Keeping Your Basement Water-Free (part 5)

Suburban Stockade Banner

new-suburban-stockade-introWe were now at the point where it was time to do the concrete landing at the front of the house. It had been laid out so that the landing sloped toward the foundation, giving rainwater that extra burst of speed to help drive it down the foundation wall. We had the money and all the easy and cheap (relatively speaking) stuff had been done. We had gone from having water in the basement every time it rained (see part 1) to seeing some seepage when a hurricane blew over.

keeping basement water-free

“We want the landing below the front porch to slope toward the house’s foundation.”
“OK, homeowners. Whatever you say.”

Jake the Contractor came back with his crew and they ripped out the old concrete pad from half way up the sidewalk to the stairs to the front door.

basement water-free

“Say, let’s take all this concrete and build a patio in the backyard.”

It was at this point that the horrified crew discovered why we had been getting so much water damage. They’d never seen anything like it and demanded that we come out to look.

I said the concrete landing sloped to the foundation and it did. We thought this was the main source of the water problems (after we put the splash under the downspout at this corner fixing the gutter issues plus the dry creeks). It was not. The reverse slope didn’t help but it wasn’t the real problem.

The real problem, completely concealed from view, was the sewage pipe coming from out of the house and heading to the street. Every house has one. All your plumbing feeds into this outflow line, the black water from your toilets, mixed with the grey and clear water from your sinks, bathtubs, showers, and washing machine. It’s a big pipe! Easily 8 inches around or more! Mine (like yours) goes through the wall of the basement into a deeper pipe where it joins the main line in the street.

On the inside of the basement, the wall had been filled and sealed all around the sewage pipe, leaving a relatively smooth and unbroken surface. On the outside of our concrete block foundation wall, the pipe was floating free, with about a hands width of space all around it, other than the spot where the pipe rested on the concrete block wall.

Yes, you read that right. We had a hole in our foundation wall, that was almost 16 inches across and about as high. In our basement wall. No wonder we had a water problem! How could we not have had a water problem! And remember, concrete block is hollow! Thus, all the water that ran down the outside of the foundation wall ran into the concrete block wall and filled up the air spaces so it could seep out at its leisure!

The contractor’s crew just couldn’t believe it and neither could I. This was criminal malfeasance on the part of the home builder. It’s also hard to believe that the wall didn’t cave in at some time from water damage dating back to when the house was built! Pure dumb luck on the part of the previous owners, is all I can say. And, if they had installed the damn 10 buck concrete splashes, they wouldn’t have gotten most of the damage that they did get! There still would have been some damage, no question, but nothing like what we had.

So the crew, after picking themselves back up off of the ground, filled in the gaping hole correctly around the sewage line, parged everything they could reach, and re-laid the concrete slab, this time sloped away from the house.

It bugs me now that we didn’t do this job first. We knew there was a reverse slope but after we had stopped 95% of the water infiltration, it seemed less important to fix the slab than to do all the other rehab projects that had to be done. On the other hand, who would have ever believed that a home builder would deliberately leave a hole in the foundation wall!

The acid test of all our work came about a year after the new concrete landing was laid and the gaping hole filled in. Tropical Storm Lee arrived in Hershey and dumped about a foot of rain in a day. Whole sections of Hershey were under water. Hundreds of basements were flooded to above the first floor. The schools were closed and evacuated and remained closed for several days. The Penn Hotel and Sports Bar, about 1/2 mile from our house had not just its basement full of water but also the first floor to a height of about 8 feet. It’s at a low spot in our neighborhood and it and all the houses around it suffered the same damage of being under nearly twenty feet of water.

We got a few gallons of water. We have permanent damage to the foundation wall as a result of 55 years of water infiltration. Nonetheless, concrete splashes, dry creeks, soil improvement, new roof and gutters, plugging all the leaks, plus Dryloc, kept the damage from the worst storm ever to pass over Hershey (Lee was worse than Hurricane Agnes for Hershey; Hurricane Agnes is the marker by which every storm is measured in Central PA) to a minimum. A few gallons of water can be easily mopped up with a sponge mop, a bucket and some towels.

If we had not done any of this work, we would have had to regularly replace our supplies, plus everything else that would be ruined by a flood. The concrete splashes stopped 75% of all our water damage, and every correction and repair after that decreased our water damage. Other than filling in the dungeon and replacing the concrete landing, we did all the work ourselves. You can do this too, and if you have any water problems, you should get started today! Do not wait.

Walk around your house and make sure all of your downspouts work, the gutters are clean and free flowing (an annual job for a teenager on a ladder) and you have a concrete splash at every downspout. This will solve most of your day to day rain water issues. After that, it gets harder, but still doable. The key is always, always, always, make the land slope away from your house. Water wants to run downhill and the correct slope of your soil will encourage it to do so. On the inside, plug all the holes, including the tiny ones, and if you have raw concrete walls, Dryloc the place from top to bottom.

It worked for us and it can work for you. Fixing your basement moisture problems will allow you to use your basement for its intended purpose: storage of your preps.