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Basement with a wet floor

Basement Waterproofing Rip-offs: Beware of Waterproofing Contractors and Their Expensive Solutions

My question is about basement waterproofers. I have a problem with my basement flooding, and a waterproofing company charged me $14,219 to correct it. Two of that firm's inspectors insisted that underground water was being forced up into the cellar via hydrostatic pressure and only a French drain would correct it. So the basement waterproofers installed a long, deep ditch running alongside the interior of the home's foundation walls. In turn, that graded ditch was supposed to gravity-feed rising water into two underground electric pumps (at opposite ends of the basement) and eventually pump incoming water into the city sewer system.

On the other hand, I felt the water was coming from the surrounding earth through a rather thin foundation wall, and slowly running down into the cellar doorway. Now it seems that I was correct. The basement waterproofing company is stalling, wanting to take photos and "brainstorm" their next move. Do you have any suggestions about how to deal with these basement waterproofers?

Our Answer

This scam is common to so-called basement waterproofers, and unfortunately, it sounds like you've been taken in. These snake-oil salesmen use high-pressure sales tactics and scary words like hydrostatic pressure to push consumers into hiring them for expensive and almost always unnecessary repairs.

Let's examine the claim that forms the basis for the frightening prospect these basement waterproofers pose, which is that your home will collapse from the pressure of the water against its basement walls. In order for any water on the outside of your foundation to get to the drains they carve into your basement floor, the water has to run against the foundation walls and then leak either through the walls or under the footing below the walls. Hence, your foundation walls are subjected to the very same hydrostatic pressure either with or without the basement waterproofers' fourteen-thousand-dollar solution.

Had these basement waterproofers been more honest and impartial with the diagnosis of your basement leakage problem, they would have examined your exterior drainage conditions. As you correctly point out, basement waterproofing has more to do with the condition of the surrounding soil and, more importantly, the functionality of the gutter system on your roof  than any subsurface drainage system does. The type of system they installed is needed only when the problem can be traced to a rising underground water table. This is rarely the case and is easy to spot. If your basement leaks are consistent with rainfall or snow melt, the problem is not a water table but a drainage issue that can easily be corrected without spending a pile of cash.

My advice is to speak to an attorney.  You may be able to sue the waterproofing contractor for not correcting the problem and for fraud, which makes you eligible for treble damages. Only through actions like these will mostly disreputable basement waterproofers stop taking advantage of countless victims like yourself.

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rain, storm, flood, wet basement

Wet Basement “Expert” says Grading Won’t Stop Floods

Our basement is pretty humid and has moisture coming up through the concrete floors. The basement has a history of mold and flooding. From listening to The Money Pit, I know proper grading and gutter maintenance outside the home should prevent this. We had a basement expert come by and he said grading was not enough - a total overhaul was necessary and he wanted to install drain systems, a new sump pump, etc to address the moisture (our ultimate goal is to finish the basement). Is he right or is he just trying to sell his services?

Our Answer

It's no surprise that a so called wet basement "expert" would proclaim that improvements to roof and surface drainage won't fix you damp, leaky basement.  They have very strong economic reasons to do so.  Basement waterproofing companies pretty much sell a single type of repair, and it's really not a water "proofing" solution at all.  If anything its a water pumping system that allows the water ot get to and through the foundation, where its collected in a sump and then pumped out to start the cycle all over again.

The reason most basements flood is because of issues with poor surface and roof drainage.  To stop this from happening, you must:

  1.  Clean gutters & downspouts;
  2.  Make sure there are enough downspouts for the roof size. Each spout should drain no more than 600-800 sq feet of roof surface
  3.  Extend spouts to discharge at least 6 feet from house;
  4.  Improve the angle of soil at the foundation perimeter to slope away from the house.

In RARE circumstances, flooding is caused by a rising water table and in that case, a pump system is needed.  However, we're talking VERY RARE circumstances.

Here's how to tell.  If your basement dampness and flooding worsens consistent with rainfall, or snow melt - its always caused by drainage that's easily fixed.

Finally, one of the most popular posts on our site is about basement waterproofing.  Read it, and THEN read all the comments.  You'll see three groups of comenters.  Wet basement "experts" desperate to save their money-making scams, home inspectors and other independent experts calling out the waterproofing profiteers and confirming the advice we've provided, and homeowners who have tried it and saved tens of thousands of dollars.

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Wet Basement

hello,

we have had a wet corner in our basement since we built the house over 5 years ago (a simple fix).   we totally flooded twice over the past year which we think is a seperate problem.  Our house was built to low and we cannot slope the dirt away from the house on most sides because of cement.  On the one side that we can.  how do we tell if we are 6in. over 4 ft. of fall?  On the sides that we cant...what can we do?  we had a water intrusion specialist come out and do dye tests.  water pours in from our driveway side from holes that were drilled into the basement block, (part of slab in corner removed)  to relieve the water builing up in the wall.  The water specialist says we need to remove and then replace and compact the dirt around the house.  The builder wants to use hydraulic cement in the spaces between the driveway and garage  seal it all up and let it go into the sump pump.  There is question as to whether that wall is waterproofed.  You can feel air coming in through the drilled holes.  the builder is telling us that this and water coming in, or building up is normal on a garage side.  he did replace the 2 downspouts to accept more water.  I guess my question is will compacting the dirt help us.  what else could we do?

thanks for any help.

lisa

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Fixing Flooded Basements: How to protect yourself against contractor rip-offs

I'm at my wits end. In the last heavy rain storm, my basement flooded and ruined some storage I had down there. My husband called in a water proofing contractor who says that we have a problem with the foundation and that he can fix it for $12,000. We don't have that kind of money. Are there any other options?

Our Answer

Stop and save your money.  Flooded basement are a lot easier to fix than that. With every heavy rain comes worries about basement floods and leaks and so-called basement waterproofing contractors. These unscrupulous sneaks turn on the hard sell to get homeowners' valuable cash for treatments that neglect the real causes, all of which you can take care of on your own.
 
Bottom line, most flooded basements happen because of poor outside drainage conditions. Invest your time in cleaning and extending your downspouts, and re-grading soil to slope away from exterior walls.
 
Also pay attention when you're making additions and enhancements to your landscaping: plantings placed too close to the foundation will keep water close, too, and the same goes for decorative borders.
 
Take care of these, and you'll easily be able to resist pitches for expensive drainage systems that require tearing up your basement floor, and panic-causing claims that your walls are on the verge of a mold-covered collapse. It's all nonsense designed to scare you into opening your wallet. Flooded basement are just not that hard to fix.
 

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Wet Basement and New Home Warranty

We bought a new house directly from the builder and have only been in it for eight months, so we're still covered by the warranty. Our basement recently filled with 16 inches of water, and our pump never shut off. The builder installed another pump, and said that was all we needed; meanwhile I had the county come out for a look, and found out our basement is built below the water table. The county said a drain system would not help our situation, and that we would not be able to finish our basement?the main reason we bought this house. They also told us that our house was one big swamp…Got any advice?

Our Answer

Wet basements such as yours are often caused by conditions outside of and even on top of the house itself, so do some thorough investigation to locate other possible causes of the leaks. Clogged or insufficient gutters can be culprits, as can downspouts that send water straight toward the home's foundation (instead, downspouts should discharge at least four to six feet from the foundation). The angle of the soil around the foundation's perimeter can also be an issue, so work on adjusting its grade so that it slopes away from your home on a downward angle of six inches over the first four feet from the foundation wall. Finally, ensure that such landscaping touches as brick or wood edging, excessive topsoil or overgrown bushes and trees aren't holding water close to your home.
 
Going back to the legalities and warranty impacts of this situation, hire a lawyer immediately and put the builder on notice, as he is ultimately responsible for your wet basement woes. Also inform the warranty company of the situation and pending proceedings, as notification of the builder does not guarantee notification of the warranty company. Fast action is your best defense in this situation, both in terms of your home's structural integrity and protection against further liabilities caused by an unscrupulous builder.
 
Regarding the county telling you the home was built under a water table, I doubt it. Unless that advice came from the County's civil engineer, I wouldn't believe it. Homes are never built below water tables although that is generally the #1 reason give for floods by the uninformed!
 

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Replacing Flooded Basement Flooring

We recently replaced carpeting with laminate flooring in one room of the basement. Yesterday the pipe broke on the sump pump and flooded the basement floor.  As a result, we're pulling out the rest of the carpeting in the basement floor and replacing it.

We are wondering if we have to pull out the new laminate flooring? This is the room all the water went through to get to the carpet. I'm worried about mold.

Our Answer

Replacing the carpet in your basement with laminate flooring was a great move.  Even if you hadn't had a flood, carpet is a really bad idea for a basement. Basically carpet in a basement is mold food! 
Mold needs three things to grow:  water, air and organic matter. Carpet holds dust and dirt, which can be very organic.  Plus, the backing material on carpet is also very organic. This plus the allergens carpet holds, like dust mites, make it a very bad idea for basement flooring.
Laminate, on the other hand, has no such limitations.  In fact, it can be submerged for days on end and suffer no deterioration whatsoever.  Since laminate is totally inorganic, you should have no worries about mold on your laminate floor.  Just dry the laminate floor, damp mop it with a 10-20% bleach to water solution, and the laminate floor will be good to go.
Also, you might want to talk to an insurance adjuster about your flood.  With any luck, you could claim enough damage to pay for the rest of that new laminate floor!