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Soparklion 09-02-2013 05:40 PM

Wet Basement
I just purchased a moderate-size two story house in Pittsburgh, PA built in the 1940s. The home has a full basement - boundary in black in drawing. It was formerly rented, so there is no available history regarding water issues.

The house sits on a lot that slopes away from the house on all sides, but there is still water in the basement - with free water pooling in the garage, damp floors on the right side and front; and warped exterior walls in the garage and front. The neighbors also have a damp basement, requiring a dehumidifier. All downspouts seem to be in working order and leading to black flex pipe that discharges >15 ft from the house.

My house has an internal french drain and sump system along the back wall, under the area labeled concrete porch pad. However, the construction dust from the masonry cutting is still there and completely dry, indicating that there has never been water there.

The front and rear walls bow (ie not vertical) to a net 2" midway down the wall.

The window wells are currently uncovered and I plan to add covers.

I have a quote for an interior french drain system that would encircle the basement. My concern here is that I would need to demolish the basement full bathroom in the front left corner. I also question that the interior french drain is necessary and whether a dehumidifier, combined with (1) improving the sealant btw the concrete pad and the house and (2) sloping the outside so that water drains away from the house with (3) the use of a waterproof barrier.

I think that it is worth trying 1, 2 and 3 before spending big $. My questions:

a. If is worthwhile, how wide does the sloped plastic need to be in order to move the water away from the footer? What type of plastic do I buy? What do I do with the plants that currently live within the boundary of the plastic? Do I need to fix the plastic to the wall, or just pack it against it and ensure that it has a steep pitch running away from it?

b. Or is it necessary to rent a ditchwitch and install an exterior french drain? I do have sufficient slope to drain it away from the foundation.

c. Any opinions on carbon straps to right the walls that are bowing?

d. Any recommendations for a dehumidifier? I plan to buy a
40 or 50 pint with a drain pump to pump the water into a floor drain.

All help is greatly appreciated.

nealtw 09-02-2013 09:34 PM

The very best would be to dig down to the bottom of the foundation on the outside waterproof the foundation and add a perferated pipe around the perimiter and a second solid pipe for the downspouts and the drains in the window wells.
Inspect the walls closely, if they are not cracking or show damage the bowing may have been poorly supported forms when the concrete went in and nothing to worry about.

Caduceus 09-02-2013 10:46 PM

These things are really hard to assess without getting a personal look at the house and the landscaping. I'm just a plumber in the south hills of Pittsburgh and familiar with these hardships, but my two cents anyways. Cost seems to be a concern, so we'll start there. For starters, you could find a humidity reader at a local home improvement store and place it in your basement. While at the store, get some Damp Rid hanging bags. I find they work better than the plastic canisters. This is in an effort to determine if a dehumidifier is worth the purchase or if the moisture is a bigger issue. Hang them low to the floor, within two feet. Cover the window wells.
Check that the gutters are clear and there is no overflow. You can test the function of the downspouts with a hose on a dry day. Look at the discharge pipe to see the flow.
If you decide to add soil and plastic sheeting, 3 mil. plastic is also available at the store to slope away from the house and add soil. Preserve the plants as you see fit during the process until replanting. The plastic doesn't need to be anchored to the house, but should extent to grade. Leave it long then cut with a razor knife.
Using Dry-lok on the walls should also help, but I am curious if the existing sump pit shows signs of water when it rains. A good sign that an interior french drain is doing its job is that it should fill the pit and the pump will eject the water when needed. Where does the water eject to? Hopefully the same place as the rain leaders.
The freestanding water at the garage is hard to figure. Is the driveway sloped and there is no area drain at the bottom? Are there any trails of evidence during storms as to where it comes from or is it always there?
See if the humidity drops in a few weeks after doing some of the finances permit. Dehumidifiers can cost a few hundred dollars for a decent one, that's why I recommended the bags to gauge the effectiveness.
The bowing walls should be monitored. Check again for shifting that may become more noticeable after you dry-lok. Block gets its strength from vertical force and horizontal pressures could compromise the structure. That would require an anchoring service to remedy.
Additionally, when looking for a house, my agent advised us of a disclosure that was required for leaking or standing water in a home. We looked at a house in Dormont that had standing water that was not on the disclosure info and we didn't buy it. You may want to look into the fact that problems were hidden from you before you spend big bucks on repairs.
Hope this helps. If any others have advice that can improve on what I said, please feel free to chime in.

Soparklion 09-03-2013 06:06 AM

Thank you for your reply.

Cost is a concern mostly that the interior French Drain guys want me to rip out the existing bathroom to have the interior drain installed and I'm not too keen on that idea. I'm fine with buying the dehumidifier.

The existing sump is dry, bone dry and it appears as though it has never seen any fluid as the cement dust appears to be completely dry and unadulterated.

Aquagard wants to place carbon fiber straps to hold the walls in place. They carry a lifetime warranty. I'm too close to the neighbor's house on the left for wall anchors.

This was found during the inspection and I got a credit at closing for the cost of the repair. I just want to repair it appropriately the first time.

I don't understand why I have water at all of the places and a dry, virgin sump. The pump is unplugged, so it definitely hasn't run for the last 3 months.

Soparklion 09-03-2013 06:10 AM

The foundation is block.

Digging to the bottom of the foundation puts the drain at or below grade of all available areas for outlet. And if I have water that low, why is the existing sump dry?


Originally Posted by nealtw (Post 91085)
The very best would be to dig down to the bottom of the foundation on the outside waterproof the foundation and add a perferated pipe around the perimiter and a second solid pipe for the downspouts and the drains in the window wells.
Inspect the walls closely, if they are not cracking or show damage the bowing may have been poorly supported forms when the concrete went in and nothing to worry about.

nealtw 09-03-2013 06:35 AM

Block is hollow and can fill with water, there should be drain holes drilled at the bottom to allow water to get to the drain on the inside. I don't know enough about block walls to comment on the bow in the wall.

Caduceus 09-03-2013 08:12 AM

What nealtw said is correct. Outside or inside the water must drain to a pit an be ejected, whether it is via the block (interior) or soil (exterior). Exterior drains are typically more money to install because it takes several days with an excavation machine and more materials for a properly installed drain. Look inside the sump pit and you should see one or two inlet pipes. The pipe(s) run the perimeter just below concrete. The weep holes in the bottom of the block are below concrete and there should be shot gravel (not limestone gravel) around the pipe as well as silt screen.
If the sump pit has no inlet pipe(s) and just has a plastic crock with a bunch of holes drilled in it, it is not a proper installation.
You may have to suck it up and have an all new interior perimeter french drain installed. More discussion with the installer may be needed to save the bathroom, but sometimes it's necessary to remove it for the greater good of the house.
When getting quotes for anchoring services, always get three. There is no shortage of them in Pittsburgh. Check online reviews, also. When discussing a warranty, try to avoid the word "lifetime". Get a solid number in writing from each company that quotes for you. "Lifetime" is an arbitrary amount of time that can be contested if the anchoring system fails in 5-10 years due to "natural wear and natural erosion...etc., etc.".
With my interior french drain, it takes about 15 minutes before I start to hear the sump pump start running after a heavy rain has begun. That means that the water is quickly making it to its destination and the drain is operating as it should.

nealtw 09-03-2013 06:09 PM

If the walls are bleeding water, should you expect that it would be happing behind the bathroom walls. You would likely find some problems with the bathroom wall anyway aqnd would likely be happy to have the whole thing fixed properly. A new outside wall would be constructed by new standards and you may want your guy to move the toilet flanch or tub or shower a few inches out.

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