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pkovo 03-09-2008 01:59 AM

Info/advice needed for basement leak 60 Yr old House
I own a ranch home with a basement (1/2 finished unfinished) that was built in late 40s or early 50s and have questions regarding basement flooding. For the most part, my basement is dry, and not humid. I have a radon remediation system consisting of two 4 pipes through the slab on either end of the house in the center about 24 form the foundation wall. If I get a sustained hard steady rain, I will start to hear water sloshing from the radon remediation system. Presumably, the water table is rising and I am hearing the system trying to suck the water that collects beneath the pipes.

In the past few years we have had two big rain storms in which the water table got high enough so the sloshing stopped as the water table rose to my floor level, and water started to seep in through cracks in the floor. In each instance, the timing was such that right as this happened, the rain backed off and the water subsided so I had no damage, however, I dont want to rely on luck the next time we have one of these rare storms and Im looking for information on a possible remedy. Worth noting, in each of these storms my neighbors fared worse than I, some getting inches of water. My downspouts all drain far from the house, and the grading is good, problem only occurs with very heavy sustained rains.

I noticed on the unfinished side of my basement there is a spot that looks like there was a sump pit that was sealed up. There is a square metal plug (cleanout??) there now, but the patched area is a circle that is about 24 in diameter. I would think for my situation a sump with a pump would be perfect to relieve the water table just in these rare instances, but my concern is the house is so old that the appropriate drainage may not be in place. On the other hand, the fact that it seems like there was one there before makes me think maybe it is. Any idea on what would have been normal construction practice in this regard for a house of this age?

Also, does the sloshing I hear from the radon remediation indicate anything? Perhaps a clue that maybe theres adequate drainage. Assuming no special drainage is in place, if a sump was added could it be effective, or would it just be a situation where it would relieve that one specific area? Any ideas/help would be very appreciated.

justdon 03-09-2008 09:57 AM

"I" would explore that area where the sump pump may have been. Lots of dufass owners seal that up in dry years cause 'we dont need no pump'. I would gently dig and proba around and SEE if their is drain tile running to this sump hole,,,whats it 'sealed' with?? Filled with concrete??

OR is there a pump in there and the hole a access pipe for a drain pipe when needed??

FIRST of all,,,MOST homeowners always THINK that the grade and slope around the house is "GOOD" altho several pockets and puddles appear after a good rain event,and go away quickly. MOST water problems start with slope and drainage from roof. 6" slope in first 2' isnt too much slope,,more is better,,,then another 4" in next 4' and absolutely NO puddles or like within 50 feet of the house. It forms channels and runs in,,,road of least resistance. That done a sump pump backup system for the biggies is a no brainer. ALL soils are different and present dif problems!!

ONCE outside is REALLY good,,,then see if you can get that sump outfit back to functioning(AND a alarm on THAT outlet where it sounds if NO elec. to it. MY son had a pump,,rained like crazy,,,sump want working because of a blown out outlet upstream of that pump outlet. IF possible run a new wire with pump as ONLY use.(same should be done with freezers). A light on,,,and an alarm off wired in,,,AND not pushed in back of outet either,,,wrapped on screw!!

Might try doing unfinished part first IF you are cutting crete and installing drain tile, then they have some cool baseboard systems for already finished areas. unless you can fold carpet back, do and replace.

Water is frustrating,,,and a real problem,,,even ONE time!!Good luck-don-

pkovo 03-09-2008 05:58 PM

Thanks for the info. I do want to explore the area that has been sealed, but it has been sealed with concrete. I'm guessing it was filled with rock, then just the top was sealed with concrete, but who knows. I'm not sure if I can remove the odd cleanout plug without chipping away the concrete around it. It's got some sealant that looks like silicone, at the very least I'll have to remove it. I'll probably start by just removing it.

It just seems odd to me if the pit was there that anyone would close it up. I also am a little perplexed at why they would leave a plug in the floor there. The only thing I can think of is they figured if they got water, they could remove the plug and drain it there, but of course that wouldn't work if the water table was up. Have you heard of them being sealed up with a plug left in place?

I have my downspouts piped out to the street, and I'm lucky to have a fairly level lot downsloping away from the house in the front yard to the street. The grading is good and I don't get puddling even in the worst storms. It could probably be a tad better under my deck, which is an area I'll remedy later this spring when it's a bit warmer out.

I think the fact that in the few years since I bought the house we have had some pretty historical rainstorms plays into it. There's probably a good chance I could leave it all alone and not have an issue for years, but I would rather be prepared in case we get another whopper of a storm.

justdon 03-09-2008 07:55 PM

Sure that sealant isnt just pipe dope?/ is there electrical to this pit in any way?? Is your floor level alot lower than sewer line to street?? Is it set up to pump UP to sewer level?? I always say cant hurt what your not aware of,,,I would chip out that thin cement over the top and see whats in there,,,maybe try removing the plug and checking there first. IS the previous owner around and available IF you ask HIM???

This is MOST interesting,,,lettuce no whatca find!!

pkovo 03-10-2008 02:37 PM

Truthfully, I'm not sure what the sealant is. I was real tempted to try and take the plug off yesterday, but given that water table is still pretty high(I could still hear sloshing under my radon puipes last night), and my wife is due with our first child tomorrow, I figured I had better wait until the timing is better.

The floor is substantially lower then the sewer line. 4.5 feet at least, so presumably if this was a sump pit, a pump would have been needed. When the house was built, it had a septic tank. The old hookup for the septic is still there, diconnected of course, and is at about the same height as the sewer line. The only original outlet that I have seen in the basement is within 5' of this patched area. There are old hookups for a washer and dryer in that area as well, so I don't know if perhaps the outlet was just there for those. However the washer and dryer now reside upstairs.

The previous owners were only in the house for 4 years. I suspect it was sealed well before they moved in.

I started poking around outside my foundation yesterday, and found something else interesting under my deck on the corner of my house. There's a pipe (looks to be old cast iron perhaps??) right at the corner in a spot where I presume there used to be a downspout. At first I thought maybe it was a typical gutter pipe that would run to the street, but upon further inspection, it looks as if it goes straight down. Although now frowned upon, I thought it used to be common practice to have gutters drain to the sewer line, but this house used to have septic. Is it possible that this pipe goes down to drain tiles at the footer, and subsequently to the now sealed sump pit?? I'm going to have to explore this as well.

My next door neighbor has been in his house for upwards of 40 years, so nest time I see him I'm going to ask if he knows anything about how the basement/drainage was initially setup.

justdon 03-10-2008 06:53 PM

Sounds REAL strange!!. YES check with neighbor,,,sometimes they know more than anyone ever could. That outside pipe doesnt sound GOOD,,,unless it just pipes downspout water away and 'not' into sewer or septic,,,that would flood a septic in NO time!!

"COULD" be that sump hole drained the washer and then pumped it up to the sewer level OR outside with its own line!! Makes quite a difference IF there is drain tile draining into it.

Congrads on the pending birth of that baby,,,you WILL have your hands full,,,for say 18-20 years there!!

IF that sealant isnt way HARD,,like pipe dope should stay sorta,take a wrench down and unscrew it. Tap on it a bit,,,IF it unscrews,look and screw back in,,,smell for 'sewer' gas!! If it doesnt stick a cheater on it,,you can always find an expansion plug pretty quick IF you need it,,but doubt you can hurt that part!! If its rusted past belief you have a project at hand. See if that is pipe below it or an open pit??(flashlight and long screw driver required!!) OR long piece of wire,,,see how deep it is!!

pkovo 01-15-2009 10:40 PM

OK, so the day after my last post I tried to remove the luck. I then started to chip away at the concrete, but didn't get far. Then, the next day my daughter was born and this fell of my radar. Now, 10 months later and I'm thinking about it again. In the past ten months I've had no problems with water, but still would like to be prepared for the next "big" rainstorm.

More about the "sealed spot" in the unfinished side of my basement. It's about 2' from the back wall of my house, and about 4' from the end wall, so roughly in the corner. The plug is not centered, but off to the side abit. There is an old unused water hookup in this part of the basement and I believe it used to be where the washer and dryer were. I took a few pics, but it's kind of hard to tell much from them. ANyone got any ideas? I'm still thinking it could be an old sealed sump pit, and if so there may be drain tiles running to it.

My other thought was, each of the two times the water table rose to the level of my basement floor, I saw water start to come through gaps all over the floor. It didn't seem like one area was any more prone than the other, it just flowed up evenly. It makes me think that the ground below the floor is probably porous enough that if I installed a sump pit, even without drain tile, it would might work because the water would flow through the porous soil to that spot .

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