Dry Out a Wet Basement
LESLIE: Chuck in Louisiana has had it up to here with his cellar and wants to fill it in. How come?
CHUCK: Well, it’s a 130-year-old home that we just purchased …
CHUCK: … and right up under almost the center of it is apparently an old cellar that was partly filled in with dirt and now it fills up with water.
TOM: OK. Hmm. And does it fill up consistent with rainfall or is it just filled with water all the time?
CHUCK: It’s rainfall. We have – there’s like three sets of roofs that all converge in one corner …
CHUCK: … and it dumps right up under the house there.
TOM: Well …
LESLIE: That’s the problem right there.
TOM: Yeah, exactly. Now, you know, filling the cellar is one thing but, you know if you don’t fix this drainage issue that water’s still going to form under the foundation and that can cause some shifting.
LESLIE: And instead of filling in there it’s going to seep through to the house itself, right?
TOM: Yeah, exactly. So I would recommend that we talk about ways to alleviate this drainage situation.
Now, it might be that – does it have gutters, first of all?
CHUCK: No, that’s all part of the plans. We’re going to have gutters. There’s going to be a – we’ll have to put in a small sump to actually pump the rainwater away from the house toward a ditch because the closer corner here is actually kind of behind a mound that the water’s not draining (ph) around.
TOM: OK. If you have a situation where basically it’s all draining to a hole anyway and there’s no way for you to extend downspouts or re-angle gutters then, yes, I’ve seen situations where you have to run that water into a pump to lift it up high enough so that it can run away. I would do all of those things first. Because you may find that once that’s accomplished – in fact, I suspect you will find that once that’s accomplished that you no longer have a water problem in this basement and, hence, now have some useable space for at least some storage or some other purpose or access to that part of the framework, if nothing else. I would – there’s no reason for you to do that first. I would do this in the right order and that is fix all the drainage conditions as best you can first.
If you go to our website at MoneyPit.com there is lots of advice there on how to solve a wet basement problem. It’s one of the most common questions we’ve got and there’s probably at least a dozen articles about it right there.
CHUCK: So you don’t think filling it in – because the entire – because what’s happened is the entire pillar foundation, all the seals, everything up under the house is completely rotted away.
TOM: I understand.
TOM: Let’s first deal with the moisture problem. Let’s dry it out. It’s not going to get any worse and if you dry it out all the decay will stop. Decay only happens when wood gets over about 25 percent moisture. Once it gets over that the decay organisms wake up and they go to work tearing the house apart. If you dry it out the decay organisms turn off like a switch and stop rotting your wood away. So I want you to do all these steps to get the moisture stopped and then we could talk about what are the repairs that’ll be done. You know, it may be that you want to tackle some of the rotted wood repairs at that point. But let’s concentrate first, Chuck, on getting the drainage problem fixed. That’s going to make this dry up. It’s going to leave the house a lot more stable and there’s a whole lot of benefits to doing it in this order.
CHUCK: I appreciate the help.
TOM: You’re welcome, Chuck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.