PART TWO – earthworks and drainage


In front of the house is a huge concrete yard – as in some of the first photos – this came right up to the house itself. As you can see on the left-hand side there is also a block wall – this was our boundary and in fact when it rained heavily the water used to come through the walls and out the front door like a stream as the wall continued to the righthand side of the house and further connecting to another shed creating a dam effect. On one occasion I put my arm through the rear window into water 3 feet deep. This house was saturated nearly all year round.

100_0864So after many years of tipping away at the house itself and having bought the .5 acre garden and adjoining shed; I got the biggest  digging machine I could in for a whole week – that is me on the 9 ton dumper and we cleared the land at the back down to yard level.

100_2076It became immediately clear that this house did not have any foundations, in fact was built on uneven ground and as you can see in the photo that the gable was perched on top of this.  I had a few sleepless nights as I had intended digging further away from the house itself but got caught up in the haste of progress and just let the diggerman do his thing.  Later I covered the sloped mud with stone to stop rain eroding the mud foundation – then covering this with lime-mortar – 10 years later is has still held and there hasn’t been any movement.


The above pics show putting in a french drain around the house, kept out from the house and shallow because  the nearest drain point to take run off was only 6 inches below yard level – this house had been built in a hole! There is a drain in the middle of the yard –  a 4 inch pipe at that which takes all the runoff under the adjoining new house garden to a deep ditch – this blocked at one time and I had the children in a dinghy in the lake created by the flood. I had to get in a rock breaker to get a drain pipe to go from the back of the house out to the road – it was a very expensive .

Image0584My solution to draw all this wet away from the house was to dig a sump – through rock – to collect this sitting water. I rigged up a bilgepump and via pipes sent the water to a drain to the right of the pic, also digging deeper channels further away from the house helped pull more water away . As you can see in mid winter the ground is soaking wet but once perforated pipe was put in and stone, I created a sump which never goes dry but the house close-by has dried out greatly.  The sump in the middle of summer after 7 years  has never run dry’ so the house must have been built near a spring. At the nearest gable to it there is wetting of the ground inside the house but I am sure once I dig a bigger sump and install a small pump permanently it will take that dampness away.

Of course many of these houses didn’t have gutters so I attached them front and back to channel roof runoff  via the orange soil pipe( seen below) into the french drains and this further helps in keeping the house dry.


Image0567French drain dug at front of house prior to connecting up with yards main drain. It had only rained for an hour after digging this trench and that is how much gathered in that time. Righthand side of house

Image0568left-hand side of house french drain preparation – there is no point in having it deep as it would mean permanent wet so I had to add mud back to attain suitable level of drainage

.2013-08-31 17.48.01I got this vintage Victorian street drain cover at an auction – I had bought a disk harrow and it came with the trailer I also bought – a bargain! It fits with the house and reminds me of my city childhood where these were on every street.