Easy Fix for Basement Wall Leaks
LESLIE: Margaret in Kansas is on the line and has a question about basement wall leaks. What can we do for you?
MARGARET: Yes, I’d like to know what to do with my south wall. I have no trouble until the water table – the ground is saturated. Then it starts seeping in. Now, when we moved into the house 50 years ago, they had a water system that goes to a sump pump and it takes care of it until this deluge we’ve had the last couple of times. Don’t know whether there’s something I can do on the outside, rather than jackhammer that up to see what’s going on in there.
LESLIE: Now, what’s different? I mean are you just seeing more quantities of rain or more consistent rain over a shorter period of time?
MARGARET: Yes, we had a lot of rain. It doesn’t happen until we have a lot, a lot of rain, like 6 inches.
MARGARET: Yes, yes. And I’ve got three sump pumps. I’ve got one that I had jackhammered on the east side, which takes care of that wall. Well, this one, like I said, it goes to a sump pump. But evidently, 50 years ago I don’t know if they used clay tile or what. Because it slipped or it just can’t handle – I don’t know.
LESLIE: And we’re sure that the sump pump is actually functioning?
MARGARET: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Because then I have one right outside my door that takes care – it used to be a drive-in basement, which has been converted.
TOM: So, Margaret, if you have sump pumps that are handling this water and the water is originating from heavy rainfall, then the basement wall leaks is always a drainage issue.
TOM: It’s not a rising water table, as you would think. Because water tables don’t move that quickly.
So, what I want you to do is to do a very careful review of those exterior drainage conditions, especially looking at your gutter system, to make sure that it’s properly sized and clean and that those downspouts are dumping at least 6 feet from the house.
MARGARET: I have the downspouts buried. This used to be a big hill years ago. And they cut it down and put this house.
TOM: Mm-hmm. When you say you have them buried, how did you bury them? What materials did you use?
MARGARET: Well, I had – I think they just probably used PVC pipe.
TOM: Is it solid PVC pipe?
MARGARET: I think so.
TOM: Is it corrugated – the black, plastic, corrugated drainpipe?
MARGARET: I think it’s solid.
TOM: I know this is going to be hard to believe but I cannot tell you how many times I have had this same conversation about basement wall leaks with people, much like yourself, who are absolutely, 100-percent convinced that their drainage outside is perfect, absolutely perfect. And in those times we have found, either through reviewing photographs or in the years I was a professional home inspector, that it wasn’t perfect, that there was some element of that drainage that wasn’t right.
Examples could be the type of drainpipe that was used. People use perforated pipe instead of solid pipe. It could be that the pipe is partially collapsed or disconnected underground. You need to be absolutely, 100-percent sure that the leaders feed into solid PVC pipe and then at the end of that PVC pipe – wherever it discharges, which has got to be at least 6 feet or more from the house – you can see the water come out. You can put a hose down the top of that leader and watch the water come out the other side of it.
MARGARET: And it goes to this little moat we have around the house. And we even had sidewalk – cement – put clear to the house, thinking that would take care of this. But it’s not.
TOM: If it’s rainfall, then the basement wall leaks are always tied into drainage; it’s not tied into rising water tables.
Let me suggest you do this: take some photographs of your house, from a distance and then also up close, and post them to The Money Pit’s Community page at MoneyPit.com. I want to see those pictures and I want to figure out what’s going on here. Because I can almost guarantee you that something’s not right with your drainage conditions. Because if you’re getting water after a heavy rain, it’s always drainage, it’s never water tables. And we can fix it easily and inexpensively, without the use of a jackhammer or any other tool of destruction, OK?
MARGARET: That sounds too good to be true.
TOM: Yeah, well, give me a shot. I’ve got confidence it’s going to work.