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Leaky Basement Q's and A's

Sump Pumps | General Leak/Seepage Solutions | Cost of Fixing Leaks | Visqueens | One-Time Leaks | Other Issues
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Wet Basement: Installing A Sump Pump

I have an unfinished walkout basement (back) which has water coming in the front (seam of floor and wall). The grading out front is fine and down spouts our directed away from the foundation. I want to install a sump pump. I'm guessing it should go in the front of the basement where the water comes in, however, where would I direct the discharge? In the front of the house, which is 10' underground? Should I have a line run above ground across the basement to run out the back? Obviously, I'm looking for the most economical way?

NOOOOO you are looking for the BEST way. Forget economy, you don't want water coming back in.

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I can not tell you where to discharge it though, you need to look at your yard. You want it to drain AWAY from the house of course. I would imagine that our back is best because the land slopes that way? Of course if you have a neighbor close on that side, they may not appreciate the new stream in their yard.

Now with all that said, which may be of no help, let me throw this thought in there. If you can manage it, you don't even WANT a sump pump.
What you want is a pipe in that sump that drains out the back to daylight. No pump to quit in the middle of a storm. Just drains away. Of course this is NOT the most economical. Someone will have to dig that trench to run the pipe in.

So back to the sump pump, ay? Run the line in any direction that works. No formula here. Run it into the woods if you can. Or to a storm drain on the street. Just think about the stream of water and plan accordingly.

One final thing. Yes, the sump should go in the front, where the water is coming in. But you should also have some drain tile installed along the whole front wall directing the water to the sump. This is why I am thinking, if you are having this much done, have the drain tile run all the way to the back, then just run it out to grade and forget the sump and the pump


Fixing Sump Pump & Fixing Drainage Probs/Estimates

We have water leaking into the basement around the footings, and in the cement around the sewer cleanup valve. We bought the house in January and there were signs of previous water damage. The prior owner told us the problem was taken care of by a new sump pump, but it was improperly installed and did not work for the rain the caused the flooding. We also need to improve our downspouts.

We have had nine estimates to fix problem, ranging from $2,000 to $12,000. The only thing they all agree on is fix the sump pump. Some want to put in inside french drains, some trench around the foundation outside and add drains and wall sealants there, some improve the drainspouts and take them further away from the house and improve the grade coming away from the house.

We are utterly confused. How do we evaluate what we truly need and reach a decision?

Yes, obviously you need the new sump pump. Now as for what additional work is needed, you need to determine what exists now. Draining into the sump should be a curtain drain of some kind. (called a French drain or a footer drain) the idea is to collect the water BELOW the level of your floor and direct it into the sump where it can be pumped out. The difference in technique and money may be the location they are talking about. Inside, (making a trench in your floor and then covering it again) or outside digging all the way around your foundation are both major jobs. Both will work. You can decide which way to go based on the impact it will have on your house. If the basement is unfinished and the perimeter is bare, it maybe easier to do that. If the house has no significant foundation plantings that would have to be moved, that would probably be the best way. When they work from outside they can tar the foundation as well as put in the drains.

One thing to consider though. If your house is on a lot with a slope, you may be able to have the drains run out to daylight. It would require digging a trench until the pipe can come above grade, so it depends on your yard etc. But the advantage is with no sump pump on those REALLY bad storms when the electricity goes out, there is no sump pump to worry about.

So, where does that leave you? Go with the drains, inside or out which impacts you least, since I think they are a necessity. (Check though, when they put the sump pump in the first time, did they do that??) The other thing of course is to make sure the people you choose do good work. Ask for a list of their most recent customers and call them and ask about the work.

French Drains & Sump Pumps: Are They Working?

We have moisture seeping through two walls in our basement and at the edges of the cement floor. When we purchased this house 5 yrs ago, the realtor told us the water problem was corrected with french drains. We also have 2 sump pumps but don't know how or if they work.

It sounds like your problem is the sump pumps aren't working... because if they were, you would know.. just from hearing them. If they aren't, then that is most likely the reason for your water trouble.
Also, if their sumps are relatively dry.... and they would work if there is water, perhaps the drain lines to them are clogged?? How close is the water seepage problem to the sumps?


How do we check the sump pumps? The seepage is at the other corner of the house on the same side.


An easy way to check if they are working is to just see if there is water in there. If the water level is high...way up... .then they probably aren't working. If there is little to no water in there, then either they are working fine, and no water is reaching them (in that case check to see that the drain lines to them are free) or worse, the system is not working for other reasons.
Another way to test them is to raise the float and see if it comes on. There is a small float attached to a small metal rod. If you raise it up, the pump should start. (then just let it go and the pump should stop again)

If the pumps work fine and no water is reaching the sump, then you have other problems.. as I said, the drain line could be plugged, or it may not be set low enough to prevent the water table from rising to the floor elevation.







Determining if Sump Pump is Clogged

I am having the same problem. The leakage is on the other side of the house from the sump pump. I have checked all the outside drainage and all seems to be draining away from the house. We live in Maryland and have just recently got over a drought. We have heavy rains lately and the water is leaking through where the wall meets the floor. We just recently moved into the house and the it appears the this is new problem -- the carpet tacks boards did not show a signs of previous water damage or the carpet appears to have never been pulls up. When we first moved into the house we heard the sump pump go on quite regularly. We have not heard that in a while. Upon inspection the pipes leading to the sump pump are dry as if no water is draining into the well of the pump. How do you check if the carrying pipes are clogged? Is there an else I can do to determine the cause?


If the lines from the from of the house are not carrying the water to the sump.. the first thing to check is if they are clear. It will take a long snake.. and maybe only a roto router service can do that.. get all the way around. But if they are not clear, that would be the cause of your trouble.



Fixing Seepage

The concrete basement of my house has seepage from rain, and I'd like to fix it from the inside if possible. It's coming in through the wall that joins the floor. Is there any method of repairing this without being overly expensive?

Well, how expensive is overly expensive. Read the article posted on this site (under articles section... ) for some ideas.
First make sure it is not roof runoff or due to improper grading... (not likely though, if the water is coming in where you say) The best fix is the one discussed in the article, namely, digging a trench all the way around the perimeter and installing drain pipe which leads to a sump with a sump pump in it. This is relatively expensive, but is the only way I would guarantee success. Over the years I have seem so many of the cheaper easier fixes fail.


New Shelves and Deck Lead to Water in Basement


When we moved into our home, some cabinets and shelves were removed from the basement. These were somehow attached to the foundation in the rear of the house. Simultaneously, we had a deck built in the same area (the rear of the house adjacent to the same foundation described).
Where we understand there had not been prior leakage of water in the basement, we have had water coming into the basement in that area of the house every time it rains. Now we are finishing a portion of the basement and need to solve the water problem. I favor curing the disease rather than putting in a sump pump. Theories I've heard are that the foundation sprang a leak when the cabinets were removed. Another I've heard is that the ground beneath the deck was not properly graded. What is your opinion? And what is the way to get these problems solved, short of installing a French drain?


If no leakage occurred there before, I would suspect drainage when the deck was put in. Perhaps the ground under the deck slopes back now toward the house. I wouldn't think it was the shelves. Unless you see water actually coming in the holes where it was mounted, typically if you have a water problem it will find ways in, and small holes in the foundation will only be one of the entry points. (with the floor/footer joint being the biggest source)
There could be other sources... clogged drainlines from the gutters. Or even an unusually wet spring just causing the ground water table to be higher this year than before.
A french drain, or footer drain in concert with a sump pump if a daylight drain is not possible is the cure for the disease if the problem is a high water table. You are right, that if the problem is poor drainage of surface water, then THAT should be addressed.


Basement Starting to Leak



I have a house that is about 45 years old. the basement has started to leak in several places. could the leak be coming from broken downspout tiles? What is the best way to repair the leaks?

If your basement didn't leak in the past 45 years and has begun now, then yes, I would suspect the broken downspouts.

Make sure all water from these is directed away from the house. The grade around the house should be such that water runs away from the house, is possible.


Basement Starting to Leak: Part II

I have water leaking into my basement from the outside. It just started two weeks ago. Any suggestions?

There are many reasons for water leaking in. I guess we could write a whole long article on this topic. I will suggest a few things and ask a few questions..

One thing to be sure of, is that the rain water drains away from the house. Sometimes water will leak in when it never used to because the gutters or drain spouts are plugged and the water off the roof saturates the ground too close to the house. You should check those. The ground should slope away from the house too, so that the water can drain away. In the winter with snow piled up around the house, and the ground frozen except for right next to the foundation, a hard rain could cause the water to saturate the ground next to the foundation causing leakage.

Does your house have a sump with a sump pump in it to pump ground water away? Does it have footer drains that may be blocked? These would be pipes that run around the foundation's footer and then drain to daylight down hill from the house. If your house has these, they should be checked for proper operation and blockage.


Basement Leaks Where Window Was



We have water leaking in our basement, the contractor in error put a window where in should not have been. He used cinder blocks to enclose it. The blocks are saturated and weeping in. We have dug out already once and fixed a crack the length of one side of the window hole. How can we fix this? What can we use outside or inside?

I am not too sure of your situation. This hole has no window in it and is now filled with block instead? And the block is allowing water to pass through, but the rest of the wall is ok, and is not?
And this hole is below grade? Correct me if I have this wrong.

If you can dig out the area again. Coat the blocks with tar and while the tar is wet, cover it with 6 mil poly plastic sheet. That will seal it for sure and will last.

Also, when you put the dirt back, make sure the grade slopes away from the house to keep the area from having too much water to deal with.


Interior Drilling vs. Exterior Drain Tile



I live in Wisconsin, and recently purchased a home with water problems the seller has agreed to cure the problem. I read your wet basement article and have one question, the two solutions we have researched are interior drilling of floor level cement blocks channeled to a sump or exterior laying of drain tile. We have neither landscaping or a finished basement so demolition will not affect us. SO the big question is which is the better option they are both semi equally priced

I had a similar situation in a previous house. When asking for solutions, one firm said that creating a drainage system in the basement floor to a sump is still inviting water INSIDE the house. The problem is OUTSIDE, whether it's drainage, grading, or poorly compacted soil - meaning the cure should be done from the outside.

.. keep the water outside the walls..
They should know what they re doing.. just make sure of one critical thing.. the footer drain goes below the basement floor's elevation. NEVER on top of the footer.. next to it.

No the soil type doesn't really matter.. and I could tell the water table is high.. that is why you have a water problem.
As for the crawl space, the Drain around the outside has to go around this part of the house at the depth of the BASEMENT'S footer. If this part of the house doesn't have a footer as low as the other part of the house with the basement in it, I would say DON'T put the pipe on the outside. You can't dig down that low because you would undercut the foundation on that part of the house. Do you know what I mean??
If the crawlspace's floor is at the same elevation as the basement's (just less head room) then the outside job is still best if the price is comparable.


Which Way to Fix the Wet Basement?



We have a one story ranch with a finished basement. When it rains substantially (over one inch in one day), we get water coming in at a few different areas of the basement. We have had a couple of different options proposed dig around the outside of the foundation and waterproof it or install french drains there; install french drains inside leading to a sump hole (which we do not have); dig a sump hole in the basement corner and drop a sump pump into it; drill a number of holes around the inside walls to accommodate small diameter pipes and attach them to a wider diameter pipe leading to a sump hole, etc.
We just wanted to know the most inexpensive and least labor intensive but efficient way of solving our problems.

The most inexpensive thing to check first is the grading. Make sure the ground slopes away from your house and that all gutters and downspouts are working properly. Downspouts should have a diffuser at the bottom and be directed away from the house. You can also use some plastic piping to move run off away from the house.
Also... If your ground is sloped and all gutters are working good then on to the next step!! Placing a sump in a hole in your basement would be the cheapest way to go, but if the water is coming into the basement in different locations then you would have to have a pump in just about every location the water is coming in at. Installing a perimeter drain around the outside of your foundation would be the smartest thing to do( but not the cheapest!!) I have helped install many of these and they work good if installed properly. Have a plumbing contractor come to your house and give you price on one.



Visqueen as Basement Barrier



Lately I have purchased a new house with a basement. The Contractor installed either a 4 or 6 mil visqueen around the basement at a slope 3 ft under the ground as a water barrier. My question is do you think that this method will work, and how long will the visqueen last? Will we have to do it all again in about 5-10 years?

Visqueen is housewrap for interior application. Like housewrap in general it is POROUS...It may last 100 years but it won't work the way the contractor in intended. It will let surface water penetrate and run down along the foundation. 6 Mil poly sheets should have been used in the described manner. That's only half the story, though. Hope he put french drains in around the foundation...

Damp Spot on Basement Wall

My home is 1 yr. old and has a poured concrete basement. The basement has always been dry. I planned to finish the basement next month. Today, after two days of steady rain I noticed a 6" round stain midway up on the center of the wall, which is about 1 ft below ground level. The spot is not actually wet; it hardly even feels damp. I noticed it only because of the discoloration. Does this sound like a potential problem? How should I remedy this?

More data:
Actually the basement was waterproofed and has a floating floor with an underground French drain and a sump pump. I did notice that the plastic knockouts in the sump pit were never opened. This spot appears more like if someone threw a water balloon at the wall. It rained all day again today and the spot hasn't gotten any larger or wetter.

Sounds like you should have no problem with the waterproofing in your basement. I guess just keep an eye on the stain for now. I don't see any reason why you could proceed with your construction. Good luck!


Adding Concrete to Basement Walls: What to Do About 1-Time Leak

I am getting ready to finish my basement. I had one small area that has white residue from getting slightly damp during a rainstorm. It has not re-occured. It is located on the seam of the poured concrete wall. I plan on using Drylok, but should I put a skim coat of cement over all the seams and round filled boltholes? Or is it a waste of time. If I should add concrete to these areas, which type and application method would be best?

I wouldn't try using concrete. Use a product designed to apply to the concrete. You are more likely to get the right adhesion and water proofing. I have used a Portland cement based product called Thuoro-Seal. It is thick enough to fill any gaps and seal the wall as well.

Also. , look at that area where you had water come in and correct the problem from the outside if possible. Always the best bet to keep the water out is to fix it from the outside. Otherwise, water will find a way in through the best of products and applications. So check that the ground is graded away from the house and that the gutters don't drain to close to the house..


Slab Foundation or Crawl Space

What is the quickest way to find out if my floor has a crawl space or if it's just slab foundation?


If your house is over a crawl space you will have an access door somewhere to allow you to get to the space.
You will also notice foundation vents around the perimeter of your house. More than likely, ventilation duct work, water pipes, etc. will be located under the floor if you have a crawl space. Houses built on a slab have duct work in the attic.


Basement Insulation

I've already framed and drywalled partition walls in my basement. Now I'm starting on the perimeter. The outer walls are painted cinderblock, and as long as I run a dehumidifier, I don't have a moisture problem. I'd like to insulate the walls ... what type of insulation material should I use? I plan to use 2x2 studs or furring strips and finish with paneling.

You want to start an argument? Ask this question. ... What part of the country do you live in?
If you are in a cold climate and have a lot of basement wall exposed.. I would recommend using fiberglass. Set the wall out from the foundation and use 6 inch batts. Use unfaced insulation and cover the walls with 6 mill poly plastic sheet for a vapor barrier. If your climate is more mild.. and/or you have not much wall above grade, go with the blue or grey poly boards. You can glue them on the wall, and glue your 2x2 nailers to the poly. The insulating value is higher, but they are easy even of they do cost more, and moisture has no effect on them.


Basement Water-Proofing/Eliminating Excess Moisture

My sister has a ranch home located approx. 75' near a creek. Although she has not had any water leaks in her basement, she does have mold and mildew. She would like to use her basement for storage, but does not want to risk the mold build up on items stored. Can you recommend a solution for her? Would water-proofing her basement be the answer? Are there any structure effects of not getting it water-proofed? Please let me know your ideas.

Water-proofing may be the answer, albeit an expensive one. Depending on the location of the mold/mildew and the extent of it, you might be able to get away with a simple de-humidifier. If the air in the basement appears to be moist all the time, but there is no physical evidence of water leakage, you probably only need a de-humidifier.

The de-humidifier needs to be set up to run all the time, which will entail setting it up so that the collection tank can drain without your sister going into the basement nightly to drain the tank. To do this you could either install a sump pump in the basement, or mount the de-humidifier near the ceiling (building a shelf or support), and running a small hose to the outside of the house, or into a trap which then leads to the plumbing drain line.

If the basement walls are bare concrete, you can also seal them or have them sealed. This will eliminate a source of moisture and help the dehumidifier do its job.
There are a number of basement wall sealers, but I like a product called Thorough Seal. It is a cement based product, mixed up sort of like cement and painted on with a big heavy brush.
You will always want to run the dehumidifier (especially in the summer) because since the air is cooler in the basement, the relative humidity goes up. So even without moisture coming in through the walls, the outside air coming in, will bring its moisture.




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