My house is in a small city lot, it's a 1924 Craftsman with a concrete block foundation. On the north side of our house, between the wall and a fence line, the previous owner had asphalt over the entire space (about 100 square feet) making a walkway. On the other side of the fence, the next house's lot is about 3 feet above mine so their yard ends with a steep slope into the fence... not a good start for grading.

We don't need the walkway so I put mulch over it, but there's some remaining water intrusion on the foundation blocks, behind a bathroom wall. (I can tell it's happening because of the musty smell). I was planning on sledgehammering up the asphalt walkway, removing it, then grading away from the house. I started that today, only to discover that there's a concrete walkway below the asphalt.... so this may be a much longer job than I expected.

I'm not comfortable using a jackhammer for the first time in such a constrained space, but it seems like this could take a very long time to do by hand. Is it worthless to try to grade over the asphalt? Or do I need to just suck it up and do the work, or pay for it?

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  • Can you add some pictures, and maybe a diagram that shows the layout and grade info? – fixer1234 May 20 '18 at 22:07
  • photos.app.goo.gl/hwwiAGZS81yNu3qG3. The new mulch right next to the deck is where I did the initial digging and found out that there's concrete under the asphalt – Ralph May 20 '18 at 22:12
  • That's along the lines of what I thought. My neighbor house is abandoned so we are planting hostas along the trench line on the neighbors side of the fence to absorb some more of the runoff. I will check again, but I think the walkway goes all to the fence so a French drain would still need demo on my side. – Ralph May 20 '18 at 22:41
  • Breaking up the concrete under the asphalt may not be that difficult. Once you can get a pick-axe or long (2m+) wrecking bar under the concrete, it will almost certainly come up in big lumps - particularly if you give it a tap with a lump hammer. Of course, removing the rubble may be more work - you might want a mini-digger for that. – Martin Bonner supports Monica May 29 '19 at 9:52
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    You can rent an electric jack hammer (120 VAC). They are easy to use and fast. Two hours max on that job. – Steve Wellens May 26 '20 at 4:43

Any grading you do may not help. You already have a concrete/asphalt barrier, then mulch, which I assume you've given a grade.

If the concrete/asphalt is much narrower than the space between your house and the fence, I would grade the mulch, put down plastic sheeting from the fence to your foundation and a little up the foundation. Then cover that with a layer of mulch with a good grade.

The problem could be that you are getting your neighbor's runoff. It might help to trench along the fence, line the trench with plastic, and create a French drain. That would at least divert surface runoff.

The fence isn't very far from your house. Grading will move water falling on your own property away from the foundation. But that plus your neighbor's water will seep into the ground at the fence line and migrate to you foundation under the grading. The real solution will be to capture all of that water and move it somewhere else.

  • So if the walkway goes all to the fence is there use in laying down plastic first? I can definitely improve the grading. – Ralph May 20 '18 at 23:27
  • If the walkway stretches from the house to the fence, it's intact, and has even a little slope away the house, that is already serving as a barrier that will move water away from the house. Otherwise, the plastic sheeting is an inexpensive way to put one there. Either mulch or soil + grass will work for the grading. BTW, if you trench at the fence line, use a concrete saw. After you expose the asphalt, the saw will make a fast, clean straight line. Then you can use a hammer to break up the strip to the fence. (cont'd) – fixer1234 May 20 '18 at 23:52
  • If the neighboring house is abandoned, look at the possibility of putting the French drain on that side of the fence to capture the runoff from both properties (no demolition). It can be perforated pipe and stone, which would leave a visible stone "creek" at the fence, or pipe + surface drains that would be nearly invisible. – fixer1234 May 20 '18 at 23:52
  • Any diy sites you'd recommend in particular for instructions on the French drain? Beyond just asking The Google – Ralph May 21 '18 at 2:50
  • There are endless references for French drains, but the best "technology" depends on the specific situation (volume of water; what options are available to get rid of it given factors like grading, distances, soil, water table, rainfall, etc.; what the surface can look like after installation; budget; etc.). It might be worth posting another question to get into details of the best way to implement one for your situation. – fixer1234 May 21 '18 at 3:15

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