Wet Basements

Published on October 9th, 2013 | by Henri

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Shrubs may be main cause of water in basement

Q.   I have had water in my basement three times in the 25 years I’ve lived in my house. Each time it has been late winter or early spring when the ground was frozen and heavy rain for two or three days occurred. No problems in summer, fall, etc.

The grade slopes downward to my foundation from the street, levels off and slopes upward to the top of the foundation wall. The grade also slopes downward on each side of the house and is level with the basement floor. Water only enters from the front of the foundation.

I propose to put in a curtain drain 6 to 8 feet from the front foundation (to avoid removing shrubs) to a depth of 6 to 7 feet, and run a drain to the lower grade. I believe water pressure builds up when the ground is frozen and forces the water into the basement.

The interior walls are paneled and I cannot tell where it comes in, but when it starts, it comes in fast. Do you believe this will cure the problem? I would hope the water would take the path of least resistance.

A. Considering the conditions you describe, I believe your problem is caused by the shrubs against the foundation. Flowerbeds and shrub beds are usually flat and somewhat irregular, even though you mention that the grade rises toward the foundation.

When the ground is frozen, any water falling on these beds will flow to the lowest points and run to wherever it can. The weakest point is the joint between the earth backfill and the foundation walls, as rainwater races down along the foundation and finds a way inside. This is consistent with what you describe.

A curtain drain will not solve this problem, as water running down from the street should follow the swale in front of your house and not reach your foundation. Save your money. The solution is to build the grade up so that the spring rainwater and melted snow cannot reach the foundation but flow toward the swale instead.

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