Drainage & Waterproofing

Parent Q&A

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  • I purchased a home recently that is a bit of a fixer-upper. I need to get some quotes on installing a French drain, repairing or replacing a driveway on a hill with a damaged retaining wall, and landscape design/landscaping. Is it possible to find one company to take care of all of it? Who would you recommend for this type of work? I also have a bunch of small jobs around the house that I need a good handyman for, if anyone has recommendations in Oakland. 

    I highly recommend Bay Area Drainage (BAD) in Moraga. Their number is 925-377-9209. They installed a new french drain and replaced a retaining wall and did an excellent job significantly cheaper than the highest bid. They also do landscaping I think. 

    Sarah Ray installed my French drain a number of years ago as part of a larger landscape project.  She is a designer but she also has a great team to install.  Highly recommend.


    I had a  French drain installed by All Seasons Construction in Oakland.  Jeremy Ke managed the project.  I'm no expert but  I thought he did a good job at a fair price.

    Hey Sarah, 

    I had similar problems with my house when I first moved in and I wanted to renovate a few things, my friend gave me the number of Thiago who works for K1 services. They did such an incredible job I was able to renovate the inside and outside of my house. Now my house looks brand new. I definitely recommend them! Their number is 510-327-9327! 

    Sure, try Edwin Perez. 510.472.3905. Licensed contractor. Drainage specialist. Can do French drains, retaining walls etc. 25 years experience. Did good work for me. 
    I wouldn’t look for someone that does French drains and landscape design. Best to stick to contractors that don’t dabble all over the place. 

    For a modest house not on a hill, you should budget for $25-30,000 for the drainage. Could be much more. Might be more if you need a pump. Retaining walls can vary depending on many factors. You mentioned that you’re on a hill, so budget for more expense. Retaining walls could be $10,000 to well over $100,000. 

    Landscape. For a modest house could be $5000 to $300,000. A quality architect and good install for an average house would be $200,000. This would include grading, paving, irrigation, fencing, planting etc. If you use premium lumber the price could be much more. I used a mix of standard lumber and some premium materials/lumber and did fencing, grading, paving, planting, irrigation etc for backyard only not front of house and price was around $200,000. Quality install, not budget and not super fancy. Good landscape outfits are Garden Architecture, Goodman Landscape, Latitude 37 degrees, Larman Garro, Lazar Landscape. If you’re looking for a budget landscape try Rare Earth Landscape or Nina Mullen Landscape. They would be more than 50% less cost, probably even more than 50% less. Recognize you mostly get what you pay for. Budget will be basic design, basic rockery, cheaper materials, no stone etc. For example say they installed lawn edges. Budget contractors use plastic. Mid-range might use thin prefab metal ones. A higher end would use 3/8” steel custom pieces and welded on site. Or fencing could be knotty construction redwood on the cheap; mid range might use select Cedar; higher end might be old growth vertical grain redwood. Prices vary by several magnitudes. Larman did work for me. Quality work. 
    Good luck.

  • There appears to be a leak in our coat closet. I'm not sure if it's an old leak or a new one, but I need to find someone who can repair the closet walls and figure out if/where the leak is coming from. I'm unsure if I need a contractor or a handyman who knows what they are doing. I'm looking for recommendations for contractors or handyman/woman who are qualified and experienced with this type of work. Any recommendations?

    Thank you.

    We used 5-star Restoration in the past and they were amazing at finding the exact source of our leak and the recommendations for proper remediation and repair: fivestarrestoration.com

  • Any recommendations for a company that can assess whether or not our home has water damage?  Due to a dumb mistake with our downspout runoff-tube, some water got into our house during the heavy rains a couple weeks ago — but all the areas we can SEE are totally dry.  Is there such a thing as a company with machines that can detect the growth of mold or mildew, or experts who can help assess whether this was a one-time thing or a problem that now needs fixing?  No new water came in during the most recent rains, but we want to nip any possible water-related issues in the bud.

    We had water leak into our wall through a window and Dio at Max Restoration ((650) 238-8637) was great. He gave us a free estimate/inspection and had a moisture meter that clearly showed where the water had reached and where was dry. Unfortunately we did have a lot of water in our wall and he took care of cutting out and drying the affected areas at 1/3 the price another company quoted us. We did need to hire someone else to replace the drywall, repaint, etc. though.

    I think you can also buy a moisture meter online but the cheaper versions require you to make small holes in your wall. The kind he had was much more sensitive and could do a reading just from the surface.

    The company I think who can help you is American Leak Detection. Their technician uses an inferred gadget to detected moistures that the eyes can see, such as a leak in the walls, or leaks in pipes embedded in concrete. They only offer detection, no remediation. I used them to find out how water was coming into my house after heavy rain storms a few years ago. 

    I would recommend Bordi Restoration for this. They've assessed and fixed water damage at our house twice now. They have the kind of machines you're looking for, and they're prompt and lovely to work with.

    Yes! Bill Weber in Walnut Creek at IR Environmental Services can do the inspection as well as RestCon Environmental out of Sacramento. They both service the Bay Area. You can also contact Five Star Restoration. They are really great and we have used their services several times for water intrusion issues. They have amazing inspectors that work hand in hand with the Environmental testing companies (fivestarrestoration.com). Each time we have had an issue, they found the source, identified the problem as well as the solution. Honest and thorough. I could not recommend them more highly!

    Your insurance may cover this service. We recently had 2 separate water issues with a rental we own. One was water mysteriously coming through the ceiling from heavy rains and the other was an overflowing dishwasher which totally soaked the hardwood. The insurance company sent out Servpro for free. From there you can decide to pay for remediation yourself or go through your insurance deductible. 

  • We're planning to replace existing gutters on our house, and as part of that, we would also like to get an underground PVC drainage pipe system installed, which prevents water pooling near the foundation, and can move the roof run off away from the house.

    Not sure if both of these are typically done by the same contractor, or whether we need to scout for two different companies - one to install the new gutters and downspouts, and the other to install the underground drainage, and connect the downspouts to it.

    Any inputs and contractor recommendations are welcome. We're in the East Bay.

    For the drainage portion of your question I can recommend three companies which perform very well. If you are interested I suggest you talk to their representatives and ask for a bid as it is very likely they will differ in their solution and cost. I have used all three at one time or another to install french drains at our rental properties which faced the same issue as yours.

    Carty Construction 510-528-1565  Bay Area Drainage 925-377-9209  All Seasons Construction 510-652-2221.

    I can highly recommend Bay Area Drainage at  https://www.bayareadrainage.com

    They installed a french drain in our home in the Berkeley hills and it has worked perfectly. We got 3 bids and they were in the middle. With the amount of work they did I feel it was a bargain. 

  • I got a notice from the City of Oakland that my storm drain is connected to the city sewer system, which needs to be remediated.  As with many driveways in the flats, my driveway slopes down towards the garage/finished basement space.  There's a big drain at the bottom of the driveway, probably 3 feet below street level, which is the main source of issues.  I welcome any thoughts or advice about addressing this.  I'm assuming I need a sump pump -- does that sound right?  What should I look for in a sump pump system?  What happens if the power goes out during a storm?  Have you had any good (or bad!) experiences with companies that do this kind of work?  Will I also need to do my sewer lateral at the same time?  I'm apprehensive about the whole situation because right now our drainage is excellent, like, no issues in the big storm last October excellent, and I am not eager to mess that up.  

    I had the exact same situation and use Gentech Construction to install sump pumps and a drain to the street. They were also doing some foundation work for me at the time, but I've used them for other drainage issues since then. It was pretty straightforward work and has worked great except for a couple of power outages. I don't have a battery backup so in big storms with power outages I have had some flooding. 

    I highly recommend Bay Area Drainage (BAD) for all your drainage needs. We had them install a french drain and it’s been working perfectly. 

    It has been quite a few years, but we used Paul Carty Construction for a new french drain and sump pump. He was great. The system worked beautifully. 

  • We just bought our house in July, and over this past winter (during that week of torrential downpour), the rear corner of our backyard became a lake. There’s actually already a functioning sump pump installed in that area to deal with water buildup because that area is noticeably the lowest point of the yard. The previous owner disclosed to us that water did sometimes pool in that area during heavy rain but he said that the sump pump had never failed to clear the water just fine (and we don’t think he’s lying—for perspective, our next-door neighbors have lived in their house for 40 years and this past winter was the first time they’ve ever dealt with flooding in the area of their backyard adjacent to ours). So, long story short, we have ambitions of eventually redoing our lackluster backyard to make a beautiful kid-friendly entertaining space/oasis, and want to make sure the literal foundations of our yard are good before we get to any surface design. In terms of the area with the sump pump and flooding, it SEEMS that the rainwater lake was due to a truly unusual amount of rain and that the sump pump has otherwise been proficient…. but I also feel wary of charging forward with laying in a patio where there’s a known potential problem. I’ve seen recs here on BPN for French drain specialists, but does anyone have advice or recs for someone to consult to find out if we have a drainage problem at all? It just seems to me that if I call a French drain specialist for a consult, they’ll… recommend i put in a French drain?, even if that’s not necessarily the best solution? TIA!

    Your real estate agent should have some recs for contractors/engineers who could assist you with this.

    A contractor I worked with to replace part of my foundation recommended Tom Anderberg to help me with some drainage issues in my yard. He seemed very knowledgeable and was able to answer my questions. Good luck. 


  • French drain

    Dec 28, 2021

    With the large amount of rain here recently we have discovered that our below grade basement has been taking on water from our side yard. The gutters take the water from the roof just fine but it is the ground water which seems to be causing the problem. As a result we would like to look at the possibility of installing a french drain on the side of the house where the water seems to coming from. Since this would be a new project experience for us we would be grateful for recommendations of companies which perform this type work in a reliable and high quality manner. Many thanks.

    We used Carty Construction and they did a great job! We have two sump pumps and the only slight hiccup was when the power went on the rainy day in October. It was out for a few hours and water started to pool at one particular corner of our house but everywhere else was good with the actual physical drain. It’s  not cheap but neither is foundation work which poor drainage will inevitably lead to around your house

    I highly recommend Bay Area Drainage: https://www.bayareadrainage.com

    They redid the inadequate drainage work that general contractors installed at our house and at a family member’s. They are drainage experts and will come up with effective, common-sense solutions instead of just using conventional designs. Their crew is professional and efficient.  Our crawl space has stayed dry through the wettest storms.

    We had a terrible leak into our garage in 2017 and before. Basically it got flooded every time the hills around our house got saturated with rain. We interviewed a number of firms and decided to go with Carty Construction 510-528-1565. We are VERY happy we chose them. Their work was excellent, Paul worked well with my husband who had a bunch of ideas on how to do the work. Paul listened, discussed his shuggestions and incorporated some of his ideas. Paul and his workers are professional, responsible and care about doing a good job. I recommend giving him a call.

    I highly recommend Bay Area Drainage. They did an excellent job installing a french drain in our home in the Berkeley hills. Previously garage got flooded after raining and it’s been bone dry after their work. This was over 5 years ago and still working great.  Price came in midpoint among two other bids. We felt we got a bargain after seeing the amount of work they put in. 

    All Season Construction (foreman Jeremy Ke) put in a French drain for me in 2020.  They were  easy to communicate with, I thought they did good work, finished it neatly, and the drain has worked well since.   Private message me if you want to see it (in central Piedmont).

    All Season Construction

    5277 College Ave, #10,  Oakland

    510 652 2221

    We had a similar problem. We installed a french drain and a sump pump, and it is working just fine. If it's just an outside french drain, that's even simpler (but both are labor-intensive!)

    Can I suggest you take a look at some YouTube videos to get a sense of what needs to be done? It's very labor-intensive (digging a trench, bringing in gravel, hauling out mud), but the parts and materials are quite inexpensive. A plumber or a drainage specialist should be able to do this for you. In our case, our handyman and his crew did it for us, and it has solved all our issues.

    From our experience, we highly recommend that you avoid the Karl Kardel Company. Had to involve state regulatory officials to get the job done right, and they damaged interior property while doing a poor job.

    For folks who did this work did you do the drain inside the crawl space or outside?

  • Hello

    I hope you have all recovered from the atmospheric river event! Our basement started flooding, not too much, less than ankle height and mostly because the drainage could not keep up with the water accumulation around the house. I think, based on basic research, we need a sump pump installation and regrading of the brick laid ground in the property (to send water away) and better drainage (french drains and/ or sending gutter ends away from walls).

    Does anyone have recommendations who does all the above? 

    Hope everyone is warm and dry now.

    Many thanks


    I would definitely contact https://www.cartyconstruction.com/ Carty Contstruction. They did our drainage work about five years ago and we have had NO flooding since then. Before that our basement/garage would flood every year or so when there was a big rain. Carty was great to work with, honest, and thorough. 

  • Our downstairs bedroom window has been leaking during heavy rains. The exterior is stucco, but it seems to be intact around the window. It's our only window that doesn't have an overhang to protect it from the weather. The water seems to be dripping onto the top of the window from inside the wall and then leaking into the room. Does anyone have a recommendation/advice for someone to diagnose the leak and repair it?

    Are you sure you aren't seeing condensation? We have big single-glazed panelled windows at the front of the 1926 house we recently moved into. During the cold wet nights of February, the temperature differential caused enough condensation on the inside window surface to drip puddles onto the floor. We thought the windows were leaking until we realized what was happening. (Our blinds got moldy, too, so we'll have to replace them. Ugh.)

  • Backyard water problem

    Jan 16, 2019

    We are newbie homeowners. We noticed water pooling in the backyard where our property meets our uphill neighbors'. The neighbors swear that they have a drainage pipe for their irrigation system. We had a plumber come and inspect the pipes and they are not clogged. Pipes must not be sufficient because our yard is wet and plants are dying (2 succulents already died and the grass is dying where it stays moist). It started raining, so we understand that we can't do much right now. But, it stayed wet throughout the dry months of June through Nov. (for the entire time we have lived here). We just bought our first home and don't have a lot of money for an extensive landscape update, but the "swamp" is breeding insects, plants are dying and it's rotting the old fence. We are not even sure who to call for this type of problems. We would love to hear from more experienced homeowners on where to go from here. We spoke with two landscape designers and one said we needed a french drain while the other said we didn't need a drainage work but rather re-landscape the area and plant a tree and other water loving plants. We also need to replace the rotten fence. Does a fence company also do drainage work? What would they do if they dug to replace the fence and found a pool of water?


    You had a plumber inspect the neighbor's pipes and determine that they were not clogged? But is he sure they were not broken somewhere? Were there no disclosures about this issue from your seller? I would recommend a camera scan of the uphill neighbor's drainage pipes to make sure that the water is going where it is supposed to go.  Another possibility is that an existing French drain has failed.  This is not something you should leave unaddressed because it can lead to foundation problems: water will always follow the path of least resistance.  And do not use the landscaper who wanted you to plant water-loving plants. That is an ignorant non-solution to a drainage problem.

    Is your backyard on any sort of slope? Sounds like you need a French drain. This sort of drain captures water and diverts it around your property onto the street or gutter. We bought our house several years ago and put in a double French drain, as our yard was collecting water from a series of uphill neighbors. Sorry, not cheap, but will save your yard and your foundation. Good luck.

    I am guessing that the grass and perhaps some of your other landscaping was put in this past spring to sell the house, and the water was likely always an issue in that area. The neighbors do have an obligation not to have a drainage system that dump directly onto your property, but it doesn't sound like this is the case. Most likely, it is just runoff and groundwater that is coming down from the slope and that you'll need to redirect with french drains when it hits your property. Landscaping will help, but if you're getting pooling water in June, you probably have bigger issues than some grading and alternate tree choices can solve. I'd call a few drainage specialists and get their assessments. We used and liked Ward Construction in Richmond, but there are a number of similar firms with drainage expertise. They are skilled at evaluating where the water is coming from and what will address it. It isn't cheap, but it will save you money in the long run. Good luck!

    I have a friend who purchased a home at the base of hill and after the first downpour the bottom level of her home was flooded.  The neighbors knew that this was an ongoing issue with the prior owners.  I don't remember if she had to get a real estate lawyer or went back to her agent for help, but the previous owners who had failed to disclose the issue had to pay for the damages.  My friend then dealt with the drainage issue. 

    I disagree with the landscape idea to plant a tree in essentially what spunds like a bog. LOL. You could create a bog garden?
    A French drain will definitely fix a water infiltration problem-not sure if that idea is cost prohibitive for you? There is also something called a "swail", it is a shallow channel designed to manage water runoff. A swail effectively reroutes the water so that it is no longer causing a problem. From my understanding a swail is a less expensive option than a French drain, but it all depends on the topography of your yard. I hope that helps & best of luck to you.

    When I was a kid, we had a similar situation at our house in Walnut Creek. If you're at the base of a hill or even a 'slump" in a sloped area, it is possible that earth movements have opened up a spring on your property or uphill from it, that's trickling down. I wonder if it's worth contacting a soils engineer. Even East Bay MUD might have a referral to someone who can help you assess the source of the groundwater. Perhaps the solution will be to stop the water coming into your yard altogether. Perhaps the solution will be to catch the water in a pond and use some kind of filtration system (natural or artificial) to deal with bugs, slime, sodden roots, etc. Or maybe there's a way to bypass your property.



    When did you started noticing the problem?

    Was it disclosed by previous owners?

    Our neighbors complained of wet driveway. We could not see anything until we called a plumber. They can detect if there is a broken pipe. There was!. We have nice neighbors and we were lucky we did not cause much damage to their property...We fixed it and our next water bill was 3 times more the normal... $600. Call a plumber, make sure the problem is not a broken pipe....

    Was this in the disclosures when you bought the house? If not, you may be able to get some money to help with this problem from the previous owners. 

  • Our exterior walls are leaking water into our house during rain storms. We know the waterproofing of the walls is very old and needs to be redone. Any recommendations for someone who can do waterproofing and stucco?

    Hi- my building just finished this process. We used a Project Manager to oversee the project,

    permits, contractors, etc.

    project manager is Jeff Kearny 

    jeff [at] goldengateinspection.com

    contractor was Silicon Valley builders:

    ‭+1 (408) 661-1555‬

    total was about $170k.

    We are a 38 unit HOA. This project was for one large side of our building. I hope this information is helpful. It was a long process- we began January 17, 2017 and are just finishing now.

  • French Drain specialist

    Oct 15, 2017

    Does anyone have any recent experience with French Drain specialists? Please share your experiences. 

    Two companies I have hired to install french drains are: Ward Construction Co at 510-215-3636 and Pacific Drain and Rooter at 510-452-4606. A friend used All Seasons Construction at 510-652-2221 and liked their work as well.

    Carty Construction did a great job on our drainage problem. Our basement/garage flooded every few years with a big rain. We had Carty and a few others come out to bid. His explanation of what he would do made the most sense and was in the right ballpark price wise. The work was done on time with no problems.  We went through last winter with no flooding! I highly recommend Carty. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions Related Pages

2011 - 2012 Recommendations

Contractors for water leaks

Oct 2012

Has anyone hired Karl Kardel or Dan Lynch concerning rain leaks?

Karl Kardel- We used Karl Kardel a few years ago and had a very bad experience... said he couldn't recommend a fix until he did a whole analysis of the house. Now that seemed reasonable, however he charged a lot for the analysis but never provided us with a concrete report. He took a lot of pictures, charged us for them, charged us to Fed Ex any communications, charged, charged, charged. Charges like an attorney. Never did get an estimate for what work he would recommend (should have been based on the analysis), had a hell of a time getting the photos from him (he claimed that they were his, not mine???) and 'caulked' the whole thing up to a learning experience. I did finally get to talk to someone who used him and his house was worse off afterwards.

What is most interesting to me is that one of the main leaks that we were concerned with was resolved by putting a cover on an attic vent -- a solution that was not in Karl's analysis. We still have one that alludes us but Karl said it was a roof issue and it is not.

If you need to use Karl as an expert witness in a court case, however, he's your man. Slick, bowls over anyone with his non-stop talking, sounds like he knows everything there is to know about leaks and what other contractors have done to cause them. People can be so impressed with someone who seems to have all the answers and Karl is the king of 'I know everything'. Hope that helps... not impressed

Underground springs in Kensington

April 2012

We live in Kensington where there are underwater springs. We want to have someone excellent come out to answer some questions for us about the state of our lot and accumulation of water in certain areas, suggestions for french drain etc. Looking for very reputable professional/company.

We put in french and surface drains around our house last fall and were happy with All Seasons Construction (http://www.all-seasons-construction.com/). I felt like the owner, Mark, didn't blow a bunch of hot air when it came to advising how much we needed to do, and was honest and detailed in his recommendations. The company has great customer service, which is sadly very rare for many others in the industry. I thought at first his price was on the high side, but after I looked carefully at what was included (for example, he was including a higher quality, more expensive sump pump that others were trying to charge extra for), it turned out that their price was really quite reasonable. Good luck! jisun

We live in Kensington and had a french drain put in by Ward Construction after we moved in due to rain and ground water seepage into our basement. They did a great job and it's been 8 years since the french drain went in-- no flooding! Good luck. anon

Soils Engineer - basement drainage problem

April 2012

I'd like to ask if anyone can recommend a soils engineer with whom they've had a good experience (or alert me to one with whom they haven't had such a good experience)? I have basement ground water intrusion in a hillside house that fairly recently had french drains and a sump pumb installed. The work was completed in the last year (as a bank-owned property, prior to my owning the house) and simply isn't sufficient when heavy rains bring extra groundwater. I'd like to have a soils engineer--or possibly a structural engineer with drainage expertise--draft a plan that would provide adequate drainage for my house. At this point, I don't need a contractor but rather someone to put together a plan. Thanks much! William

Three recommendations for very qualified soil/drainage engineers who could assist you. James Pearl at 339-6655. Tom Ochsner at 534-1565. Roger Thompson at 658-9444. Roger

I don't know if he can help you, but I can highly recommend my geotech, William K. Langbehn, 510-558-8028. My experience is that Soils Engineers don't really work out the details, but rather make recommendations that Civil Engineers carry out through their details, so you might be better off with an engineer with drainage experience. Try calling Dave Helmich, 510-482-9649. Good Luck! Andus

Moisture seeping into slab floor

Oct 2011

Hello everyone, We are in need of a solid contractor and/or engineer to assess our needs (opinion, plan, and drawings if necessary) and hopefully perform the corrective action necessitated by the problems we are having with our yard. Apparently, we have excessive moisture seeping into our on- grade concrete slab floor that in turn evaporates up and creates excessive humidity in our home (built early 1960s) which is the perfect environment for mold growth.

We already have calibrated moisture readings showing that the concrete moisture is much higher at the perimeter walls of our home (even in August 2011 - had been no rain since June 2011). Tacks trips on perimeter walls under the carpet show moisture wear, carpet tack nails are rusted, and underside of carpet has rust spots from nails. The problem gets much worse in the rainy/winter season.

Proposed solutions have included: [1] removing dirt from the entire yard to lower grade relative to the exterior stucco of our home [2] trenching down 11 ft to the floor of our garage beneath us to install a proper drainage system along the side of the property [3] installation of waterproofing membrane/weep screed to our stucco exterior [4] installing or improving waterproofing of retaining wall that surrounds our yard and our subterranean garage.

Like everyone, we are looking for a knowledgeable, reasonably priced, solid professional (contractor, builder, engineer or multiple persons if that's the way this works) with significant experience in foundation/drainage issues. Whether the water is seeping into the side of the slab during rains (as we suspect) or there is a concealed broken pipe or something else, we really need help.

Thank you all in advance for your recommendations.


I strongly recommend Peter Buhon of Bluhon Design and Environment (510.841.3255). Our 30 year old asphalt driveway was fast eroding and constantly wet, due to lack of drainage. I met with 3 contractors to discuss the problem. One contractor said I needed a soil engineer to analyze the drainage problem and wouldnC,bt touch the project without one. A second from a large company gave a cookie cutter response and the highest quote. Peter stood out because he thought about the site and suggested two major improvements in grading and design that gave us a more functional and attractive cement driveway. There was a problem with the slope of the driveway and he came back and re-laid the asphalt apron connecting the driveway to the street at no additional cost, solving the problem in a day. I appreciated his professionalism, attention to aesthetics and the care he gave our small project. I recommend him enthusiastically. Virginia, Oakland

Alameda Structural. Speak to George Walton They did our foundation several years ago. I've put off the drainage work but will call them to do it in the future.They are excellent, reliable, responsible and very well-priced. Call George! Carol

I highly recommend Eric Burtt. He is a contractor/builder/engineer with lots of experience. He recently helped us determine what to do and how to prioritize the options. The list you included is probably the same list he will give you, but he can explain clearly what options do what and how to prioritize them. Call him directly at 510-540-0155. . Andus

Who To Call for Backyard Drainage Help?

March 2011

Our backyard appears, at first glance, to be fairly flat. However, as proven when it rains heavily, there is actually a tilt towards the house. This means that, when it rains, we end up with a HUGE 'lake' piled up next to the house. We have a slab foundation so we don't need to worry about leakage into a crawlspace, but I'm pretty sure that having that kind of water next to the house isn't a good thing. I honestly don't know who to call about fixing this. Do I need a french drain installed? Are there other fixes possible? There appears to be a drain on the side of the house (going where?) and maybe we could tie a drain into that one? Who would do this kind of work? Do I need to call a plumber? Are there such things as Drainage Specialists for landscaping? Clueless

We have a slab foundation and yes, you should still worry! We had water last year come up from the water-soaked ground through the slab and into the house. We had french drains installed around the house to draw water away from the slab and foundation by All Seasons Construction. They did a great job but is isnt cheap! but flooding is very expensive also! been there

We used another company to put in our backyard drain but they aren't operating any more. A number of our neighbors have used Bay Area Drainage with good results. They are expensive. http://www.bayareadrainage.com/ They are Diamond Certified. --Dry Crawlspace

I want to recommend Van Every Construction in Oakland. Drainage is one of Van Every Construction's specialties - they solve problems others fail to. Friends just had work done and they raved about how '...reliable, trustworthy, caring about their craft, and their property was cleaned up each day!!' Also, 'All charges were reviewed and ok'ed by us during the process - no unhappy surprises' They really valued Van Every's expertise and excellent communication. 510-839- 5810. Nina

Call Arturo Arreola. Great person, hard worker, master tiler, has done a number of garden drain system. Call 510-725-5920. Steven

2009 - 2010 Recommendations

Need a French drain in Walnut Creek

Nov 2010

I need to find person or company that can put in French drain in backyard in Walnut Creek. If you've had a good experience or can recommend a good lead, pls let me know. Thanks. --WC homeowner

We had our french drain put in 20 years ago, but that guy isn't in business anymore. A couple of our neighbors used Bay Area Drainage: http://www.bayareadrainage.com/ They aren't cheap, but they do good work. They are Diamond Certified so you can check them out that way too. Good Luck --Dry crawlspace

Dave Ford of J. David Ford Construction (510-845-9076) did a great job installing a drain in our basement. He suggested a French drain but we opted for a less expensive alternative, which seems fine so far. (I'm sure he would have done a good job on a French drain, as well!) He also replaced half our foundation. Unlike most of the contractors we've dealt with, Dave completed everything on time and charged us exactly what he said he would. Furthermore, he didn't ask for full payment until *everything* was done, including filing for retrofitting reimbursement from the city of Berkeley (which he did for us). Dave also did some foundation work for us at a previous house 10 years ago. We recommend him enthusiastically. N.L. H

Drainage Specialist Needed

Feb 2010

Looking for a real master who is adept in older drainage systems and weep holes. Probably needs to have a camera to try to figure out how this system is laid out. Thank you in advance.

Martin Hossan replaced my dead sump pump and rerouted my French drain to mitigate the flooding in our basement. We're dry now and the musty smell is going away. Good job. Martin Hossan 510-336-3678 .. mike

Water leaking into room from deck above

April 2009

We have a roof deck that opens out from a room on our third floor, and sits on top of a room on our second floor. For the second year, water is leaking in through the ceiling of the second floor room from the deck above when it rains. The floor of the deck is tile - we're not sure what is underneath the tile (we moved in 2 years ago). I have heard that these types of decks are extremely difficult to water proof, and that we could spend thousands of dollars pulling up the tile and re- roofing the floor of the deck, only to have it fail again in a few years. Has anyone successfully waterproofed this type of deck and had it hold long term? If so, how did you do it / who did you use to do the work? Also interested in other potential solutions, such as an awning. We looked into enclosing the deck and turning it into a room, but that would cost more than we want to spend right now. Thanks!

We used Dan Lynch Waterproofing for a leaking issue we had earlier this year. He fixed our problem quickly, and for a very reasonable price. He was thorough and professional. I would highly recommend him. His contact information is: (510)524-4044 or www.lynchanddaughter.com Shannon

Roof decks, walk on roof, pain in the neck. you can call them all those things. I had a flat walk on roof on a 1921 home. I installed a :n per foot pitch for drainage. this required ripping off old deck surface, adding sleepers to create the pitch, re-surfacing.

That said, a carefully planned and executed project is possible to give you a dry house. Options for decking besides tile exist, all roof decks require maintenance though. Removable wood sections over a roof membrane, Gaco rubber paint over new deck surface, new tile over a metal pan. etc. etc. The well designed enclosed porch space is also a great idea. I have two roof decks on my home, they haven't leaked for 6 years, but need annual or bi-annual attention (maintenance and love and keeping it clean).

2008 Recommendations

Jan 2008

We need a contractor/detective to track down the source and repair an exterior wall leak. Moisture is seeping into the house near the top of a wall on the lower level of our house and does not appear to be related to the roof or gutters, but may involve the chimney. This leak has already stumped a couple of contractors, so would appreciate recommendations for a supersleuth. Thanks! Leaky

I, once again, thought that I had resolved a couple of long-standing leaks, but recent rains have proved otherwise. I have had every contractor imaginable out to the house -- so-called-leak experts, roofers, waterproofers, etc, etc and still have leaks. I am now investigating hiring someone who does infrared camera leak detection. I think the service is $500 and that may seem like a lot, but I have spent thousands and am still not 100% dry. Frustrated

You mention the chimney, This is usually a roofing problem, flashing something up there. The concrete/block wall is a different story. If you are getting moisture or flowing water, after all heavy rain, that is a water proofing problem, this is much bigger. The exterior of the wall has to be completely excavated, clean and a water proof membering apply, at the same time a drain and drain rock should be placed at the bottom of that excavation and allowed to drain. Good luck, if you have any more question, feel free to ask. zoepe

Leaks are a pain to resolve -- I have chased some for years and finally found that the best way to start is with the roof and then work your way down. It only takes a very small hole to let in a lot of water and water travels -- it can come from the weirdest places and end up feet away from its entry point. Get a good roofer to come an inspect the roof and all the flashings around the chimney and around any vent pipes. Have a chimney sweep (I highly recommend Irish Sweep) come out and take a look at the chimney. Have a good painting contractor who specializes in waterproofing (not all do), come out and take a look at the walls and seals around windows. I used PAC WEST painting 415 457 0724 and I am still thrilled that they were able to find and patch a small hole that was letting water into the crawl space for decades. The hole was in a piece of molding on the underside of the roof -- stories above. Finally dry!!

I want to specifically not recommend contractor Mircea Ilie. He did a major remodel for our house, including move the bathroom and kitchen and add a master bathroom. While he certainly completed the project on time, and has great choices for wall colors, our drainage system is now totally screwed up to where we have inches of water underneath the back of the new bathroom each rainy season; we also had a major leak from the tub he installed (as well as in two other places), very poor crawlspace ventilation, and ensuing mold growth in under the new bathroom, and poor roofing and foundation details. When we kept complaining about the musty smell, and then finally found the cause ourselves, he said it wasn't his problem. While he has great intentions, and tries to be very accomodating, his technical knowledge is simply insufficient. I posted a similar post before on this forum, but somehow it has been deleted or not published. unhappy with remodel

Jan 2008

I am looking for a drainage contractor work on our basement remodel. We will need to install proper drainage below our new concrete slab, as well as new drainage pipes along the side of our house. If anyone has a good contractor to recommend for this job, please let me know! Lyndsay

We had a French drain, patio and surface drains installed by All Seasons Construction, 510-525-7123. The crew was great and the job was finished very promptly. The guys worked very hard and were polite. The owner, Mark, was very professional and was very concerned that we were 100% satisfied. We were later contacted by Diamond certified about our experience and gave ASC good reviews. We recently got a letter indicating that they had achieved Diamond Certification, which I understand is not easy to do. Montclair Homeowner

2007 Recommendations

Oct 2007

I am looking for a good, resonable priced, drainage expert, someone with experience in putting in ''french drains'' which is what I've been told I need to fix a water leak in my home.

We had a great experience with All Seasons Contruction in Berkeley. The owner was very professional, prompt to respond to our inquiries, and very knowledgable. They designed a solution that made a lot of sense and has worked well for us. The crew worked very hard every minute on the job. With all the digging and soil removal, it was messy job but they cleaned up every evening and kept the mess to a minimum. We would definitely recommend ASC. They are at 510-525-7123. Ling

We are huge fans of MW Construction. We recently bought a pile of bricks for a house and knew it had drainage and foundation problems. It turned out to be a MASSIVE drainage problem and Mark and his crew took care of it like it was no big deal. MW's bid was fair and straight forward. They stayed on budget, arrived on time every day, left the basement cleaner than when they started and all with a good attitude. They were completely kind to my toddler, she still wanders around looking for them.

After they finished the drainage, it rained the next day so Mark was able to show me exactly how the new system was working. They also built us a great new deck using geo-deck (like Trex) and fixed the foundation. They completed all of this work (including drainage) in two weeks.

Mark also pointed out that our pond was most likely leaking and adding to the drainage issue (he was right). He and his crew even fixed a sad, broken doorknob for us as they were waiting out a rainstorm. I wish they did kitchens! We will definitely use them again for our seismic upgrade. Highly recommended. Their number is 510-527-1725. Missy

June 2007

I am wondering whether anyone has any feedback about Karl Kardel. If you've used his services for your residence. I would like to know about your experience and if you think it was worth the cost. Thanks! East Bay homeowner

We used Karl Kardel's services as a waterproofer several years ago. He did the job badly, returned once to correct it, and when we told him we still had leaks, he told us the job was done and stopped returning our calls. He also disregarded another request we made to him. We had to hire another company to finish the job. TP

We had a very bad experience with Karl Kardel. They have never completed our job and the deck still leaks. If they had been successful I would still have to rate them as poor due to their poor attention to detail. Also when you check their references the subs they actually use are not the ones they are able to hire. Dan Lynch (now out on his own - Dan Lynch Waterproofing) did a very poor job of supervising this job. I agree with the comments made by the previous poster about Kardel. This is a very unpleasant company to work with. They spin a good story but do not follow through to completion.

Karl Kardell is currently doing a major restoration project on our house which will result in the removal/replacement of all stucco, windows, roof, etc. We have been very pleased with him and his firm. Karl has been very responsive and professional, has helped us negotiate with the insurance carrier, and innovative in implementing waterproofing solutions; he is an expert with regard to water intrusion particularly due to high winds in the Oakland Hills. His project manager Aaron has been just wonderful as well as has the work crew. The entire firm is really topnotch. I recommend them highly and would not buy a stucco home in the Oakland Hills without first consulting him.

April 2007

French Drains

Hello, we are going to do backyard demo (asphalt and old garage) and then put in french drains and a yard. The first thing we need is a demo guy with insurance, b/c the garage is up against our neighbors garage. Ideally, the demo person could also do the drains and maybe even the fences, etc. Thanks for your suggestions, lruss

Hi - we used Lance Capilla of Alameda Engineering for our french drains. He is prompt about returning calls and gives a good estimate of his work. While he is not inexpensive, he is licensed and I trust his work. Anon

Jan 2007

We've been living with a muddy, swampy backyard lawn (and subsequent flooding in our basement on rainy days) for 6 years now, and are ready to fix the problem...I found reviews from 4 years ago--anyone have recent experience with an honest, smart contractor who can fix this type of problem? Thanks heidi

I wanted to recommend Mark from MW construction (510-527- 1725). I got his name from BPN and he totally lived up to his reputation. We had a situation that sounds silmilar to yours; our back yard was always spongy and during the rainy months a lake would form for weeks, flooding our basement.

Mark not only fixed the swamp in the backyard, but his recommendation for putting a drain in the basement was much less expensive than the french drain other contractors had suggested. Everything works beautifully, and our basement stayed dry even during last year's super rains. I don't think you can go wrong the MW Construction. Good luck. claudia

2006 Recommendations

September 2006

We couldn't have been more pleased with Mark from MW Construction (510-527-0705). We had three people come out to take a look at our basement which flooded any time there was more than a moderate amount of rain. Each person had something different to recommend. We finally called in an drainage consultant (Tom Anderberg - 510-482-2779 ), who said of the three approaches he'd do something most like Mark's design.

We were not only pleased with the result (our basement was dry during the most heavy rains last spring), but the service was exceptional as well. Mark and his workers were very professional, they cleaned up each day, and got the job done in less time than promised. Mark even called and came back after the first heavy rains to make sure everything was working. I can't recommend them more highly. Katrina

September 2006

After getting recommendations for Mark Wijsen (MW Construction) from this site, my husband and I called him to take a look at our drainage problems. He came over and was very friendly and helpful. He provided us with an estimate, which was significantly less than the other two contractors we had come out. We were going to hire him and asked him to come back out and walk us through the work he was planning to do. When he came back, he was a completely different person. When we asked him questions, he gave us short answers and acted like we were troubling him. I would not recommend him. I was surprised at the way he conducted his business. Mildred March 2006

I am posting a recommendation for the services of Manuel Garcia. Manuel helped us resolve a problem with water pooling around the foundation we replaced three years agao. We were so impressed with him. He changed the location of our sump pump after he pointed out that the water was actually pooling in a different area than where we had been advised to place it. He also installed French drains for us, even working in the rain (as he said, he ''wanted to see what the water was doing''!). Manuel speaks excellent English, and was wonderful to work with. He has a very strong work ethic and a lot of integrity-- he keeps checking back in with us to make sure things are going well. Despite a very rainy winter, we have had no further problems with water. I would not hesitate to hire him again for other work. Although I cannot speak for his other abilities, he also does carpentry and landscaping. You can reach Manuel at 652- 5612. Sarah

Feb 2006

Wet soil causing floors to buckle

I am having problems with wet soil under my house causing my wood floors to buckle. I had a soil engineer come out and draw up plans for some drainage. Everyone who has come out to give bids on the drainage has given different opinions: you don't need drainage, just adjust your sprinkler system; you need $15,000 worth of drainage; you don't need drainage, you need more ventilation; you need a cement slab or vapor cover under your house.... Does anyone have a recommendation for someone who will really help to analyze the problem? I thought I had a pretty straightforward issue, but am now totally confused about the best way to solve the problem! Thanks. Confused

This is the reply from my husband Mark, a drainage contractor...

There are always a variety of approaches to every drainage issue, and the most expensive isn't always the best value.

From what you describ, runoff from your irrigation system may be the entire problem. If it weren't for the damage to your floors, I'd urge you to cut back on your watering, install some venting and monitor the situation over several months. If this solves the problem then you just saved thousands of dollars.

However, the fact that your floors are buckling, not only suggests that the amount of water under your home is excessive, but adds a new level of urgency to your problem. Even if taking the steps above seemed to solve the problem, you are still very vulnerable to heavy rainfall and the possibility of runoff from adjacent properties. These events beyond your control put your home at risk for continued damage.

That said it is probably worth your while to install some sort of system to collect water and direct it away from your home. There are many alternatives to expensive exterior French Drain perimeter systems, including interior options like strip drains and sump pumps. Not having seen your property it is impossible to suggest what might work best for you.

Finally a vapor barrrier is a good idea if installed in conjuction with a well-designed drainage system. Mark would not recommend putting one in until you are confident you a have a solution as it could mask a problem that could lead to damage to your foundation.

It sounds like you have more professional opinions than you need, but if you'd like another, Mark is always happy to come out and take a look. Mark Wijsen, MW Construction 510-527-0705 Susannah

January 2006

Water seeping into our house
We have had water seepage into our home from under a window. This is not a drainage problem, and there are no visible cracks from outside the house. We are looking for someone who can help us with this problem, which is too small for big companies. Thanks in advance for feedback and referrals. ceniza

We had a huge drainage problem with water under our house many months of the year. We live at the bottom of a hill in Oakland and a lot of water came into our yard, mostly underground water. I can recommend Jose Curiel for any drainage problems. He and his crew put in a drainage systen behind a wall that goes under a hot tub and drains water to both side of our yard. He connected the drainage system with our roof gutters, a drain he put in through a storage room, a sump pump, a drain he installed at the bottom of a pathway, and a drainage system he put in our soggy lawn. I am happy to say our house is drying out even though the sump pump is working much less frequently. Our soggy lawn is also becoming less swamp-like too. All of this water goes to the street and is no longer damaging the foundation of our house. Jose is not licensed and charges by the day. He and his crew work very hard and are on the job every day before 7:30 am. He can solve difficult problems! and has many years of experience. His number is 510-821-4270. Feel free to contact me. Judy

2005 Recommendations

Sept 2005

RE: Waterproofing Contractor To the person looking for a contractor to replace leaking front porch, including membrane and tile: we can highly recommend WHL Waterproofing ((925) 284-5306). Bill Lambert is the owner and the one with whom we dealt; he also was here working and closely supervising the project. We had a very similar situation--our front porch was leaking into a downstairs bedroom closet. Bill ripped out the existing tile (and 2 and 1/2 tons of concrete!), replaced the membrane and then replaced the tile again. He subs out the tile and stucco work (they had to replace the flashing at the bottom of our stucco walls), and we found the sub contractors to do an excellent job, as well. The project lasted about 4 weeks, about a week longer than it should have, due to weather (this was done this past spring). We found Bill to be easy to work with and very responsible--he and his crew did a great job. (well, I guess we won't know for sure until the rains this winter! but they did test it) Good luck. Tracy

2004 Recommendations

November 2004

Excellent Drainage Work
We had Comacho Landscaping do our French Drains, after a recommendation from a friend who used them. I was blown away by how inexpensive his bid was, but he did everything the more expensive companies said they'd do. His workers were friendly and finished the job early! They were also able to help out with a few other outdoor issues we wanted done. I highly recommend you give them a call. Ask for Ruben and tell him I sent you.415.845.8753

July 2004

We are in need of some foundation work and a french drain. I saw some old posts and would like some updated recommendations/contact information for contractors/engineers, specifically from those who have had similar work done AND have noticed a dry basement after a year or two of rain. Also, does anyone suggest whether or not to hire a soil engineer BEFORE we get bids from contractors, or will the contractors suffice? When we bought our house, the termite inspection done by RJ Clark said that we needed a whole new foundation. But then the inspector we hired said that only certain sections needed to be done. After living in the place for one year, the lower level(laundry room) leaks with heavy rain due to a sloping lot.

We had a french drain installed in 2000. When we bought the house their was a sump pump in the basement and water would come under the foundation to our sump pump. Ever since the french drain was installed, our basement has been completely dry and we do not need to use the sump pump in the basement anymore. Greg Carsorso of Carsorso Construction was the contractor. We initially met him at a drainage seminar at Truitt and White. He stayed within his estimated time frame and budget for completing the job. He had excellent references. In fact, he is about to start our large basement remodel project in about a week. His phone number is: (510) 883-0844. Wendy

Hi, just wanted to recommend Ward Construction to you. We had them come and do a french drain drainage system for us when we moved into a new house and knew there was seepage into the basement which we wanted to be able to use in the winter. They did their work on time (actually finished early), on budget (was the mid-range of the bids we got), and best of all we have had no drainage problems for the last two years since the work was done. Hope your work goes well. Luisa

We were having trouble with moisture coming into our basement. We had an engineer come by and design an elaborate and expensive project for us. We called Glen Larsen because a neighbor had used him, and he came up and he came up and helped me trouble-shoot different ways to address the problem. He come up with a simpler solution then the engineer, and our basement has been dry for the past three years--at a fraction of the cost! His number is 510-232-9122 Warren

An excellent drainage contractor is Steve Sanchez of All Seasons Construction 510-685-0046. His company is located in Berkeley and he has excellent references. Steve is very professional and skilled. prem23

May 2004

Our neighbors have proposed this idea: they need to install a drainage system under their retaining wall and backyard, a french drain. We already have a french drain and they would like to know if they can hook their system up to ours? The theory being this would save expense and the excavation of a side yard we share. My husband is not opposed to this idea, but I am concerned about adding the extra burden off all their water runoff into our system. Any advice, experience appreciated. concerned neighbor

This is according to my husband the drainage contractor... In theory there are ways that you could tie in an existing drainage system. It would depend largely on the size and type of pipe you are accessing (Perforated? Closed?), the amount of volume your system is handling, and where the tie in would be located within your system. However even assuming you have the perfect combination of variables, he would highly discourage sharing a drainage system. It opens up huge questions of liability about who would be responsible if the system ever failed. You and your current neighbors may get along great, but you never know who could move in next to you someday. If you have any more questions feel free to email. Susannah

March 2003

Our house has a sump pump in the crawl space, and the water goes under the house into the crawl space. We talked to two drainage companies, and both of them suggested to have a french drainage installed except the price from one bid was doubled than the other bid. Why would the price differ by that much? Has anyone had french drainage installed lately? Any advice on the drainage companies to choose from and what to watch out for? Thank you so much.

I used Carty Construction a couple of years ago to put in French drains. It was very expensive but well worth it. My next door neighbor kept coming over and commenting on the quality of the work. He had had French drains put in a couple of months before us and he pointed out how Carty had dug deeper holes, used bigger drains, etc.

In understanding the differences in the two bids you received you might want to ask each for more specifics about what they would do. Where will they put in catch basins, how deep will they be, where will the water drain to (will they build underground drains out to the street, etc. Good luck. roxanne

My husband is a contractor who specializes in this type of work. Let me share some information...

If a french drain is not properly installed, it can wind up creating a worse situation than what you started with--all the water collected in the trenches seeps through your foundation. If do you decide to go with this sort of system you should ask the contractor whether he can guarantee that your problems will be solved, CHECK REFERENCES, and remember more expensive doesn't always equal better.

That said, though the cost of french drains suggests that they are some perfect solution to all drainage woes, in many cases there are more effective, less expensive approaches, especially with the type of moisture found in the East Bay. Ask your contractor about alternatives.

Hopefully all of this helps. If you want additional info, email or call my husband Mark. He can evalute your situation and make specific recommendations.

MW construction 510-527-1725 (Abundant references can be supplied upon request) Susannah


I need to know where I can get reliable information about installing french drains around the foundation of my house. Specifically I am concerned about how they perform in an earthquake. I have gotten bids from four contractors and they give conflicting advice. Two of them say that they will dig down to the base of the foundation, then move a foot away from the foundation and dig down a foot further. They then install the perforated pipe at the bottom of the deepest part of the trench. One contractor digs a foot or two below the foundation without moving any distance away from it once they reach its bottom. Yet a fourth contractor only digs to the bottom of the foundation. Since the latter two have given me the lowest bids, I'm wondering if 1) the drain installed at the base of the foundation (i.e. by the guy who only digs down to the base) will be adequate to solve the basement flooding problem, and 2) if the drain installed by digging below the foundation without moving the trench to the side will destabilize my foundation in the event of an earthquake. The contractor claims that the gravel with which they backfill the trench is sufficient to hold the foundation in place, but I'm skeptical. I would appreciate any comments, and especially advice on where to find good information on this problem.

For reliable information about installing french drains, I would suggest that you contact Brockman Engineering Contractors (925)634-2899. They work with a geologist who is a soil and drainage expert. My understanding is that any general contractor may offer the service of installing a french drain - this does not mean that this contractor is an expert. We just purchased a home were there is a significant drainage issue. We had an engineer who did a thorough inspection under the house, inspected the foundation, the sump pump, the soil, the downspouts, etc. But they are not cheap.

Although not an expert, I doubt digging at the base of the foundation would work - this is what the previous contractor did that actually owned the house - there's gravel around the base of the house - and there's still water under the house! The engineer from Brockman Engineering proposed digging a trench around the house, but not at the foundation - away from the foundation. My understanding is that ideally, you want to move away or keep water from reaching the foundation in the first place. How is digging a trench at the foundation going to help? Again, I am not an expert - so I guess it's best to seek advice of the experts. I would be interested in what others have to say regarding the issue.

We are in the process of discussing this same topic with drainage specialists and landscape contractors and have been getting varied recommendations as well. Would love to talk with you Carl about what you find out or to just let you know what we've been told so far. Laurie

We just recently had a french drain installed. We went to a seminar at Truitt & White which was given by Greg Casorso. He does both seismic and drainage work. Although you do have to pay him $50.00 for an estimate, it seems well worth it. We also got bids from several other drainage contractors and similar to your situation, we were told various different methods. Although Greg was the most expensive bid, I feel that he really knows what he is doing. His references were excellent. It is worth having him come out and give his advice. Casorso Construction (510) 883-0844. Good luck! Wendy

Various home repair books explain French Drains and you may want to look at them so that you understand what they are all about (like the big one they always sell at Home Depot, etc). Foundation problems should always be looked at by an expert, though, because they put your house at considerable risk. My experience is also that different contractors will give you very different bids. Ned Clyde is very professional and has a good reputation, intermediate in price. We had to go to court over our problem and the legal experts feel this company has a first rate reputation. 925 698 5411.

When we bought our house, we knew we were going to have to do drainage work. One of the first things we did was attend a seminar offered by Truitt & White (Berkeley) -- well worth the investment of our time. Greg Casorso (sp?) was the speaker, and CLEARLY knew his business. We actually had him come to the house (I believe it cost $50, but this was about 3-4 years ago) and look at our specific situation. It was WELL worth the money, altho' in the end we had another contractor do the work (also, we did not do ALL of the work that Greg had recommended, figuring that we could do more, later, when our budget allowed). There are some very serious issues to consider, not the least of which is potentially undermining your foundation. Good luck with your research, and (ultimately) your project. Leslie

April 2004

Hello, we have a house in Oakland that has had some funky add-ons without accompanying downspouts. We have other downspouts that pretty much dump water back toward the house thanks to some bricked-in flowerbeds. Also, the house is on a very slight slope and I need drainage help beyond downspouts -- french drains? -- to get water away from the house. Can anyone recommend an honest, dependable, not-overly-pricey person (contractor? gutter company?) to help us? I'm looking for someone who won't end up charging us twice as much as the last estimate, won't take twice as long as promised, won't have to skip town mid-project, etc. Thanks.

All Seasons Construction specializes in drainage issues. Call Steve Sanchez at 510-525-7123. He is an excellent, honest, and reasonable contractor. prem23

For foundation and drainage work, I highly recommend Mark Wijsen of MW Construction (510-527-1725.) He is fabulous to work with. He is prompt, courteous, and thoughtful in his work. His after-work customer service (i.e. phone calls, in-person visits to check on the work during heavy rains, etc.) went well beyond our expectations. His work was of high quality and he is very professional. We plan to use him in the future when we pave our driveway. Feel free to contact me with any follow-up. Jennifer

March 2004

I need some recommendations for a Drainage Contractor. I have water coming in my basement from the foundation. I have check out the old recommendations, but they are a few years old and I would really like to get some current ones. Thanks, Laura

I highly recommend Dave Olnes. We've used his services a couple of times - different houses - and he's always been excellent. And he won't cost an arm and a leg! Contact info is: Dave Olnes PE, Civil an Soil Engineer, 510.568.2162 All the best, Nigel

Editor note: Dave Olnes is not a contractor and he does not do construction work. Rather he is a consultant, a Civil and Soil Engineer who specializes in residential drainage and foundation problems. Therefore he can't give you a free estimate on drainage work! However he can provide consulting services for drainage problems.

Dear Laura, We would get standing water under our house every time it rained and even in the summer it was always damp. My husband and I got several estimates and decided to work with Paul Carty of Carty Construction (528-1565), Paul's estimate was in the middle and we felt like he knew just what to do. He and his workers were friendly, professional, neat and fast. Within a week our drainage problems were gone! Everything was done with permits and totally by the books. Paul is a very honest guy and very easy to work with. We highly recommend him! We were just sorry that we didn't have the work done sooner. Thanks to Paul, this rainy season was stress free for us and under our house stayed bone dry!! Best of Luck, Cindy and Jim

Earlier Reviews

Nov 2003

Help! After reading all the advice regarding drainage under and around a house, and after having a number of recommended contractors do bids, I am more confused that ever! Some advise perimeter (french) drains, some advise under-slab drains (we are about to pour a slab and build living space in what is now a dirt-floor basement), etc. etc. Our land is basically level but floods in winter, and the slab will sit just above grade. Anyone have any experience with this? Romney

It is my opinion that if you think that you need drainage work that it is best to first get a professional consultation from a drainage expert who does not do the installation work themselves. This is because they have the full range of experience and expertise and are not there to sell you on hiring them for the project.

Any drainage work is expensive, and it can be even more expensive to redo if not done properly the first time. As a landscaper, I have seen a lot of poorly done drainage work that did not solve the problems that it was intended for.

I'd like to recommend my colleague Dan Szumski, a civil and structural engineer who has been specializing in residential drainage and foundation work in the Bay Area for about 20 years. He is very well versed in the soil structure and water patterns here and is able to recommend the most effective solution for problems. He can recommend experienced contractors to do the work and he can do project oversight. He can be reached at 510-829-0399.

It is worth the investment in a consultation to be sure that you get the work that you really need- no more, no less. Cecelia

March 2003

Our new home has a very 'swampy' back yard (we bought it in the summer when the problem wasn't evident). I'm not sure what kind of contractor deals with this. I would appreciate any recommendations from someone who has had a similar problem. Claudia

We have used the same contractor for not one but TWO swampy backyards in the last 4 years. He is very seasoned in determining grades, understanding where the water is coming from and how to divert it to the street or out of your way using piping and French drains, sump pumps, whatever is needed. He's been doing construction for 30 years and he seems to know what he's doing. On our first house we called in a civil engineer to confirm what the contractor said and I should've saved my time and money; the engineer said EXACTLY the same thing. The contractor is Cecil Pearson (510) 385-4253

Dan Szumski is a civil engineer who specializes in foundation, seismic and drainage inspections and reports for homeowners. He is down-to-earth, sensible, very knowledgeable, and thorough. He did a seismic inspection for me that clarified conflicting information that I had been given by several contractors. I know other people who have been very happy with his work and real estate people often refer him.

In my experience (live and learn), it is better to have the planning done by someone like Dan rather than by an installation contractor. It is a bit of extra cost up front, but it means that you are getting a complete evaluation by someone who does not have a stake in selling you the job. He can give you names of contractors who can do the installation of his recommendations. Dan's number is 839-0399. Cecelia

Hi Claudia My husband Mark is a licensed general contractor who specializes in drainage issues.

Our house also had a swampy yard that actually turned into a small pond during the winter and spring. He designed a system that completely dried things up. He also stopped the water from sheeting across the laundry room floor every time it rained.

I mentioned your problem to him, and he said the solution depends entirely on the source of moisture and the topography in the area. If you'd like he'd be happy to come out and make a recommendation based on your specific issues. Email or give him a call at 510-336-1725. Susannah

March 2003

Our house has a sump pump and drainage system that was installed several years ago. We have spotted leaks and would like to have the entire system evaluated and repaired where necessary. We have reviewed prior postings on french drains and related topics; much of that advice appeared to be related to installing drainage systems, and we are more interested in maintenance. jiyun

In response to the post about the failing sump pump system, my husband is a licensed contractor who specializes in drainage systems. He would be happy to take a look at your situation and make recommendations.

In the meantime here are some tips for the future...

PUMP/DRAINLINE MAINTAINANCE: This is key for prolonging the life of an existing system. Debris in the lines/pump can lead to everything from leaks to pump failure. You should have the system maintained twice a year--at the start and end of the rainy season.

Depending on the type of system, there's a lot you can do yourself:
*Flush drainlines with a high powered hose
*Place pump in a 5 gallon bucket of clean water and let it cycle for 15 minutes give it a rest , then do it again
*Dig all the gunk out of the bottom of the sump well

Hopefully this is helpful. Again feel free to contact my husband Mark if you need additional information or want him to take a look at your system.

MW Construction 510-527-1725

Feb 2003

For drainage, can anyone give feedback on these companies: Tom Morris, Art Ward Construction, Casorso Construction, DeMarcus Drainage company. Thank you so much

--We recently bought a house in the Kensington hills and had to have a drainage trench dug around the house to prevent the basement from repeated flooding. We got MANY bids, but of the three you mentioned I only know of Ward Construction-- but I know a lot of them because that is the bid we went with. It was a reasonable bid (not the highest or the lowest), and the company (Rick, their front man, and Art Ward as well) that we felt did the most listening and honest assessment of our problem. Their work crew started early and worked hard, and they finished days ahead of schedule. Ward Constr. is often pretty busy (we had to wait 2 months to get on their calendar for the actual work to begin) but worth the wait-- we have had no flooding since the trench and pipes were put in-- and we have had a lot of rain! good luck! Luisa

Jan 2000

We live on a steep hill, and when it rains heavily (as it has been lately!), water is seeping into our family room, most likely from underground runoff. It's not a lot of water, it just makes one corner damp, but the room immediately smells heavily of mildew and is most unpleasant. Also I've read about black mold, which I understand can be hazardous to the health of babies, and we have a 7-month old. And I'm worried about any possible cumulative effects on the house. Does anyone know what can be done for something like this? Whom to call?

Proper drainage should be installed outside the house to lead this water away from your home. But since you may not be able to get that done quickly, a dehumidifier will provide some relief. Sears sells them online at www2.sears.com

Do you own your home? If so, you need to fix this problem!! Water damage is one of the worst types of damage- this will seriously effect the resale valus of your home. The smell suggests to me that this has been happening for a while, and is a problem that will get worse with neglect. The first thing you can do is call your home owners insurance, and have them come out and take a look. They may cover the water damage that you have in your walls. If they don't cover it, they may still be very helpful in suggesting solutions (ours were when we had a flood in our basement). If you actually can see water on your floor, you can be sure that the walls, insulation, etc behind the visable water are also wet, and probably damaged, molding (from the smell), and need to be replaced. Right now, you can at least remove the baseboard, wipe everything up with bleach, and put a fan in front of it until it drys real well (you may want the insurance people to see it first- or at least take pictures. Call them and ask). The cause of the problem sounds like inadequet drainage. I would have a drainage contactor out ASAP, while it is still wet, so they can asses the situation. We just used Art Ward Construction, and I really liked him.

Who ya' gonna call? Ghostbusters!

Actually, there are a few things to look at before calling anyone. First, make sure that water isn't running down and collecting against the outside wall, then seeping through, especially on the uphill side. Make sure your drains are draining as they are supposed to and that water isn't being dumped where it will flow in. You can channel it away from the dump point with green plastic hose that comes in rolls and lays flat--water will still migrate through it if the outlet is lower than the point it connects to the downspout, assuming it doesn't have to climb any hills. Make sure the ground outside the seepage point (and elsewhere around the foundation) is cleared away so that it doesn't make contact with the house any higher than the top of the foundation -- there really should be about 6 of vertical clearance below the mudsill (on top of the foundation) for termite and dry rot prevention.

If the problem is not fixed by these simple solutions, you are probably looking at some form of french drain: a gravel filled trench next to the foundation to capture groundwater and runoff and carry it away. Simple ones can be done by a homeowner willing to dig; complex ones can be big engineering jobs. If you want advice call a reputable civil engineer or architect: Christofferson and Graff looked at our drainage; Josh Kardon is a good civil engineer we've used as well. There are many others. You might also ask neigbors if they have had similar problems, and what they did/who they used.

A story: my neighbor across the street told me he used to get 3' (yes, feet) of water in his basement every time it rained hard. He put in a french drain and hasn't seen a drop in ten years.

Water seepage is a problem you should not leave unaddressed. I can't speak about mold. But I do know that water contacting wood can lead to dry rot, which undermines the structural integrity of the house and can be very expensive and invasive to fix. Your answer probably is drainage -- perhaps a french drain to divert water around the house. There are a lot of contractors out there who do drainage. We had a seepage problem -- brown sludgy water that filled our laundry room -- and used a guy named Tom Morris ((925) 254-9289) to build a french drain. He was a lot cheaper than others who bid on the work, and his references were very strong. We have been through three heavy-rain winters, and the place is dry as a bone.

We also live on a hill and have a seepage problem in our basement (an inlaw unit) when it rains heavily. I called Paul Carty of Carty Construction 510.528.1565. His specialty is drainage systems and foundation work. I have not yet received his estimate nor had the work done, so I can not attest to prices or workmanship, but it was a relief to have him come by and explain what could be done to relieve the pressure of the ground water seeping through our foundation. Good luck!

Dec 2001

I have a concrete sidewalk next to my house where 2-4 inches of standing water accumulates whenever it rains. Eric Burtt (recommended by this list) charges $250 just to come out to look at the problem and tell me how to solve it--it seems like he wants to do a complete inventory of my drainage system which I really don't need. Although I may wind up using him, I would like other alternatives as well. Any other current or recent expericnces with drainage and/or rebuilding a concrete walkway? The list on the web is a bit outdated. Thanks. Kathy

I think that you should consider calling up a few small job type concrete contractors and taking bids on having a thin new sidewalk poured over the top of the existing one. The new one would be formed at the proper elevations and pitch to shed water away from the house. There are methods and mix recipes that will accomplish this but whoever does it has to know what they are doing because your average concrete mix has to be 4 or more inches thick. I suggest this because for one, you will not have to break up and remove the existing sidewalk,and two, the contractor would have a minimum of form work and only need a small amount of material. Again, I caution you that this is a job for someone who knows what they are doing, not because the work requires any special skills beyond that of ordinary concrete work, but because it is essential to obtain a mix that is designed specifically for this purpose and because good bond must be achieved between the old and the new ! ! material. You can also ask for the cost of removal and installation of an entirely new sidewalk for comparison. I may be missing the point here since I have not even seen the situation and my suggestion could be wrong, but I think that you just might save a good deal of money if you can find a contractor that will take this route. Unless water is getting into your house or lack of drainage is causing foundation settlement, I would avoid calling in a drainage guy. The problem is the pitch and elevation of the sidewalk. -Frank


I have a concrete walkway along the side of the house that gets about 3 inches of water on it every time it rains and takes a few sunny days to dry up. Does anyone have advice or recommendation about getting this taken care of? I'm thinking I need someone who will put a drain in the walkway. We're in Albany.Thanks! Kathy

We are currently having a large drainage problem resolved by Ward Construction in Richmond. The have been in business for many years, were fairly reasonably priced (in this ludicrous market!), and have been easy to work with. Their number is (510) 215-3636.

We had a drainage problem that let to flooding of the laundry room and downstairs landing. We found there are some very good high-end outfits, which will analyze the problem and give a full written report in a very professional glossy folder. But you pay a lot for the professionalism. We had one such outfit come to our house for drainage assessment and a bid for the work. They came very highly recommended and we liked them. But the work they recommended (french drains around the house and also additional drainage underneath) was very extensive, and expensive. We called another highly recommended, and less glossy, guy, Tom Morris. He agreed on what the problem was, but thought outside French drains would probably suffice and that it would be easy to do that first and add the under-house drainage if there still was a problem. His work was very reasonable, his people extremely responsible and neat, and despite several years of sometimes record rain, the laundry room and landing (and the area under the house) have been bone dry. We were, as you probably can gather, happy with Tom's work and have recommended him to others. His number is (or at least was several years ago) (925) 254-9289. Leslie

We just finished extensive drainage work on our house and I was just saying to my husband yesterday that if our basement doesn't flood this winter, I would definitely recommend the company that we selected. After getting three bids, we chose Ward Construction and so far we have no regrets. Their bid was fair, they were extremely professional, they were efficient and polite and they even paid attention to the volume (noise level) of their work during nap times. We have yet to test the drain - February is usually the flood month - but I am pretty confident that their work will hold up. The only problem we had was that one of the workers hit our PG gas line with the shovel, but even that was handled well. You can reach Ward Construction at 510-215-3636 Lisa

We are going to get some construction work done on our house, including drainage. Does anybody know anything about, or better still have experience of, Eric Burtt of Burtt Construction. Thanks very much in advance.

I highly recommend Eric Burtt. Eric's company replaced our foundation and installed drainage when we moved into our house 9 years ago. Eric was great at laying out our options, and explaing them at a level we could understand! His crew worked diligently, and the job came in on budget, and in the timeframe he had outlined. We recently used Eric for a foundation and drainage inspection on our new home. Once again, he was excellent at explaining our options.

April 2002

Erosion from hillside stream

We live in the Oakland Hills - and there is a river that runs next to our house (there is primarily only water in the river during and right after a rain storm). Recently it seems the river is erroding closer to our house, and I am concerned about the dangers, and what damage it could cause to our foundation. I am told a geotechnical or geologist is what I am looking for, and thus far, have not been able to find anyone. I am looking for someone that can look at the river and let me know if there is any potential danger to our house/foundation. And if there is a potential danger, what we can do about it. Thank you, Merrylee

Merrylee, I would recommend giving either Waterways Restoration Institute or Urban Creeks Council a call. Both organizations have technical people on staff (hydrogeomorphologists would be best) that can give advice on a consultant basis or provide contacts that are better suited to your needs. The number for WRI is 510-848-2211 and UCC is 510-540-6669. You might also try following up with Roger Leventhal of Far West Engineering who does work for UCC-- don't have a direct # for him. Good luck. Luisa