Stop Your Basement from Flooding
LESLIE: We’ve got Frank from New York on the line who’s got water in his basement. Frank, is it there right now?
FRANK: No, it’s not and it doesn’t happen with every rainfall. It’s just when the rain falls, I guess, a certain way and hits the back wall of the house, that’s when I get a little puddle. Now, I’ve been told that there are two ways to solve this problem. One is to dig a ditch about two-and-a-half feet away from the house; dig down past the foundation; repair any cracks that are seen …
TOM: Stop right there. That’s the wrong way. What’s the next way you were told? (chuckling)
FRANK: Oh, OK. The next way I was told was they fixed it from the inside. They do – they dig down about a foot and a foot away …
TOM: Stop right there. Repairing wet basements does not require the use of a shovel. How about that?
LESLIE: Especially with what you said; when you see it after a very, very heavy rainfall. That’s indicative of things going on outside.
TOM: Yeah, this has got a very simple solution, Frank. Basements flood. A lot of these waterproofing contractors like to recommend to dig out around the outside or the inside of your house; install drains and pumps and all that sort of thing. Almost never, ever needed and absolutely never needed when you can trace the flooding problem to heavy rains. Because what’s happening is you’re just getting too much water that’s collecting around the outside. This is a drainage issue.
So I want you to look at two things very, very carefully. Number one is the angle of the soil around the outside of the house; especially on that back wall. In a perfect world we want to see that soil slope around six inches over four feet so you have a nice, even slope right from the get-go when it comes away from the wall. We want that to be compact; not topsoil but clean fill dirt because topsoil tends to be very organic. I don’t want to see any stone there or anything that’s going to hold water back.
TOM: The second thing is the gutter system. You’ve got to have gutters; they have to be appropriately sized – you need one downspout for every 400 to 600 square feet of roofing surface; and most importantly – and this is the number one thing that you can do that solves so many wet basements; it’s very simple but it’s very effective – get the downspouts out away from the foundation. We want to see them four to six feet away from the foundation.
If you control the water on the outside, you will eliminate the water on the inside. You don’t need to dig this house up, Frank.
FRANK: Wow. That’s great news.
TOM: Yep, very simple; very effective.
FRANK: (overlapping voices) Now, does it change anything because I didn’t tell you there’s a patio; there’s a cement slab in the back.
TOM: Well, that makes it a little bit harder to do the drainage improvements …
TOM: … because the water might be sitting on that patio and finding it’s way in. If you have a patio up against the wall you can look for cracks and try to seal the space between the patio and the wall. But I would tell you to look at the gutter system first because that’s probably going to be the biggest source of the water. Do you have a gutter over that patio area?
FRANK: Yes, I do.
TOM: Alright, and where are the downspouts for that?
FRANK: The downspouts are toward the ends – each corner of the house.
TOM: Now, is there any chance that the gutters were overflowing in heavy rain?
FRANK: You know, it’s possible. I haven’t looked.
TOM: OK, that very well may be possible, Frank. I can’t tell you how many times I have solved wet basements that people thought were going to cost $20,000, $30,000, $40,000 to fix just by unclogging a gutter. You’ve got to look at those outside drainage conditions. If you have a lot of water collecting around the outside of the perimeter, that’s what causes it.
Frank, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
FRANK: OK, thanks.