Water in the Basement: When All Else Fails
LESLIE: Justin in West Virginia, who podcasts The Money Pit – alright, technology – has a question about water. What’s going on, Justin?
JUSTIN: Yes, in my basement I’ve had water coming through. I moved here about two years ago and I have an underground spring, I guess, because water runs, basically, all year round.
JUSTIN: And the way – I had B-Dry come in and price how much it would cost to fix and they gave me an estimate of about $6,000 to $7,000.
JUSTIN: And I really don’t have the money to do that but I got online and I was looking at – it’s called Beaver Basement Baseboard Water Control and I was just wondering if you know if that was worth the money.
TOM: Is that one of the baseboard products that like glues against the foundation wall and creates a channel?
JUSTIN: Yes, sir.
TOM: Maybe, maybe not. Let me ask you about the pattern of water and filtration here. Does it seem to be consistent with heavy rainfall when you have the biggest problems?
JUSTIN: No, not necessarily.
JUSTIN: It’s pretty much year around. Now, when there is rainfall I do have water coming around in other parts, but it’s not flooding or anything. It’s just a trickle where it’s actually the – the basement is kind of sheered off a little bit. It’s not moving anymore. It had sheered off a long time ago and I get some water coming in right there.
TOM: How do you see the water during the periods of when it’s not raining? Does it come up?
JUSTIN: It just – basically it’s just filtering down through the ground and then it’s just seeping in around the very bottom of the basement floor and coming in.
TOM: But it’s filtering around through the ground?
TOM: So it’s coming in and sort of falling down?
JUSTIN: Yes. I’ve actually …
TOM: I suspect that – if it’s coming in the way you describe – and even if you do have a high water table in this area, Justin – I would suspect that a large contributor to this problem, if not the entire contributor, is not rising water but falling water; water that is saturating the foundation perimeter and finding its way against the foundation walls – being very, very hydroscopic, they soak up a lot of water – and then showing up on the inside. So before you do anything with a waterproofing company or install any type of water evacuation system, the very first thing you have to do is make sure that the drainage conditions on the outside of your house, Justin, are just perfect.
TOM: If you have a home that’s susceptible to flooding and leakage you have to go the extra mile and make sure everything is letter perfect. So here are the things that you need to do.
First of all, look at the grading; the angle of the soil around the house. First of all, the type of soil is important. It can’t be …
LESLIE: Can’t just do it with topsoil.
TOM: Can’t be topsoil. It’s too organic. You have to use clean fill dirt and you have to tamp it down well and you have to slope it so it drops six inches over four feet. The next thing to look at is the gutter system.
LESLIE: Yeah, you want to make sure, number one, that your gutters are clean all the time – you know, you really need to stay on top of it – and that the downspouts are free-flowing. And then you want to look at the location of the downspouts. You want to make sure that they don’t just end right next to the foundation itself. You need them to sort of carry the water away three feet, six feet; get it out of there. Even if you want it to go further to an area where the grading is even more pronounced you can bury it underground so that you’re not looking at this enormous drain pipe. But this way you at least move that water.
JUSTIN: I’ve actually done that. I actually have a drain that it empties out clear into the road that goes by my house. So there’s no drain spouts that actually – and I have just replaced them all and I still have this water problem. So I know it’s not the downspouts.
TOM: Do you know – the piping that you used to run this out underground; what kind of piping was that, Justin?
JUSTIN: It was PVC.
TOM: Solid PVC pipe?
JUSTIN: It was not the (inaudible). Yes.
TOM: And it wasn’t – was it perforated or was it solid?
JUSTIN: It was solid.
TOM: OK. Well then it sounds like you’ve done that right. Well, OK. If you absolutely are sure that the grading and the gutters are OK, then I would recommend a sub-slab drainage system. I would not recommend the gutter system that we were talking about; the baseboard system.
TOM: Because that’s only going to catch water that comes down the wall and you need to catch it closer to the footing level. So in this case, I would recommend jack hammering out the basement floor and I almost never say this; but if you’ve done everything else and it’s absolutely perfect, then you’ll have to put in a subsurface drainage system and the only time we recommend this is when everything else is perfect and you’re absolutely positive it’s a high water table that’s contributing to it. All other times – and I’ve got to tell you, you are in the like the three percent group…
TOM: … that might need this solution. Almost everyone else …
JUSTIN: (overlapping voices) Yeah.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Because most of the times the other ones fix it.
TOM: … it will fix it all the time.