LESLIE: Well, if you’re thinking about finishing your basement, you’re like our friend Robin in New Hampshire. What can we do for you?
Drainage to Save Your Basement
ROBIN: Hi. We are going to be finishing the basement; probably most of the work ourselves. And I thought I heard you talk about not doing a treatment for waterproofing. We had about six inches of water in our basement a couple of years ago when everybody was getting wet basements. What would you recommend? Because it was coming right through the cement walls.
TOM: Yeah, what we would recommend is a multi-step process. First of all, when your basement floods consistent with heavy rainfall, which is generally what’s happening when everybody’s getting wet basements, you want to look outside your house first. Look at the grading and the drainage at the foundation perimeter; the immediate four to six feet around the outside of your house. Start at the roof. Look at the gutter system: make sure it’s clean; make sure the downspouts …
ROBIN: We have no gutters.
LESLIE: That’s part of the problem.
TOM: Well, therein lies the big problem, OK?
ROBIN: (chuckles) OK, we’ve got to get gutters.
TOM: You need to have gutters because, otherwise, you’re dumping all the water off the roof edge …
LESLIE: Directly on the foundation.
TOM: … at that back-filled perimeter; where the house was once dug up and then the foundation built and then the dirt pushed back in. Well, that’s very, very absorbent and if that water is being dropped off the roof onto the foundation perimeter, it’s going to go right through the walls. No wonder your basement is leaking. If I wanted to make a basement leak, I would take the gutters off the house. (Leslie chuckles)
ROBIN: Oh, OK. (chuckles) I guess (inaudible at 0:03:31.5).
LESLIE: Or you would take gutters that are on the house and fill them up with a lot of junk so that nothing can get through it.
TOM: (overlapping voices) That’s right. Yeah. Robin, get gutters on the house and make sure the downspouts are extended away from the foundation perimeter. And the fact that you had no gutters and only had one wet basement in all this time, that’s not so bad. That actually is very surprising. So I suspect that just having a gutter system on your house is going to fix this once and for all.
The other things to do, while you’re at it, are to make sure that the soil slopes away from the wall at the outside; it’s not too flat. You don’t want the soil to slope into it. If you’ve got to improve it, you add clean fill dirt and slope that away.
But those two things will solve the majority of wet basement problems and, you’re right, you don’t need to put in basement waterproofing systems; you don’t need to dig up foundations; you don’t need to break up slab floors in basements and put in drains and sump pumps and all that. That is all a waste of money in our opinion. You can solve most wet basements just by cleaning your gutters and regrading the foundation perimeter.
ROBIN: Great. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, Robin. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.