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February 27, 2018

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Simple fix to a leaky basement

April 10, 2018

Here in southwest Virginia, flooded basements or crawlspaces are somewhat rare compared to many other more flood-prone areas. However, with the recent months' surge of snow, rain, and adverse weather, we have had several instances of pad leakage, slight water seepage, or even water running over a foundation wall which had been poured below grade. Here are two simple fixes to a leaky basement, without the high cost and questionable effectiveness of waterproofing solutions:

 

Downspout Pipes

We all know that clogged gutters are bad for roof drainage, so the first step for this solution to work is to check and clean your gutters. Once you know your gutters are draining properly into their downspouts, you can move on to the next step.

 

It is not enough to simply stick a 10-ft length of 4" drain pipe on each downspout if you have a full basement. Even with good grade away from the house, one customer had two inches of standing water in her basement after February's snow and rain mix raised the water table right through her basement pad. 

This home had been recently purchase by our client, and the previous owner had installed 4" NDS drain lines above grade at each corner of the house:

However, even with excellent grade away from her home, the water was still being dispersed too close to her foundation, which was a poured full basement. None of the actual walls were leaking, but the water found its way through a few cracks in the pad. To further worsen the situation, one of the pipes had completely broken off, and water was being drained in between the driveway and brick veneer at the garage:

 

We proposed several options to her, but eventually we collectively decided on the cheapest option, which ultimately is the most effective initial fix for a leaky basement: let's get the water from the roof and gutters as far away from the foundation as we need to so that it drains away from the house instead of next to the house. We installed several drain lines emptying into canisters by the road, which was plenty of distance downhill from the house:

Even with a significant hill behind her home, this solution prevented further leakage even with the heavy wet snow our region endured recently. By providing a quick and easy avenue for the roof runoff to follow, her water burden around the foundation was cut in half. These ditches for the buried NDS drain line also act as a de facto French drain, without the additional cost. Water from ground runoff would tend to follow the pipes and the ditch trajectory away from the home instead of under the foundation. 

 

This simple solution seemed to solve our client's problem in her basement, but several days after this heavy snow, some more water seepage appeared, making it necessary to consider the next step in exterior drainage.

 

French Drain

If your home already has functional downspout drain lines which are successfully diverting the water from your roof away from your foundation, and you are still having leak issues, you will need to first identify where the water is coming from and where any low spots are around your home, and install a French drain. To make this method most successful, your drain will need to have a downhill slope and drain to daylight away from your home. Otherwise, you will form a "dry well" of sorts and create a place for water to puddle underground.

 

Our customer for this example has a foundation wall which ends 12" below grade, a big no-no in construction best practices. To further complicate matters, a mudroom door and stoop sits right above a flat spot in the landscape grading right beside this wall, which creates a pressure-spot, causing the water table to rise above the foundation wall and sill plate, running into the basement.  

 

And by running, I mean really running, steadily into the basement. 

 

We noticed that the driveway, fence, and side yard area all is level and/or slopes gently toward where these walking stones are laid, right beside this concrete and stone veneer stoop. The leak into the basement was running right over the wall just behind the stoop. We initially decided to wait on installing the French drain after the first leak, in the February rains, but with the heavy wet snow in late March, the leak began again over the course of two days. 

 

After digging a French drain ditch 16" deep ( well below the top of the foundation wall) at the lowest point in the landscape, we ran the ditch about 40 feet away to the brim of the hill, installed a drainage canister, and re-graded the ditch and installed the sod we had removed.

We installed a pre-fabricated drain sock (perforated 4" NDS and styrofoam peanuts wrapped in silt fabric) in the 10-foot portion of the ditch right in front of the stoop and mudroom door, joined with a coupling to solid length of 4" NDS pipe which did not have any perforations, running to our canister just over the brow of the hill, away from the foundation of the house. We made sure to install the drain line with slope away from the house, which will carry water both inside and outside the pipe away from the house. Effectively, the ditch is a low-pressure area for water to travel away from where it has been sitting next to the stoop and leaking over the foundation wall.

 

Summary

If you have a water or moisture problem in your basement or crawlspace (or even if you don't and instead want to prevent an issue from developing), the first step is to ensure that your gutters are draining properly and then check your downspouts to see where they are emptying. IF they empty onto a splashblock, short drain pipe, or especially nothing, there is a high chance that the roof water is not being moved far enough away from your foundation for long term stability.

 

If draining your downspout water does not fix the problem, as with our first client, it is probably time to install a French drain to eliminate the source of the majority of surface runoff, either at the base of a hill behind the home (our first client) or to create a lower spot than the foundation wall to which surface water would tend to flow (our second example).

 

With these and other needed fixes in or around your home, call or message Cornerstone Building Solutions for help meeting your goals. Your home is your greatest asset; we are here to help you make it what you want it to be!

 

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