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Old 05-05-2013, 12:36 PM   #1
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Water in basement in older home


Forgive me if this is the incorrect forum, seemed the best option since I'm concerned about concrete damage to my basement walls. I have two walls in the otherwise dry basement that leak. This only occurs with extraordinary rain falls and we've been hit with a very wet Spring in the South East. As a new home owner I'm concerned about this issue above all others in my 1940's era farm house.

Now I've already searched for "French Drain" solutions and I'm a little confused, so I'm aware of the search function in forums, but I'm going to think that every drainage issue is probably a little different. Our home inspector was very thorough and he warned us that we would probably see water on the two walls in question - he was correct. We've seen record amounts of rain already this year and I just want to nip this in the bud.

His suggestion was what he called a French Drain on the exterior walls in need of the drainage. My confusion comes from research that I've done on here and on other sites that indicates that a TRUE French Drain is actually a drain that goes beneath the footers of the basement floor, the interior of the basement is being drained. The trouble I'm having with this is that my knee jerk reaction is to stop the rain water from even hitting either of these walls? I don't know which method is "correct" in my case, and I think I'm having a hard time understanding ground water, versus rain water maybe? Are they the same?

Pictures are worth a 1,000 words: The first photo is showing the sloping of the yard coming off the driveway and into little piece of grass before it hits the basement walls and drains inside eventually. The second photo is a major source of this drainage issue, inside the basement there's actually a couple of pencil eraser sized holes just seeping water currently.
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Old 05-05-2013, 12:45 PM   #2
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Water in basement in older home


The other wall in need of attention, and where the trouble is beginning Water collecting and spilling underneath the deck and (poorly built) addition. Instead of trying to dig a trench/drain along this exterior wall (all but impossible in this situation with the deck and addition in the way) my thought is the bury one LONG French Drain pipe from one far left corner to the house past the deck and addition and into the yard, far away. The water coming in heavily now is coming in mostly from this area where it's just running along under the deck etc and into the basement.
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Old 05-05-2013, 01:15 PM   #3
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Water in basement in older home


A better side profile picture of my house. The thought is to take a drainage pipe from the far left of the house and drain the rain water to the right, under the yard in the far right and away from the house. What's not clear in the photos is that beyond the red car there's an extreme little hill that is already draining pre-existing drainage pipes used to divert gutter water. I was also thinking that I might be able to utilize some of that drainage system to also help divert the excess water.

This is the advice I got from the home inspector but I'd love some more input. I'm also thinking of getting some advice locally from a professional, even though I'd like to do most of this myself. Thoughts are certainly appreciated! Thanks.
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Old 05-05-2013, 02:23 PM   #4
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Water in basement in older home


The topic of drainage, French Drains, perimeter drains, wet basements etc. has been discussed repeatedly on this forum. Many people have had similar problems to yours. I suggest you do a search on the threads, you will find many opinions and ideas on how to handle issues such as yours.

A bit of terminology may help you frame your questions. The term "French Drain" refers to a patented drainage system developed by one Samuel French, which consisted of a trench filled with stones, designed to drain land. Still in use. There is also a term "french drain" which has sometimes been used to refer to drains used in France for sewage collection. Regardless, the modern term for a subsurface drainage system designed to collect groundwater from around a building is a perimeter drain. If you use that term, it will be unambiguous.

Another bit of terminology. The rainwater which collects on the surface of the ground is known as surface water. Once the water enters the ground, it becomes groundwater. Even though both types of "water" are made of the same molecules, they behave quite differently due to the medium through which they flow.

Virtually every post on this forum has correctly pointed out that the starting point for managing a basement water problem is to address the surface water. Gutters need to empty 20 or so feet away from the building. Ground needs to be sloped away from the house at least 2 percent. You may need to dig shallow ditches (swales) to direct water away from the house. In many cases, addressing the surface water problem will alleviate or possibly eliminate your problem. Addressing surface water is much less expensive than addressing groundwater, so you absolutely want to start with surface water.

If surface water actions fail to eliminate the problem, you now have a much bigger issue. If water is entering your basement, this means that the level of groundwater outside the house is higher than the basement floor. The goal of any groundwater management system is to lower the groundwater level to a minimum of a foot or so below basement floor level. Note that the elevation of your footers is totally irrelevant, since footers are typically made of concrete, and concrete is not affected by water. Your goal is to reduce the groundwater level to below basement floor level, to keep your basement dry.

There are three typical alternatives considered to address high groundwater. Option one is to dig an outside perimeter drain. Outside means the drain is outside the basement wall. The least costly way to do this is at the time of construction, but of course if this had been done in your case, you would not be on this forum asking for advice. So presumably there is no existing perimeter drain.

Installing a perimeter drain requires installation of perforated pipe around the perimeter of the basement, typically at least a foot below the level of the basement floor. The exact details of the installation have been discussed many times on this forum, I will not repeat them here. The groundwater collected by the perimeter drains must be directed somewhere lower than the drain, which can be a storm sewer, the road, or possibly a low spot on your property. If there is no convenient point lower than your drain available, you will need a sump pump in a sump pit. Details of construction of a sump pump and pit have been discussed many times on this forum, I will not repeat here.

It is also possible to install a perimeter drain on the inside of the basement wall. This typically involves hammering up the floor near the wall, installing perforated pipe, and either running the drain out to a low point by gravity (as in method above) or installing a sump pump and pit.

The third option is to attempt to waterproof your basement walls. I know of no one who has had success doing this from the inside. To do it from the outside requires excavating the soil from around the basement wall, cleaning the wall, then applying some sort of waterproofing compound like bitumen, bentonite panels, or similar. Unfortunately, even if you get the walls waterproofed, the groundwater will likely come up through small cracks in the basement slab, so this isn't much of a solution, and I do not recommend it.

Conclusion is that you should start by managing surface water, if that proves inadequate consider whether an interior or exterior perimeter drain is the way to go.
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Old 05-05-2013, 02:23 PM   #5
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Water in basement in older home


Your problem is, that the house has that slope on the deck side, that is directing the water towards that side of the foundation. All you can really do, is build a berm to direct the water away from the garage & house. Also you may end up having to dig around the foundation on all four sides of the house, to install a perimeter drain system to direct any ground water around the footings, into a sump well, if there is not already one.

Another item that I can see, is that your gutters and downspouts are a little undersized, along with the fact that the water is directed into that plastic drain tile, are you sure that there is no clog in the line, which can also cause backup against the foundation.
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Old 05-05-2013, 02:36 PM   #6
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Water in basement in older home


Dan pretty well summed it up, but I'll add this. About the closest you'll come to "guaranteeing" the basement walls won't leak on those two sides is if you remove the deck, excavate to the bottom of footing, and install a perimeter drain with good free-draining stone surounding it. Every thing else will be a practice of trial and erro, and "might" work, but you won't know until you get a very wet season. It looks like you have plenty of drop to the road behind the house that you could do all of this from the exterior w/o the need to tear-up the interior or need a sump crock/pit..........
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Old 05-05-2013, 02:47 PM   #7
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Water in basement in older home


Thank you very much for the extraordinary details Daniel. That's great information. Sounds like I can easily try to do this myself and if it works, great, if not on to step two. Do you think I can simply try to divert the water with a small ditch along the side of the house and in front of the deck - obviously away from the house.

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Another item that I can see, is that your gutters and downspouts are a little undersized, along with the fact that the water is directed into that plastic drain tile, are you sure that there is no clog in the line, which can also cause backup against the foundation.
That's a valid point - I assumed that the gutters were draining properly away from the house but I certainly can't prove it currently! Looks like they drain into some solid black piping, I'll examine this connection more thoroughly once the rain finally stops. Thank you all for the input.
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Old 05-05-2013, 02:53 PM   #8
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Water in basement in older home


This Summer looks like it will just continue to rain forever. If you are willing to foot the cost of having a plumber camera snake the drain tile, I would maybe have them do that, then you can see what the previous owner did, and where they run to.
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Old 05-05-2013, 06:57 PM   #9
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Reminds me of MY wet basement, every spring literally hundreds of gallons of water would come in the one sump pit I installed, and it would be a steady flow for WEEKS.
I discovered the actual cause was not ground water at all, not in the usual sense, what it was, is in 1880 there was a railroad roundhouse on what is now my property, all but 1/2 acre of the 32 acres was sold off over the decades and the depot/roundhouse was demolished around 1920. My house built in 1930 was built over two 12" clay drain tiles whose tops are about 7' below ground- that I figured was once a drain for the roundhouse turntable, and water tanks.

They dug the basement for the house, ran into that drain and simply took up the sections under the house, poured foundation walls and put the house in leaving the open ends of the drain inches below the dirt floor of the basement.
With the snow melt, 30 acres of hay field worth of water would wind up collecting on the remnants of that drain thru every gap, fill it up and wind up in my basement!
The tiles are 12" diamete and 12" long, so that's a lot of joints on a pipe that is around 150 feet long or more to where the roundhouse once was.

It wasn't untill I dug out the ground under the kitchen which once was the back porch that I disdovered ANOTHER 12" drain tile and then I figured out where all the water was coming from- two 12" 1880s era drain tiles.
Neither the city nor the county had any records of them. When I added a room on the back of the house I ran into the other drain, put a sump there too, making it 3 sump pits and 3 pumps.

One day I came home for lunch and discovered 5 feet of water in the little basement under the new room addition- the pump had failed, the water height equalized the pressure in the drain tile and stopped rising. The water was ice cold, all the snow melting and then heavy rain.

I put another 1/3 hp pump in and turned it on, it ran for 2 DAYS non stop before the water level dropped- it was barely sufficient to keep up with the flow that was still coming in! I measured it coming it at around 40 gals/minute, here's a video of the flow once it got down to the pit level and started slowing down, from June 2008:



That was when I rented an excavator and dug up both drain tiles 50 feet back from the house to the fence line, plugged up all the open ends in the back and the other ends in the front which I also dug up- with backfill and concrete. Not a drop of water has come in any of the sump pits since then.

A 30 sec exposure image in one of the tiles



Sometimes the causes of things like this basement water are hidden like these tiles were, and it's assumed to be just high ground water or surface water, but in reality the totally unexpected freak cause like this happens, and it's only by accident you even discover the REAL cause!
Like I said, the county had no idea about them, the pipes are older than their maps, they dont appear on the old city maps either, who would have thought long forgotten, uncharted drain pipes from a long ago demolished railroad roundhouse would be under your house causing the annual water deluge!
It ran me $350 or so to rent the excavator for the weekend, but dang, I'm very glad to not have to deal with that freaking water every spring- 5 years of dry so far!!!

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Old 05-06-2013, 05:20 AM   #10
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Water in basement in older home


think of your home's bsmt as similar to a ship's hull below the waterline,,, its then much easier to understand how to keep bsmts dry,,, God didn't intend for man to have basements otherwise He'd have made sure all men know 1, water runs downhill; 2, seeks its own level; 3, takes the path of least resistance; & 4, rushes to fill a void ( try making a hole in a tub full of wtr ! )

once you understand & accept His rules of water, its fairly easy to waterproof OR manage leaking water,,, most h/o's manage as the cost of waterproofing is much, MUCH higher than just installing the sub-floor drain, sump, & pump
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Old 05-06-2013, 01:51 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by itsreallyconc View Post
think of your home's bsmt as similar to a ship's hull below the waterline,

Aye captain!
Permission to board the vessel, SIR?
Thank you!

I consider a homes' vapor barrier along the same vein, doesn't matetr if it's liquid water or gas, it wanst to move, and the slightest hole, crack, or tear is like a hole in the plastic swimming pool liner in an above ground pool.
The ship's hull is a good analogy

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