moisture barrier - help!
okay, here it goes. we purchased our home in summer 2004. the house is almost 100 years old. there is an addition on the east end. the basement of the original portion of the house is fully finished. the new addition has only a dirt crawlspace, accessible via a small window on the side of our staircase (that leads downstairs to the fully finished basement). (i've never been in the crawlspace myself.)
earlier this year we started getting water collecting under the carpet near the stairs every time it rained hard. not right next to the stairs, about a half a foot away from them (everything is carpeted including the stairs). it's happened over 5 times now, a few times was really bad, water literally rushing in and we had to run the shopvac pretty much until it stopped raining outside.
cleaned the gutters. check. had someone come out to inspect our sump pump and drain tile. all ok. check. the guy from standard water control (the company that installed our sump pump and drain tile system) said to rip out the portion of the wall near where the water was coming in to see exactly where it was coming in and they would put up a moisture barrier. well, maybe i should have hired someone to professionally remove the wall, but i decided to do it myself. i ripped out the drywall. check. ripped off the plastic sheet under it. check. ripped out the insulation. check. underneath that was another plastic sheet. was this the original moisture barrier? it didn't look like anything was wrong with it(?) so anyway, i ripped all that plastic out and a little bit past where i had removed the drywall, etc.
i went outside, turned the hose on, and placed it on the outside of the house near where the floor in the basement was getting wet. went and sat on the stairs and waited. sure enough, drips began forming on the wall. i used a black permanent marker to mark the small cracks where the drips started from. i then proceeded to cut the studs out from around the affected area.
so i guess my question is what now? i have read that a moisture barrier must be continuous to work properly. i'm worried that by ripping just a patch out i have screwed it up worse. what is the guy from standard water control gonna tell me? should i hire someone to completely remove the rest of the finished wall - drywall, insulation, studs, plastic, etc.? what are my options as far as a moisture barrier? is it always just a sheet of plastic, or is there some sort of paint-on epoxy or something? any guidance would be greatly appreciated, as this whole fiasco has both me and my wife rather stressed out. thanks.
Hello Jedi and Welcome to the Forum:
The most positive way to fix the leak is to dig down from the outside and apply a fiberglass/cement plaster, then paint it with UGL, add 2" limestone rock up to 1' below the existing grade and finish off with dirt. Make sure the dirt is piled high enough to give the water a positive drain away from the house and cover it with sod.
It is almost impossible to stop a leak from the inside; paints simply will not hold the hydraulic pressure of water from the outside. Paints and most plasters applied from the inside will simply blister and pop off. I wish you the best with your project and hope you can get it done before winter closes in.
In the crawl space, there must be a problem there. You need to do some water proofing outside, then in the crawl space. Digging down a couple of feet around the walls and putting plastic against the walls and out about a foot. lay a drain tile in, make sure the trench drains naturally out to a good spill way or a sump with a pump, then cover with rock. Just 6 inches or so over the tile will give it good straining and a good drain bed. Make sure the plastic is sealed to the wall at the top, then back fill mounding the dirt against the house, let it mound up high because it WILL settle.
In the crawl space, you need to do somewhat the same thing. Start against the interior wall, dig down as far as you can, seal plastic against the wall and out across the bottom of the trench, fill it in. Then dig around the outside walls a trench that drains to a natural drain or a sump. Then lay plastic over the entire area starting at the walls, sealing the plastic to the wall first. Then down into the trench, back up and across the area, Make your splices in the middle of the area. Cut x's in the plastic at the support piers, and seal to them also. Then an office stapler will work to splice the plastic together. Add drain tiles around the walls, if you want, or if your local code requires it, and fill the area with pea gravel it only needs to be a few inches deep in the middle and it protects the plastic, it also makes it almost impossible to replace. I won't put rock under my home because it's not required here.
With the outside water barriers done, then the inside can be dealt with.
Patches can be made in the vapor barrier using a butyl based rubber type of caulking. Spread the caulking around the edges, then press the plastic patch on. Keep it flat and it will seal well.
To seal the plastic against the walls in the crawl space, I just use plain ugly black roofing tar, or plastic roofing repair patch. That's fancy talk for tar :)
If this doesn't work, please don't shoot me. You will need to be especially careful at the corners, and at the top of your trenches. seal the plastic outside below the line where you want the final grade at the house. After the dirt settles, cut off the excess, but do seal it to the house. You don't want water running in behind the plastic.
Sorry about the long post, but even this doesn't really cover all of your options or many of the details that will make this successful. Be patient and willing to dig up and start over if necessary. Stopping leaks is a pain for everyone.
Installing and maintaining moisture barriers for crawl spaces is easy and simple. It is really nice to be visiting your informative post.
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