instead of focusing on raised beds, their designs now often include creating recessed areas for planting. Downspouts are then directed to those areas, and plants are added “that like wet feet and are very hardy,” Gishnock said.

    “We’re using these plants and our little depressions to soak up rainwater and get it back into the ground where we want it,” he said.

    Native plants have many qualities that make them ideal for this type of landscaping approach. Gishnock said that they have “uber-deep root systems” that stretch down several feet into the soil.

    “These plants pierce through tough clay and tough soils,” he said. “They create capillaries into the ground for water to go, so hands down, native plants really are a great component of a rain garden.”

    While rain gardens might be a relatively new idea, Gishnock pointed out that they’re actually taking a lesson from history. He explained that the native plants that thrive in such gardens used to “blanket the Midwest” for centuries before the settlement period.

    Gishnok does warn that solving one home’s water problems should be done in a way that doesn’t end up causing issues for neighbors. Being the homeowner that gets several other homes’ runoff is less than ideal.

    “If you’re at the ‘bottom of the bowl,’ per se, you may have to really have a team approach,” Gishnock said. “A gutter contractor, a remodeler, and a landscape architect.”

    Gishnock emphasized that while landscaping and plant selection can go a long way in preventing and solving water issues, “sometimes, that’s just not enough.” In those cases, putting together a team of professionals who know not only landscaping but renovation and repair may be necessary.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Chad Speight Guest
  • John Gishnock Guest

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