Basement Leak Solution: How to Stop Water from Coming Through Basement Walls
LESLIE: Lawrence in Utah, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we help you with?
LAWRENCE: I’ve got a 1930s house that is an all-brick structure, but the foundation for the basement has some really porous pockets in it from air gaps that are in the foundation. They didn’t have the devices to vibrate it down and get the air out of the concrete. And I’m wondering what my options are for stopping the water flowing through the walls of the basement.
TOM: Well, I don’t think the air entrained in the walls is causing your water problem. I’m certain that you probably just have too much water collecting at the foundation perimeter; something which should be relatively easy to fix.
LESLIE: Yeah, Lawrence. Do you have gutters on your home?
LAWRENCE: At present I do not. And we have considered putting a sidewalk around the perimeter of the house.
TOM: Now, that’s overkill. What you need to do is put a gutter system on the house so you collect the roof water and you can discharge it out away from the foundation. If you have no gutters all of that roof water is landing at the foundation perimeter. It’s going to saturate that first four feet or so, which is what we call the backbill (ph) zone. That’s the zone of soil that was excavated when your home was built. And it’s not tamped. It’s not compressed as well as the other areas outside of that and so that’s going to fill up with water. That’s going to get against that concrete. Concrete’s very hydroscopic. It’s going to soak that water right in and that’s what’s showing up on the wall. So the first thing here is to get a gutter system on the house.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And then maintain it. You know, once it’s up there make sure that it’s clean. And when you’re putting up the gutter system – since you’re starting from scratch – you want to make sure that you have an adequate amount of downspouts to cover the – what is the formula, Tom? How many downspouts per …
TOM: It’s one downspout for every 600 to 800 square feet of roof surface.
LESLIE: So make sure you put in enough downspouts and then look where the downspout is going to terminate. You don’t want it depositing the water directly next to the foundation. You want to make sure that it runs three, six feet, even more away from your house itself. You can bury them and deposit them at the street. It depends on what’s the best situation. But get that water away from the foundation wall.
And then look at your grading. You know, you don’t have to put a sidewalk next to the house. You can just look at what your dirt is doing there and make sure it slopes away from the house. You want to go about six inches over four feet. Even that gradual slope will just move that water away.
LAWRENCE: OK. We were concerned that maybe the foundation was old enough that it [needed replacing] (ph).
TOM: No. No, no, no. Not at all. This is a lot simpler than you think. You’ve just got to manage that water around the outside and that wall’s going to dry right up on you.
LAWRENCE: So just some surface grading on the lawn and get those gutters back up.
TOM: Get those gutters back up. Absolutely.
LAWRENCE: OK, thank you for your help guys. I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.