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Old 09-13-2011, 09:32 PM   #1
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Wet basement - don't know where to start


We just bought and moved into our home two months ago here in central NJ, the home is about 30 years old with a block basement (partial basement with a crawl space). We pretty quickly noticed several water problems with our basement. During the first heavy rain, we noticed that pretty much all the downspouts of the house were clogged and overflowing. And low and behold, right after that rain we had water in the crawl space. I also noticed a few water stain on the well. We cleaned up the water and got the downspouts fixed just in time for Irene.

Then Irene came a few days later. During the storm, I noticed that in one corner of the house the downspout was still not working correctly and overflowed. And that seemed to be same corner of the house through which we got water in the crawl space again. In addition, the power went out, and the sump pump did not work. The basement did not flood, but the sump put pretty much filled up to the very top edge and the basement walls got really wet. I also noticed water leaking into the basement through two cracks between some blocks. In addition, there were some big water stains on some wall, and also the bottom of the basement walls got pretty wet pretty much all around the basement.

Now it really sucks that we have to deal with this so shortly after our move. The sellers of course mentioned nothing into their disclosure, and the basement was dry during our inspection. We had a recent heavy rain again with the fixed downspout, and the basement stayed dry. But the walls and floor in the crawl space showed some sign of wetness again, such as water stains.

So now I don't even know where to start. I am afraid if I call a basement waterproofing company, they will come and try to charge me large amounts of money to install drainage or waterproof the basement. But I suspect that there are some issues with the outside of the house that could address the water issues more directly. For instance, the soil behind the house does not seem to have enough slope and gets really soggy during heavy rains. In addition, the previous owners installed a wooden deck on what looks like a concrete slab, but I am not sure where and how well it drains.

So what is the best way to get some idea on what needs to be done? Should I hire a structural engineer to get some advice first and hire the right contractors from there? Or should I got with a waterproofing company and let them handle it?

Any advice on whether I could go after the previous home owners? Should they have know about the issues, or can they just claim ignorance? How much of a burden of proof is on me?

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

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Old 09-13-2011, 09:40 PM   #2
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Wet basement - don't know where to start


Calm down. You must have money to burn and an appetite to spend it.

You have experienced some freak conditions right out of the start-gate. Why not sit back and give it six months and take notice of what takes place in a recurring manner and then get out you check book? Nothing can happen that can't be fixed. Give it some time.

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Old 09-14-2011, 06:23 AM   #3
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Wet basement - don't know where to start


You said it stayed dry after you fixed the downspout problem. Why pursue it further? A lot of basements leaked during the past few weeks that never experienced any problems before. I wouldn't be inclined to base an expensive long term fix on any extraordinary event(s). Wait it out and see what happens during a more normal period. Heck, consider yourself lucky that you didn't have more issues with the sump pump out of service.
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Old 09-14-2011, 06:25 AM   #4
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Wet basement - don't know where to start


Those were two unusually heavy rain storms back to back, unlikely to repeat any time soon. 90% of basement water problems can be fixed or reduced by having gutters/downspouts that get water at least 6' away from the foundations, and grading that does the same thing. Add extensions to the downspouts as needed, regrade if needed.
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Old 09-14-2011, 07:15 AM   #5
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You may well have a properly functioning subfloor French drain around your foundation but because the sump pump was not running, you have not proven anything.

You need to observe the basement walls after a week with the sump pump running all along and a dehumidifier in use and no water pooling up against the outside of the house. If the level in the pit covers any drain pipes emptying into the pit let alone almost reaches the floor level then the French drain and all the soil all around is saturated and temporarily out of commission. Allow a week of pumping out in order to dry things out.

SOmetimes there is no drain pipe system emptying into the sump pump pit. You are taking your chances finishing your basement without planning for a 100 year storm which planning can include having to install a French drain. A continuous layer of marble sized or larger gravel as part of the preparation under the basement slab may make it unnecessary to have a French drain around the perimeter.
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Old 09-14-2011, 09:42 PM   #6
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Thanks for the responses so far. I need to continue to monitor the situation. After Irene we had another rain storm where the sump pump was working, and the walls became pretty wet again. I am not sure whether this proves anything or not, since we walls were already pretty wet from Irene. But at least we did not get standing water in the crawl space again, thanks to the fixed downspout. But I don't think I am planning on finishing this basement.

I think I will start with grading changes and see how that goes. Can I hire any landscaping company for that? We also have a brick walkway in front of the house that sagged a bit and seems to be sloped towards the house now. Can the landscaping company fix that as well?
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Old 09-14-2011, 10:11 PM   #7
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Make a list of all the outdoor things you want done and then interview two or three landscape companies before you agree to do anything with any one of them. Give them all the same information.
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Old 09-15-2011, 08:16 AM   #8
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Wet basement - don't know where to start


WOW! You have described exactly what is happening to me. My fiance and I just bought our house over 2 months ago in Central Jersey and had problems in our basement with water. We don't have a sump pump but bought one for Hurricane Irene since we experienced this issue with the storm that occurred 2 weeks before. It wasn't useful since we lost electricity that night and we didn't have a generator! We have called a couple of people and everyone has a different opinion regarding options to do but they all agree with the grading outside of our home. So we will be fixing that issue on our own. We did seek information on what to do to prevent water from coming into our "basement" and two out of three said that installing a system in the home was the way to go. The other person told us that we can waterproof the outside of the home and that would help with the problem. We are taking baby steps to see what works, but starting off with the slope outside of our house. We decided to go with the system since we have a split level home and the "basement" is livable space. So we are doing a waiting game until the spring to see if what we have done works. I know its a long time of not using a space, but I can let you know if the system works by next spring if you would like. We are also getting our walkway near the home redone since the walkway was sloping towards the house. Let me know if you get any other DIY info on waterproofing the outside of your house. We are definitely going to attempt to do this on our own.

Last edited by jmcphers; 09-15-2011 at 08:18 AM. Reason: additional info
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Old 09-15-2011, 10:15 AM   #9
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Wet basement - don't know where to start


The sump pump wasn't running during Hurricane Irene and the water never got above the hole?! You don't have "water" problems, moisture problems maybe, but not "water"...

Grade off that "soggy" spot and like Bud said, keep an eye out over time.
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Old 09-15-2011, 07:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jmcphers View Post
WOW! You have described exactly what is happening to me. My fiance and I just bought our house over 2 months ago in Central Jersey and had problems in our basement with water. We don't have a sump pump but bought one for Hurricane Irene since we experienced this issue with the storm that occurred 2 weeks before. It wasn't useful since we lost electricity that night and we didn't have a generator! We have called a couple of people and everyone has a different opinion regarding options to do but they all agree with the grading outside of our home. So we will be fixing that issue on our own. We did seek information on what to do to prevent water from coming into our "basement" and two out of three said that installing a system in the home was the way to go. The other person told us that we can waterproof the outside of the home and that would help with the problem. We are taking baby steps to see what works, but starting off with the slope outside of our house. We decided to go with the system since we have a split level home and the "basement" is livable space. So we are doing a waiting game until the spring to see if what we have done works. I know its a long time of not using a space, but I can let you know if the system works by next spring if you would like. We are also getting our walkway near the home redone since the walkway was sloping towards the house. Let me know if you get any other DIY info on waterproofing the outside of your house. We are definitely going to attempt to do this on our own.
Definitely let me know what works for you. You can just update the thread and I will do the same.

Were you aware of the issues before you bought the house, or did your seller also not disclose anything about wetness or dampness problems?
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Old 09-15-2011, 07:46 PM   #11
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We had NO idea that it was a problem prior to buying the property. We saw a watermark on the door prior to buying the house and asked the seller. He told us that the neighbor caused flooding of his house MANY years ago which was caused by his pool but he has not had any trouble since then! We assumed that there was not a problem. Well, we found out that this wasnt true the first time it rained! Yes, our neighbor has a problem but there is definitely a problem in the basement regardless of the neighbor. The first time it rained, we had an issue with the neighbor's run-off, but we prepared ourselves to divert the water coming from their yard when Hurricane Irene hit us. No issue from neighbor's yard due to our measures, but water in basement still. I don't know if we can seek compensation from the seller from not disclosing this issue. If you find out otherwise, please let me know. As far as the grading of the property, we will work on that this weekend. I will let you know if the system works or doesnt work and if we find out (and try) other stuff to try and solve the problem.

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Old 09-15-2011, 09:16 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by jmcphers View Post
We had NO idea that it was a problem prior to buying the property. We saw a watermark on the door prior to buying the house and asked the seller. He told us that the neighbor caused flooding of his house MANY years ago which was caused by his pool but he has not had any trouble since then! We assumed that there was not a problem. Well, we found out that this wasnt true the first time it rained! Yes, our neighbor has a problem but there is definitely a problem in the basement regardless of the neighbor. The first time it rained, we had an issue with the neighbor's run-off, but we prepared ourselves to divert the water coming from their yard when Hurricane Irene hit us. No issue from neighbor's yard due to our measures, but water in basement still. I don't know if we can seek compensation from the seller from not disclosing this issue. If you find out otherwise, please let me know. As far as the grading of the property, we will work on that this weekend. I will let you know if the system works or doesnt work and if we find out (and try) other stuff to try and solve the problem.
I am sorry, you are in the same boat as me. Try to find some proof of knowledge of water issues by the previous home owner. Talking to the neighbors is probably a good idea to get a start. Then have a lawyer write a mitigation letter to the previous home owner asking for compensation for all the work you had to perform. I assume that if he lied on the disclosure he will know that he is on the hook.
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Old 09-16-2011, 06:30 AM   #13
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worked in central NY 15yrs ago as a bsmt waterproofing co GREAT times back then,,, can't recommend anyone in this thread however, if you'll send a note offlist, i'll tell you who to avoid & how this work is sold - good luck !

ps - call your atty & forget the outside work - waste of time & $ after regular downspout/grading work is done right !
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Old 09-16-2011, 06:50 AM   #14
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Hi!

I'm pretty new on this blog and not sure how to send you a note. If you can send me a message what to avoid when selecting a company, etc, that would be great!

Thanks!
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Old 09-16-2011, 07:38 AM   #15
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I don't seem to be able to send private messages either. Probably my account is to new or something.

itsreallyconc, can you please try to send me a message? I'd be really interested in the information you are willing to share.

Thank you!

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