Q: The front of my house is situated at the top of a slope with the back portion at about a 15-degree incline. What's the procedure for installing a French drain around the footings of my house? It's an older house, with minor cracks in the plaster around some doors and windows. These problems are due to the erosion and settling of the footings, correct? – Paul, Santa Barbara, California

A: Roger Cook replies: The settling could be from the installation of the footing. If erosion caused it, the footing would be undermined. To dig a French drain, first excavate a U-shaped trench six inches deep by three feet wide, pitching deeper where the water exits. Line the trench with heavy-duty plastic with one edge of the plastic up tight against the foundation. Install perforated pipe in the center of the trench, cover with spun bond fabric (weed barrier), cover this with clean 3/4 inch stone up to grade, and have the pipe exit some place to deposit water. Remember before doing any digging, contact Dig Safe or your local utility locator company to pinpoint gas and utility lines and save yourself potential headaches and harm.
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