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stereocoyote 09-17-2011 09:04 AM

Was this right?
Hey all,

New to the forum:). I'm a home owner with some water drainage issues. This place seems to have the most knowledgeable answers regarding this area so I'm hoping someone can help me.

I have an exterior door in my basement (which leads to the backyard) that was installed before I bought the house. They blasted away part of the 4 ft tall foundation to put the door in. It opens to a 10 foot curved walkway that has 2 retaining walls on either side and leads to the backyard.

I have a very small plot of .12 acres. I live on a small 'island' in Western, MA, so my water table is less than 1 foot below my footing.

Here's how I know that.

During the thaw of last year (among other issues) I noticed that water was coming in from under the bottom of the door and getting into the (finished) basement. I went outside and shoveled away some of the landscape rock that's on the ground in that walk way and put a utility pump there to suck away the water from the foundation.

So, this summer I called in 2 drainage engineers (as I wanted a couple opinions) and they both told me that I should dig down right at the bottom of the door and about 3 feet away from the door (into the walkway) and the entire width of the door. They said I should do that until about a 10 inches beneath my footer. Then fill it up with 2 inch stone. The idea was that the water would drain easily through the stone and go underneath the house and reach my sump pump which is right near the door and get pumped away.


My house sits almost on the water table (as I found when I dug this hole out and couldn't go more than 10 inches below the footing due to it just filling up with ground water). Could this remedy introduce other issues? If that gets close to full with water and freezes will it push my retaining wall out of whack? Or add additional strain on my foundation?

I was thinking of countersinking a bucket into pit of rock with the top of the bucket flush with the ground there and covering it with a big patio block. This way if water seems to get close to the top I can just put my utility pump in there and pump it away before it gets to the bottom of the door. But in winter the water will more than likely be frozen, so that's only a seasonal fix.

Thoughts on all this. Did I do the right thing? Should I counter sink the bucket? Any ideas on how to get water away in the winter?

Thanks for any and all help!!!

Bondo 09-18-2011 08:10 AM


I have an exterior door in my basement (which leads to the backyard) that was installed before I bought the house. They blasted away part of the 4 ft tall foundation to put the door in. It opens to a 10 foot curved walkway that has 2 retaining walls on either side and leads to the backyard.
Ayuh,... Is the backyard lower than the entrance door,..??

I'd prefer a drainage swale leading away from the house...

AllanJ 09-18-2011 08:20 AM

Do not dig below the footers up against the footers for more than about a foot or two (no pun intended), otherwise you can get a ground/earth collapse.

In from the footers, respecting a 1:3 slope down from the bottom edge of the footers you can dig a trench for gravel or a perforated drain pipe. For example 12 inches in from the footer the trench bottom can be 4 inches below the footer bottoms.

If you can dig the pit (a little away from the house) a foot below the surface of the accumulated ground water, then get the sump pump sucking water directly from this new pit for a week or two, if you are lucky you wil desaturate the soil in that vicinity allowing you to dig a little lower. Keep the sump pump running for another week or two. Repeat the process until you get the pit to the desired depth for the bucket filled with rocks. The sump pump will have to be operating year 'round otherwise the ground water will creep back up to the original level.

Future project (if not already installed years ago):Install a perimeter drain system all the way around the foundation either under the basement floor on the inside or down at foundation footing level under the flower beds on the outside.

Daniel Holzman 09-18-2011 10:59 AM

This post is puzzling. You brought in not one but two drainage engineers. Presumably they were engineers, not derelicts (although there are those on this forum who seem to think that all engineers are derelicts, but I digress...). You presumably paid these engineers to write you a report. Presumably they actually observed the property, did some tests, and you told them about the very high groundwater level. Then they made some recommendations, presumably in the form of a report. Now you are asking for opinions on an internet chat forum, from people you have never met, who have never seen the site, you post no pictures, and offer a relatively vague description of the problem and your proposed solution. Was there something in the engineer's report you did not understand, or do you have reason to believe the engineer's reports were defective? If so, you should discuss the report and recommendations with the engineer directly. When I do a report for a client, I expect to get paid, and I expect to answer any reasonable questions about the report, and I am certain your engineers have the same level of client respect.

runoff 09-20-2011 06:40 PM

was this right?
In my humble opinion, if you have a slope on each side of the door of a walk out basement, you shouldn't have a walk out basement. Unless you have an elaberate drainage system, you will have a build up of water at the door. I question whether or not the water you see is from an underground water table. To me it seems like trapped water. If it were me, I would put the basement wall back in , get rid of the door and backfill the wall. Having said that, you need to make sure that you have a proper functioning footing drain system. You should never see a build up of water around a foundation.

stereocoyote 10-05-2011 02:23 PM

1 Attachment(s)
The engineers came by and gave me this advice, wouldn't take any money, and suggested that I do it myself since they gathered I was handy enough. I'm curious to get this forums opinion on the drainage issue around the door.

I've attached a photo, I realize blocking off the door would be ideal, but won't be happening. There is a corrugated drainage pipe, but I have no idea where it daylights, nor if it's working at all.., My specific questions are:

1. What are the risks of doing the job as these engineers suggested (if any)?
2. Should I countersink a bucket and cover it with a large patio block in case water does accumulate, this way I can pump it out easily with a utility pump?

I fixed a gutter spout that was sending water to this door area, so I'm guessing that will help ALOT, but just curious about your thoughts on this particular method that was suggested.

I've since dug down to just above the water table and filled the hole with 2 1/2 inch stone, seems to work well, but only time will tell, wanted all of your opinions on this. Thanks.

stereocoyote 10-08-2011 10:13 AM


pls8xx 10-08-2011 04:32 PM

Was this right?
No. You are putting a band aid on a gunshot.

The photo does not give enough information to determine the best and most economical fix. But it looks to me that the only real fix will be to excavate an area at the back of the house, install retaining walls around an area that includes landings and steps to above the natural back yard grade, and then walls and a roof to inclose the area as part of the house. the retaining walls should be tall enough to allow the grading to slope away from the house.

runoff 10-08-2011 06:09 PM

was this right?
The picture does not show enough. A picture much further away from the house would help. I don't know what kind of engineers you are consulting with but if they are not foundation or geotechnical civil engineers then they are wasting your money. Engineer doesn't mean anything unless they are acting within their expertise.
Having said all of that. Unless the ground at the door is the highest point of elevation, then you are playing with a time bomb. There should never be a water problem at the foundation of a house. There absolutely must be a gravity escape for water away from the house. Not only that but those retaining walls are way too close to the door. Those retaining walls are not only retaining dirt but they are retaining water also unless they have a drainage pipe behind the walls at the base. Whoever put that door in your basement needs his head examined. This will give you problems as long as you live there. I'm sorry for being so blunt but not being straight with you would be wrong. Please forgive me if I have offended you. That's not what my intentions were.

stereocoyote 10-12-2011 11:03 AM

I realize all the inherent issues with this set up.. it's on I inherited and am not able to afford a major overhaul.

I just wanted to know if what was suggested and if my efforts make sense to you, based on my limitations.

I've regraded the lawn on either side of the retaining walls so they slope any water away from this area, before the were sloped toward it, There are also steps at the end of this walkway (i see about the poor photo I provided) that step up into the grade of the yard. I've also extended my downspouts on either side of this door (on the edge of my house). So I've addressed the run off and I'm trying to now fix areas in my yard that create percolation. There are a few dips in the yards and I want to correct the grade so that it sheds down to the street, but that's a bit of work, still more affordable that tearing it all out and doing it right, which would have been nice in the first place, but oh well.

Time will tell if my efforts were helpful I guess.. I have back up with the counter sunk bucket if not.. here's hoping.

runoff 10-12-2011 01:32 PM

was this right?
I don't think the bucket will work too well. I think better would be to install a perforated pipe surronded in stone. Start one running along (parallel to) the foundation and under the door. Then connect one or two tees and run then out beyond the house. Makeing sure the perforated pipe is all surrounded in stone. This is one area that I would bring the stone all the way to the surface to catch any rain or runoff imediately and carry it away from the house. Without seeing more, that's my best guess.

stereocoyote 10-12-2011 03:42 PM

Good idea. There's no way to daylight any perforated pipe though without some sort of pump, this is a really low spot and the yard is so high. That's why I thought the bucket would be a good backup, since I could pump it out of the bucket if the water level rises.

There is a perforated pipe there now, but I have no idea where it daylights, or if it works at all.. i have a willow nearby and I heard their roots seek out water and clog pipes alot.. so, who knows.

I'm going to see what this winter brings (supposedly going to be another tough one), and hopefully what I have will hold up... I'll know soon enough.

runoff 10-12-2011 04:00 PM

was this right?
do you have a down spout near by? is it connected to something underground or does it empty out onto the ground?

stereocoyote 10-14-2011 10:08 AM

There's a downspout at the end of the house on both sides. What I've done is routed one to a pipe and sent it out to near the road about 15 feet away, this will be underground once I finish the regrading in this area.

The other downspout was clogged and was sending the water directly down along the foundation to this walkway and retaining wall (coming from the left of this photo). Once I saw that I regraded the area so that water sheds down away from the house and retaining wall and extended that downspout about 4 feet away from the house and walkway.

I truly believe that fixing that 2nd spout will alleviate a ton of my issues, once I saw what was happening during a recent bad storm, it was very clear that a ton of water was getting to this area specifically from the clogged downspout. Now that it's routed away, I doubt I'll see much of any buildup, but if I do, I have the 3X3 foot of crushed stone area that will contain it, hopefully to be soaked up through my sump pump which is on the other side of the wall near the door.

I'm also regrading this entire corner of my yard (to the right of this photo) so that water doesn't sit in pools around my yard/foundation, now it will shed away to the road. I'm having a professional come in and do this.

I've also fixed a broken downspout on the other end of the house that was dumping the water right near the foundation, now it routes away from the house under the deck in a pipe about 10 feet away from the foundation. I did this first and noticed a lot less water pooling near my foundation and running along it. I regraded this entire front corner of the house to shed away to the road, so now even if I didn't fix that front spout, the water would have just shed toward the road anyway, but since I fixed the downspout it really drops the majority of the water far away.

So with all that, I really really hope I've fixed the issue. I know you need more photos to get the full picture of what I'm talking about.. I'll post some if this turns out not to work after the 2012 spring thaw... that's the true test. But I'm happy with where it is now... the bucket may prove to be useless, but it was my crazy idea of back up in case all my other efforts fail... drop the utility pump in the countersunk bucket in the walkway and pump the water away.

Hopefully I won't need that.. but we'll see.. hell if it succeeds I may photos as well, just to show what worked for me.

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