Wet Basement

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Old 04-01-16, 07:12 PM
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Wet Basement

I'm purchasing a house in Fort Dodge Iowa. The house was built in 1924. This is a small town of 25,000 residents. The closing date is set for April 29th, so posting this now might be a little premature. But I'm wanting to go into this home with as much knowledge as possible, so here goes.....

I know that one side of the basement foundation leaks. The wall that leaks looks good, as in no broken blocks, not bowed in. Not really able to determine where the water is coming in from. There is no sump pump, which I'm thinking of putting one in.

Looking the house over on the outside, the downspouts / gutters are all in good shape, and look to be diverting the water far enough from the house. The side of the house where it's obvious that it is leaking water, has a small walkway that runs along the side of the house. The walkway is about 2' away from the house. The grade of the land from the house to the walkway tapers down and away from the house at a steep angle, then at about 3 1/2', the far side of the walkway, the grade goes up, creating a valley that runs along the entire length of the house.

This, I'm sure has a lot to do with the leaking basement wall. I plan to remove the cement pads used for the walkway, and rework the grade along that side of the house. I plan to ad dirt to fill the valley, and raise the ground level where it meets the house if needed.

Would it be wise to lay some heavy plastic 6" to 12" under the dirt, say from the foundation wall out 6', to help stop any water from collecting along that wall ??

This is a first for me, so any suggestions will be appreciated.
 
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  #2  
Old 04-02-16, 04:02 AM
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Why is there a valley beside the house? I assume it was put there or a reason and simply filling it in might make the water problem worse.
 
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Old 04-02-16, 06:07 AM
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Not trying to be rude, but a valley that collects water running alongside the foundation of your house is always a bad thing. The ground always settles around your house over time, and things like the valley at my future home can be created. Or possibly there's a problem with the gutters, or there was one in the past. If someone intentionally created this valley, I would think that they need there head examined.

May I ask, what makes you think that someone would want to create a water collecting valley to run along the side of there foundation ??

I certainly don't know everything, but ???
 
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Old 04-02-16, 06:27 AM
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Does this 'valley' direct the water anywhere? or is it more like a moat?
 
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Old 04-02-16, 07:47 AM
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Honestly I haven't seen that stretch of land / valley during, or after a rain. My personal opinion is it acts like a moat. It has to collect the water on that side of the house, and add to the normal water that would accumulate along there. The valley runs along the side of the house for approximately 25'. The ends of the valley go no where, or do nothing in particular to divert the water.

I'm convinced that the ground under the narrow walkway has simply settled. It's quite possible that the gutters need cleaned out ?? I don't know at this time. I seriously doubt that anything was done under the walkway that would require the grade to be as it it. That just doesn't make any sense to me. But again, I'm not a professional house service man, so god only knows what's really going on there. The cement pads for the walkway have a slant of about 3" to 4" per foot.

I'm just being led by what I think to be a logical answer ?? I mean with that wall leaking, and the grade as such that it will collect and hold water, rather than force it to run off and away from the house, it makes sense to me.

Here's the best picture of the house that I could come up with. It looks like the grade is set up so the neighbors drive tapers / runs off towards my future house, and the grade from the house is simply to short, and the ground has settled over time, creating this valley. The red line shows where the valley is. Maybe some of the problem is the neighbors drive run off so close to my house ??

The picture doesn't give an accurate visual of the land. There is approximately 4' to 5' of grass between my house and the neighbors driveway. Plus it doesn't show the cement pads for the walkway. I assume this is a relatively old picture of the house.

Hope this information helps to explain my situation.
 
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Last edited by skooterbum11; 04-02-16 at 07:51 AM. Reason: more info
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Old 04-02-16, 07:53 AM
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You have to expose the foundation & seal it. Then correct the pitch.
 
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Old 04-02-16, 08:14 AM
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Hi skooter,
Buying a new home is fun, but remember, it is a kind of shell game, where the previous owners and the real estate agent will try to hide as many problems as they can under those shells. It is your job to flip over as many shells as possible. With a closing date already set you may be past the negotiating state, but you must be ready for what they were hiding and a wet basement is a big one.

First, a 1924 home was never built to have a dry basement or to have that basement converted to living space. Your post is addressing "water" which is the easy half of a problem basement. The other half is moisture vapor which, although very slow, will want to make the inside as moist as the outside. For now (assuming an unfinished basement) that moisture vapor is going directly into the air. But, cover those walls and you begin to trap it and as it accumulates it becomes a hidden moisture problem.

All is not lost, you will just need to include moisture management along with your surface water improvements. A link for your reading below.
Understanding Basements | Building Science Corporation

A note for your question about plastic below grade, they do install rigid insulation in that manner to both divert water and to reduce heat loss.

Bud
 
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Old 04-02-16, 08:51 AM
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Thank you Bud9051 !!

The basement will not be finished as long as I own it anyways. I will be storing a lot of items in it though, and I don't want any of that to get wet, or be setting in a damp atmosphere. I've already got a nice size dehumidifier that I will be running as needed. So that base is covered.

Thanks for the link !! I will be reading that for sure.

Yes the negotiating time has passed on the house. I don't think the water problem is going to be a BIG issue. I just want to know the proper way to address it, and hopefully not to have to make multiple attempts at repairing it.

Off to your link !!
 
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Old 04-02-16, 09:13 AM
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Exterior water management is always good and a dehumidifier should handle what is left. Where people get in trouble is an expensive retrofit where they trap the inevitable moisture coming through the walls and floor and start their own mold farm.

As for storing stuff down there, wait and see how successful you are with moisture control and don't forget, it is a hole in the ground and with a power failure and a pipe leak it becomes a pond.

Enjoy your new home and glad to help with anything we can.

Bud
 
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Old 04-02-16, 09:56 AM
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I'm pretty sure I'm going to install a sump pump. How does a person determine the best location for this ??
 
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Old 04-02-16, 10:52 AM
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If you can identify a low point that would be one choice. If the basement is relatively level, then look for a convenient location where you can get power and locate the discharge. Some towns do not allow discharge into the sewer system and from your picture you can't just dump it out the side.

If you have sufficient space to the rear you could dig a a seepage pit filled with course gravel, but they need to be large enough to handle a flood. At one house I installed a drain line to a large pit, but being cold country there was the risk it could freeze. So I also ran a "T" up on the inside and out and down near ground level. Should the discharge to the pit get clogged it would pump out the alternate path to the surface.

A seepage pit will also depend upon your soils. If the ground water table is high it may not be able to absorb what you need.

If the sump is just for emergencies and not something that is pumping every 2 hours 24/7, then a surface drain away from the neighbors might be fine.

Is there a storm drain in the street?

Bud
 
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Old 04-02-16, 11:47 AM
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No storm drain at my location. The closest one is across the street and one house down.

Probably won't help, but here's a pic of the back side / other side of the house. The ground looks pretty flat on this side.


So the city frowns on sump pumps dumping into the city streets. What would they do if I went ahead and set my sump pump up to do that, and just waited for them to give me a talk ?? Are they usually fair about things if a person plays dumb ?? Or do they enjoy fining residents ?? I realize you most likely can't answer this, but I thought I'd throw it out there anyways.
 
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Old 04-02-16, 01:21 PM
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I did say, "some towns" as I have heard that some do not object. You could ask, but that would mean you now know the answer.

Our town pumps to the adjacent city and a few years back (20 or so) they connected the local land fill witch has several well pumps running 24/7 to be sure they don't contaminate the ground water. That water goes directly to the treatment plant which said, they need more water. I thought that was strange, but the extra water apparently improves their process. So, if you add your very occasional sump output to their system the only time it would be an issue would be when they are over capacity, like during heavy rains just when you need your pump.

Obviously I can't say yes or no, but I don't see it as a major red flag. Maybe have someone else in town call and ask .

Bud
 
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Old 04-02-16, 04:58 PM
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Great !! Thanks for your advice Bud9051 !! It's greatly appreciated !!

I know I will be back to this site a lot in the future, as I have a lot of things I hope to do to make this place my home.

Ron
 
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Old 04-02-16, 05:46 PM
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Glad to be able to help. Nice looking home. I have a lot beside me that I want to build one similar to that, looks like a large enclosed front porch with all that glass.

Let us know when you close so we can tip a cold one with you.

Always wanted to visit that area. Grandparents had to abandon their farm in 1929 when the market crashed. They were in Britt. Ended up owning an entire town, Sula MT. Lots of stories.

Bud
 
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Old 04-02-16, 10:55 PM
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Thanks for the compliment !! This will be the third home that I've owned.....I mean have had a mortgage on...LOL Lost the first one after I was laid off from the local John Deere plant for the second time in 3 1/2 years. Then I handed the second home over to the ex and kids. I'm still single, and retired, so there's no reason for me to loose this home.

Also I'm going to be able to remodel / decorate this home to my liking. I love natural wood. I can see my living room walls covered with some kind of wood. Not paneling, but something on the order of wood flooring, but meant for walls, with a lot more character, and much larger in size. I know I haven't explained this very well, but I'll post some pics of what I want to do down the road.

Luckily 90% of the original woodwork is still in it's original form. As in not painted over. This makes me very happy too. Then there's the nearly new two car garage, with electricity already ran to it. This is where I'll be spending most my time. I love to tinker with things. I'll probably get the garage set up the way I want before doing anything to the house, outside of the important things, like the wet basement.

Oh, if only my billfold was as big as my imagination !! LOL

My grandmother lived through the depression. She used to tell me stories of her life back then. Makes me appreciate what we have now. Even with today's problems, life hasn't been anything close to what people had to live through back then. Were spoiled...and very lucky to be able to enjoy life as we do.

Thanks again Bud9051 !!
 
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Old 04-03-16, 07:13 AM
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The story from my grandmother was a knock at the door and the milkman with a $3 check of hers that had bounced, 1929. She scraped up enough to pay him and quickly drove to the bank, only to discover her $50 in checking and another $50 in savings were gone. They searched the house and came up with $0.26 and restarted their life. Ended up bartering everything they had to get enough to head west and that is how they ended up in the Bitteroot Valley.

Yes, we are spoiled.

A note, if you put up any wood, like T&G pine, install it over the drywall to retain the air barrier properties. Over plastic doesn't do it.

In my younger years we loved the natural wood as you do, then out came the paint brushes and in went the carpets. Today they are in awe when they pull the carpets and discover a real wood floor.

Bud
 
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Old 04-03-16, 01:43 PM
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A sump pump and pit all by themselves, properly placed, can catch most of the water on the floor but the floor will still be wet.

To have a prayer of keeping the floor dry, you need a subterranean perimeter drain system dumping into the pit. This can be installed either just inside the foundation or just outside. Outside performs a little better but inside is usually easier to retrofit an existing house with.

In addition the ground temperature is such that the basement will tend to a lower temperature than the outdoors in summer. This increases the humidity of the basement air sometimes to 100% when condensation on the walls happens. This is in addition to moisture seeping through the walls.

About the valley, if you grade the land so the valley is right at the driveway and if the water goes down to the street by itself from there, it might not be noticed.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 04-03-16 at 02:12 PM.
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Old 04-05-16, 12:23 AM
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Thanks AllanJ !!

I'm going to start with a sump pump and grade work along side the problem wall and see what happens from there. I have a quality dehumidifier to run in the basement too.

So those three things should at least make a considerable difference, I hope !! If not I will have to consider the subterranean perimeter drain on the inside of the house. I hope it doesn't go that far, but will have to see.

Thanks,

Ron
 
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