Criterium Dudka Engineers
In an existing home, we’re not always sure how the foundation perimeter was completed because it is not visual, unless of course we begin digging. Uhg! Acquiring the “as built” plans of your home from the town is always a good idea and are usually readily available from your town office. The “as built” plans will show what the builder ultimately completed on your property, most times. Either way, if you have water in your basement, digging around a foundation, an expensive undertaking (and backbreaking) is not necessarily a required first step to try to solve the problem.
The fundamentals of groundwater control around basements focus primarily on “drain the site and drain the ground”. This means managing water run-off from roofs and buildings using gutters, downspouts and downspout extensions, or even better, downspouts that are connected directly to a stormwater management system. In addition, and very effective, is ensuring the grade around the foundation slopes away and not toward the foundation. Additional best practices include ensuring the backfill around the foundation has a combination of an impermeable layer just under the topsoil and then a free draining backfill or drainage board to direct water to footing drains which may drain to daylight or to a stormwater drainage system. The aim is to not saturate the ground next to the foundation.
If you have water in your basement, first, try some of these fixes:
- Do you have gutters and are they clear of leaves and sticks? It’s easy to tell if a gutter is plugged. Just check the downspouts during a rain event. If there is no water running from them or water is draining very slowly, they are probably plugged. If you feel safe climbing a proper ladder, look inside the gutter and clean them. Sometimes the plug is in the downspout, so if cleaning the gutter does not work, focus next on the downspout. A safer bet is to hire a contractor specializing in inspecting and cleaning gutters. And if you don’t have gutters consider having them installed.
- Add gutter extensions at the end of the downspouts. Gutter extensions are sold at most hardware stores and are relatively inexpensive. Carrying all the rainwater away from the foundation using extensions can make a big difference.
- If you see water oozing in the basement around plumbing pipes, hydraulic cement most times can solve the problem. It’s inexpensive and sold at most hardware stores.
- Still see water entry into the basement? If the water is entering high up on the foundation walls, then water is not draining away. Is the ground around the basement sloped away or toward the house? If toward, regrading the ground around the basement could really help. Your aim is to have about ½ inch drop for each foot away from the basement foundation for at least 10 feet. You’re aiming for at least a 5-inch or greater drop 10 ft away from the foundation. If you do regrade, be careful, you don’t want to bring the soil too close to the top of the foundation where the wood structure begins. Aim to have at least a 6-inch gap between the top of the soil and the top of the foundation wall.
If water is still entering next come some more expensive options:
- If water is coming up low on the foundation or floor the footing drains may be plugged. If you have footing drains there is usually a clean-out in the basement. Find it and then hire a plumber to clean it out. It may do the trick.
- Still having an issue? Install a perimeter drain around outside of the foundation. Often called a Curtain Drain, this system uses a perforated pipe to capture water underground and direct it away. Dig a trench around the foundation about 2 ft deep and wide. Fill the trench with about 3 inches of washed stone gravel, lay landscaping fabric on top of the gravel leaving enough fabric to wrap the pipe. Lay the pipe on top of the fabric and cover the pipe with additional washed stone gravel. Wrap this top layer with the fabric, add sand on top of the fabric and then your topsoil and turf. Aim to have about 5” of sand and topsoil above the top layer of fabric. Add a bed of stone around the open end of the drain pipe.
- You also have the option of adding a sump pump, and or waterproofing the outside of the foundation walls. You would need to hire a professional to complete those tasks.
When it comes to basements, there are no guarantees these will fix water entry, but most times they do, and many times without a big expense. The key is methodically stepping thru these options to determine if the condition improves. A basement that has been dry for years may suddenly suffer from water intrusion as the ground settles around the foundation. Monitoring and maintaining gutters, downspouts and extensions are always the best first steps, but if water intrusion becomes an issue anyway, you have options. Don’t get frustrated, get working!
Give us a call if you are not sure how to proceed. An opinion by a Professional Engineer may save you a lot of time and money. We can be reached at 508-589-8020. Criterium Dudka Engineers, 34 Hayden Rowe St, Hopkinton, MA. www.criterium-dudka.com.
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