Problems That Can Occur When A New House Is Built In An Established Neighborhood & What To Do About Them

Posted on: 10 November 2015

Most new neighbors who construct new houses don't do so out of spite, even though that is a strange phenomenon... oddly enough. Instead, most new neighbors try to make sure their houses are constructed so they don't interfere with neighboring homes and properties, especially since inadvertently damaging someone else's property can be grounds for a lawsuit.

And there's also the fact that neighbors have to live next to each other, which can make for some unpleasant situations if things aren't handled properly during the construction phase. Think Hatfield and McCoy here. However, sometimes problems arise that seem to be inevitable, even though they may have been avoidable. As they say, hindsight is 20/20. 

Whether you are building a new house in an established neighborhood or someone is breaking ground in property near you, here are a few things that can happen that could make for some unpleasant experiences for you and your neighbors. 

Sub-Foundation Damage 

When soil is excavated, especially for basements, the disruption in the soil can cause neighboring sub-foundations to shift, even if just slightly. A slight shift in the sub-foundation can cause the entire house to settle, sometimes suddenly. This settling can cause cracks in the foundation, which can lead to basement flooding, as well as cracks in the walls throughout the home. It can cause doors and windows to jamb shut and plumbing to get off-kilter enough to cause leaks. Sometimes, the shifting can be severe enough to cause the floors to noticeably slope. 

Fortunately, the sub-foundation of the existing homes in the neighborhood can be bolstered up with underpinning to prevent these types of problems from occurring. Underpinning is a method of stabilizing a foundation by strengthening the foundation and sub-foundation. If you are concerned about your house or other houses in your neighborhood shifting, hire a civil engineer to determine whether or not underpinning is necessary. 

Ground Water & Surface Water Flooding 

Whenever changes are made to someone's property it can cause underground streams, ground water, and surface water to collect and pool differently than before. The types of changes that can cause these problems includes excavating a foundation, grading the property to change the slope, and covering the ground surface with a large structure, such as a large driveway. 

The local storm water management office should be notified any time there is a change of any kind that can affect the way storm water runs off and/or collects. The official should be able to develop a plan that will prevent flooding from occurring on any of the property in the neighborhood. However, this plan may include French drain installation in basements or around the exterior perimeters of homes in the neighborhood, especially if cracks are expected to form in the foundation walls or cracks already exist.

Typically, indoor French drains are recommended in areas where the water table is known to be high, especially during the rainy season. Unfortunately, the effects the new construction has on the water table in your neighborhood may not be seen until the next time the water table rises. Of course, if your home isn't prepared, this could cause your basement to flood because the water will be coming up from underneath the house. 

An exterior French drain would be more helpful if the storm water management office believes that surface water will be problematic instead of a high water table. If you are getting an exterior French drain, it's a good idea to have a waterproof membrane applied to the walls of your foundation after the ground is excavated for the installation of an exterior French drain. That way, your basement will have a better chance of staying dry if your property does flood in the future. 

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