New Home; Wet Basement

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  #1  
Old 04-26-13, 09:12 AM
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Question New Home; Wet Basement

Hello from a DIY forum newbie,

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Here's the scenario I am facing:

My wife and I moved into our first home about three months ago with the expectation that we could expect a dry basement per the favorable Seller Condition Report. The particular home we found has a 3/4 finished basement. The unfinished portion houses a washer and dryer. We live in Milwaukee, WI and it's definitely been a wetter spring than normal. On three instances now during significant rainfall (the first coming only two weeks after closing), we've seen water enter our basement in two places.

The first location is through block window wells that are filling up and eventually, the water seeps in at the base of the window well. The window wells have very little gravel/stone in the bottom of them and it basically goes right into clay soil, which the water doesn't do a good job of penetrating. Digging down deeper and adding more gravel should fix this problem I would imagine.

Secondly, water seeps in at various points on the floor where the poured concrete connects to the bottom block. Nothing gushes in, but over time, it forms puddles that grow larger and larger. I can see that some of the moisture is getting behind the drywall. This is just in the unfinished portion of the basement; I don't know what's going on behind the drywall in the rest of the basement. I have learned that the previous owners finished the basement without permits about three years ago.

Like I mentioned above, the previous owners marked that they never had any water in their basement for the 8 years that they lived there. During this 8 year period, our area experienced at least two 100-year rain/flood events. So, although we have had a wet spring, I don't think it's comparable to those two flood events. And they didn't experience any moisture during those two times?!?!?! Hard to believe. Looking at all this, I am growing more and more suspicious about the previous owners' integrity when it comes to filling out their seller condition report honestly. Additionally, our neighbor mentioned to me that the previous owner of our home actually asked her if they could put a downspout extension on HER downspout because they were having some water issues.

The downspouts/pitch are not an issue with this as they are set up ideal for our home. The water is coming in on the side of the home directly below a newly poured concrete driveway which pitches away from our home. So... it is getting beneath the concrete.

I've had some contractors come out to give quotes... some want to address this problem through excavation and exterior drain tile repair. Others want to focus on interior drain tiles. Both will be costly and disruptive to either the inside our outside of our home.

Given all that, here are some questions I have:

1) What do you think the most reasonable fix might be? Any hunches?

2) Have any of you had any positive experiences with recouping repair costs from the prior owners in instances like this? I have talked to a real estate lawyer who would take my case on a contingency basis, but I have never been one to sue (I never have before), and would like to prevent this option if possible. I am thinking there is a remote possibility that the prior owner might just fess up and help out with the repair costs if I contact him directly. Otherwise, my hands may be tied.

Thanks for any thoughts. I've learned some good lessons the hard way with this situation. But, all things considered, it could be much worse.

~Cable
 
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  #2  
Old 04-26-13, 09:39 AM
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Welcome to the forum.
Unfortunately realistate laws differ from area to area (state and country in my case).
I know locally here, this can come back to bite the seller depending on how this Conditional report was handled during the sale.

Looking at the water issues itself...
The window wells will need to be dug up to repair where the water is now entering. If it's blocked off and not to be used as a window, it should be backfilled and graded away from the house.

As for inside vs. outside drainage.... This can be location, opinion, and or situation specific.
Personally, (using my home and ground conditions as a basis), I'd prefer an external job. Excavate the earth around the home, waterproof the foundation and install external weeping tiles (provided the landscape will support this). Not only will this provide the water a place to go, it'll seal up any cracks that exist.
The kicker to an external fix is you are still going to have to address in internal (potential) damage. If there is water behind the finished walls, there can be mold and or rot, which can be a health risk and a major issue if you try to sell.

An internal fix would address the interior damage (known and not) but will not prevent future water from coming in or further damage to the foundation. It'll be less costly but I don't personally feel it will resolve the whole problem.
 
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Old 04-26-13, 03:16 PM
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Count on at least threatening to sue if you want to recover.
I have learned that the previous owners finished the basement without permits about three years ago.
That's a point on your side in the argument.
Additionally, our neighbor mentioned to me that the previous owner of our home actually asked her if they could put a downspout extension on HER downspout because they were having some water issues.
And that's another. What sort of water issues? Where?

That said, the best place to stop water is outside. I would go with the exterior drains.
The water is coming in on the side of the home directly below a newly poured concrete driveway which pitches away from our home.
Possibly the basement didn't get wet before that was poured? If you can establish that, I would consider going after the contractor's bond on that job. Seems dubious with the neighbor's comment though.
 
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Old 04-26-13, 03:41 PM
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Double check the pitch on the driveway. It may level out near the house and actually be funneling water back toward the foundation. Check to see if it is sealed in anyway where the driveway meets the house.

If you have a basement, chances are that there already is some form of drainage tile around the perimeter of your home.

How deep are the window wells? and how much rain are we talking about? high concentrations of water are usually found as a result of the gutter system not properly handling the volume. Are the gutters secured to the house, have they pulled away from the house due to winter snow/icicle weight?
 
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Old 04-26-13, 04:25 PM
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All good advice, but I have a question. Who hired your inspector? Did you do it independently, or was he/she one suggested by your real estate agent? If the latter, he/she was just a facilitator for the sale, and inspected only the most blaring things. Sorry to say, most recoveries are limited to the cost of the inspection, as they have very little liability beyond that.
 
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Old 04-29-13, 01:09 PM
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Here are some of the answers to some of the follow up questions asked. Thanks for the responses!

The grading on the driveway itself Is definitely aggressively pitched away from the house the entire way, so that itself is not the issue.

Might this be an issue with the grading BENEATH the poured concrete driveway? Someone told me that even if the pitch is proper up top, that doesn't necessarily mean that things are kosher with the pitch of the ground beneath the driveway.

The window wells are about 2 feet deep, but I think the key issue there is that the window wells are filling from the BOTTOM up. This might tie in with my above thought.... that water pressure building up beneath the concrete and forcing its way through the glass block and my floor up against the wall.

The inspector was actually someone that I know and trust. He did notice some evidence of water damage in the basement, but none of it looked fresh. It was January and frozen when we inspected the home, so everything was ice at the moment in Milwaukee. My mentality was this: The previous owners took the time and money to partially finish their basement AND state that there was not water issues on the Seller Condition Report. Call me na´ve (which I probably am, dealing with my first home purchase), but I trusted them that this was the case.
 
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Old 05-01-13, 01:11 PM
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So what's your plan going forward?
 
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Old 05-01-13, 04:28 PM
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I too ask the same question..... So, you install a driveway and start to have water problems in the basement. Put 1 and 1 together and start the search there.

Give us some pictures of the outside, driveway to garage, from different angles. From what you have said, this is the place to start the investigation.
 
  #9  
Old 05-01-13, 06:23 PM
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You should also make sure the gutters are taking water. Many waterproofing jobs are foiled by having the gutters cleaned and drains snaked.
 
  #10  
Old 05-03-13, 06:23 AM
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My current plan is to wait over the next few months as we have continued spring/summer rain and observe what happens. Take some photos, jot some notes. That way, when I approach the previous owner, I can have an honest history of what is truly going on with the water seepage. Ideally, this will keep my emotion and bias out of the equation, and he will see simple facts of what is going on... and that these issues just don't generate themselves right on closing day.

If it is apparent that these are pre-existing issues that I was not informed about at the time of the sale, then I will ask the owner to pick up the cost for the repair (which route I will go for the repair, I haven't yet fully decided). Most likely, that request will not go over well, and if that is the case, I will get back in touch with the attorney that I spoke with who was already willing to take this case on a contingency basis. When I initially met with him way back in early March, he looked at the photos after the first time we had water in the basement and believed that there is about a 95% chance of recovery of repair costs... we have had water in the basement three times since that meeting.

For example, just last night, we had a few rain showers pass through the area (nothing like a torrential downpour... no flood alerts... etc.) and this morning, when I checked, sure enough, there was water in the same spots where the bottom block meets the poured concrete floor in the basement.

I agree that the driveway is the problem point that plays into this investigation and potentially, a major contributing factor to this issue, but since I did not pour the concrete, I have no honest idea of how things were with the old concrete. It is my thought that the previous owner poured the new driveway in an attempt to FIX the water problem through proper surface grading. It did not. It is a deeper issue. I cannot confirm what the water conditions were like before the driveway was poured. This driveway was poured in the last year or so. One of my neighbors told me that the previous owner's "friend" poured it for him, so maybe this turned out to be a relatively cheap attempt to fix the issue instead of opening up the can of worms that would come with drain tile work, excavation, re-sealing, and sump pump installation.

The gutters seem to be taking the water fine. I am seeing water making to the exits of the downspouts. Any minor drips I sealed with gutter sealant.

Thanks for your continued thoughts.
 
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Old 05-03-13, 07:16 AM
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Too much to read to catch up, so my apology if I repeat.
As for the driveway being pitched, it is also important that the compacted surface below the driveway was pitched as well. Since the soil next to the house was disturbed when constructed, they should have made an effort to direct in ground water away from the foundation AND provide a place for it to go. Without those considerations, whe water just soaks in and flows under your driveway towards the foundation.

Short but blunt, your chances of having a long term mold free basement are extremely limited within any reasonable budget. Chances of fixing details that needed to be installed during construction are non existent.

"there is a remote possibility that the prior owner might just fess up and help out with the repair costs" No! They were the ones who knew what the repair costs were going to be from the start.

"Looking at all this, I am growing more and more suspicious about the previous owners' integrity when it comes to filling out their seller condition report honestly." You're learning. As you get older you will have no qualms about questioning everyone who stands to profit from the sale. The better liars take home bigger paychecks.

You need to see what is happening behind the finished walls. The longer you wait, the more the mold can grow.

Although water and moisture problems cannot be eliminated, to some extent they can be managed. Learn more about moisture as it is different from water leaking in. Even if you solve the water problems, the moisture vapor can sink your expectations.

Bud
 
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Old 05-03-13, 11:32 AM
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How high is the poured foundation wall and where does the block start in relation to the ground level and the driveway outside.

If you got water after a light rain, somethings off. It is hard for us to point to further areas without a better visual of both the inside and the outside with close ups of the foundation to driveway intersection and the general layout of the exterior. Pictures of wet block will also help. Maybe you could share a few of the pictures you reviewed with the lawyer.
 
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Old 05-09-13, 08:56 AM
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Sounds good. I will get some photos this weekend and post them with some explanations. Thanks everyone!
 
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Old 06-03-13, 12:07 PM
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Photos

Hi guys,

Sorry for the delay, but here are some photos as requested.

1) Water seepage on the poured concrete floor up against the bottom block (this happens in multiple locations, mainly on the side of the house up against the driveway)
2) Water seeping in through the bottom of a glass block window well after it fills with water on the outside
3) Same window well filling from the bottom up (it had a cover on them during the rain, so it wasn't raining directly into the window well)
4) Driveway photo: Notice the pitch itself is away from the house.... a good thing.

Hope some of these shots help give a better picture of what is going on.
 
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Old 06-03-13, 02:02 PM
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For you to have a swimming pool gathering in the window well tells me that the driveway is not as positively sloped as you believe it to be.

You need to seal the area where the new driveway pour meets the foundation. That is where the water is getting in.

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For a gap like that, I would consult with a pool company and ask about the material they use for expansion gaps around the coping stones that make the perimeter cap around the edge of the pool. You will probably need some backer rod to save materials and the self leveling chinking that they recommend.

This should minimize the amount of water getting to the foundation. Hopefully lowering the water level up against the windows as well. Pooling may be another issue on the upside of the driveway if you cut off its exit path.
 
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Old 06-03-13, 02:44 PM
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Why don't the swimming pools have drains? That water should not be standing there, especially against glass block windows.
 
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Old 06-06-13, 04:33 PM
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czizzi,

It looks as though it is a gap there, but it's actually just that dark, pliable material that is used to go in between the poured concrete and the wall.

Maybe it's bad that it's there regardless though? I am sure that some sealant will not hurt.

As far as the slope is concerned, I attached the photo... as you can see, there is an obvious slope away from the property. The water is not pooling above on the driveway and then entering the window well from above; instead, it is entering the window well from BELOW. That's the mystery.
 
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Old 06-06-13, 05:15 PM
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You have several problems:

1. You relied on the sellers "Condition Report" instead of getting your own home inspector. Smart sellers often hire the best, toughest (more expensive) inspectors to look for pre-listing faults and they own the confidential report because they paid for it. - After that, it is buyer beware.

2. You have a reverse swimming pool (trying to keep water out and not in) and even a properly sloped driveway is no insurance since water flows laterally and the slope away can minimize the effects. Water is accumulating around your foundation and even water from properly length extension can eventually sturate the soil around and under a foundation.

The window well is an obvious sign because the water is accumulating in it (even with minimal overhang) and coming up.

The leaks in the basement are showing up at the joint between the wall and the footing since there is water below the floor level. If you look at the concrete block wall (bottom course) you will see that the floor is poured over the footing by 4" or so. This is a very common construction method, irregardless of the wall material. The water is forced up from below added to by the soil pressure and water outside and the soil is saturated under the slab is probably also wet.

Without seeing the basement photos (beyond the newly painted walls), I would suggest looking at interior drain tile (with a sump with pump) bottom below the bottom of the footing instead of trying to come up with the exterior approach and tearing up the driveway that comes with buried drain tile and distrupting landscaping on all sides.

Drain tile provides some immediate improvement, but not as good as interior tile does in the long run for correction/repairs since the soil around the foundation will not have the moisture that created pressure required for leakage at the weakest point.

With a real problem, stinking a finger in the dike (Holland/Netherlands) does not work in the long term since there they are now commonly/daily reclaiming more dry land from the ocean by dewatering.

Dick
 
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Old 07-21-13, 02:56 PM
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Dick,

Great thoughts. Sorry for the delay in this follow-up.

I recently had a contractor (who who doesn't recommend interior drain tile work) tell me that installing french drain into new interior drain tile and a sump pump will most likely "undermine the footing of the home in the long run''.... and then I will have "bigger problems to deal with". And that this is only a temporary solution and that it will actually worsen the mold grown in the long run.

Any thoughts about that?
 
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Old 07-21-13, 08:03 PM
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Your recent contractor apparently hasn't been around very long. Interior drain and sump systems have been installed on probably thousands of homes around the country, by reputable companies, and most come with warranties of no more water intrusion. The system I had installed in our last place in WA state worked like a charm, until we had a 3-day power failure and the sump's back-up battery lost its ability to keep the pump running. We were out-of-state at the time, so couldn't address the problem until later. And I've never heard of wall, footing or foundation failures associated with such systems (when properly installed on homes having reasonably functional foundations).

Since your problem appears to be associated more with a high water table than the minimal amount seeping through at the driveway joint filler at the outside basement wall, you should explore having an exterior drain and sump system installed. You could even incorporate new window well drains to flow into such a system, with the sump pump carrying all water away from the foundation and basement walls. I had such an external system at a home we owned in CO (installed by previous owner), and it also worked extremely well (had a very dry basement, even with adobe clay soil).

So you've learned the hard way that Seller Disclosure Statements are nothing more than a summary of lies and deceit, designed by realtors to sell homes. I wound up spending more than $6000 to repair faulty plumbing supply and drain lines in the WA home, even though the previous owner swore he "never had any plumbing problems." His attorney's response letter to my attorney's initial complaint letter suggested (seriously!) that the plumbing problem was caused by our moving van parked on the driveway, unloading for a few hours.

Good luck going through an attorney to get your $$$ back. Usually, they are the only ones who win in lawsuits such as this. Read the fine print of his contract, as most contingency cases allow your attorney to bill you for expenses he/she incurs while "fighting for" your case. You'd have far better chances going through small claims court.
 
  #21  
Old 07-24-13, 05:01 AM
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Get a garden hose. Cover that window up like it was during the rain storm, then put water onto the concrete around it to try and figure out how it's getting there and where it's going in. If you pool water on the ground close by but not right onto it and the water drains away, then there are two possible solutions: Ground water is making its way in from somewhere in the bottom or rainwater is making its way in from somewhere above, maybe through the leaking cover. Clean it out and check the condition of the window well. IF it is leaking at the bottom you can seal it but I would think this means you have an issue with groundwater under the slab forcing its way into the window and you will need to excavate to get at the problem. IF it is leaking from the top try a different cover.

Evidence of previous but old water intrusion and renovations without proper permits... sounds to me like they did indeed know there had previously been water in the basement and took some measures to cover up the most obvious evidence. Probably some fans and dehumidifiers during heavy rain, some drywall here and there or a masonry coating to conceal water stains... If my inspector saw signs of water intrusion I wouldn't particularly care whether it was old or new. I would want to know what caused it and what had been done to address it. IF I could get answers that satisfied me I might still bite. If I couldn't get any answers and some supporting documentation I would have walked.

My guess if I had to make a wager might be that there is ground water trapped under the concrete, causing it to follow the path of least resistance which puts it into the window well. I would think that is something that would only be resolved by exterior excavation, making space for some sort of foundation drain along that stretch of wall and narrowing the driveway.
 

Last edited by eharri3; 07-24-13 at 05:30 AM.
  #22  
Old 07-24-13, 03:39 PM
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Taking a closer look at your driveway photo confirms my earlier suggestion that groundwater is what is filling up your window wells (and subsequently seeping into the basement): your property sits considerably lower than the one to the left, meaning there's a good likelihood you are getting both surface and subsurface flow from uphill of your house. It's moving under the driveway slab and up against your foundation wall. Even the downhill slope of the street, from left to right, indicates you are on the receiving end of water wanting to obey the laws of gravity.

At this point in time, I'd strongly consider attacking the problem outside first, by installing a (humongous, meaning deep and wide) French drain system alongside and parallel to the driveway, at the toe of the slope from your neighbor's property. A large enough, perforated pipe could intercept and carry away subsurface water before it migrates under the driveway and up against the foundation. With a good, positive pitch on the pipe towards the street, you could cross under the driveway with it, making a turn to daylight the outfall at the far right corner of your property. Solid pipe, not flexible, is the product to use, with lines of ingress holes at 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock. And don't forget a means of flushing it occasionally to keep silt and fines from clogging it.

This would obviously not be a DIY job, unless you happen to own an excavator and possess the proper construction skills. The City would require a permit, and would need to grant its permission for your contractor to dump subsurface water onto/into their street's storm sewer system. There's a good chance that such a project would eliminate any additional work being required to keep water out of your basement, and it could well cost considerably less than the cost of basement waterproofing you've been considering.
 
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