A member of my family is having a new home built. The basement has been
poured (it has poured walls) and they are waiting for the walls to fully
"set." Well, yesterday it rained, and what we observed was that the entire
basement floor appeared to be covered with a significant amount of water (a
piece of electric wire laying on the floor was completely submerged),
EXCEPT for the corner where the sump hole is. I then recalled that the
side of the basement where the sump is was the part that the concrete
finisher did last (it is the side by the egress window) and therefore, if
there was a small bit of extra concrete, that was likely where it wound up.
In any case, it appears we have a situation where as much as an inch of
water at the far end (give or take a little) would have to run UPHILL to
reach the sump. Now I should also mention that this basement is built on
pure sand (literally - there is a sand mine just a mile or so down the
road) and drainage is very good, so I don't really expect that there would
be too many situations where the basement might flood - but on the other
hand, if the unforeseen ever did happen, it would be much easier to deal
with the problem if the water naturally ran toward the sump. I should
probably also mention that this basement was constructed with extra
headroom, so pouring more concrete over the existing floor would be doable
(in terms of not losing space). And, the general contractor seems like an
honest person, but I'm not sure that he's aware of this problem yet.
So I have three questions:
1) Realistically, is this anything to worry about? Or am I concerned over
nothing? Should I keep my nose out of this?
2) Would this violate any codes or building standards (in other words, is
this something a local government building inspector would take an interest
in if they knew of the problem? This is in Michigan, if that makes any
3) If there is a problem here, what would be the best approach to take with
the contractor? Should my family member insist that a new layer of
concrete be poured that slopes toward the sump, or would that create other
problems? Would the excellent drainage of the soil indicate just leaving
well enough alone? If you are a contractor, would you categorize this sort
of defect as "serious" or "minor"?
4) If additional concrete should be poured, is that something that the
homeowner would have to bear the expense of, or would that be considered a
serious enough flaw that the concrete subcontractor should be required to
fix it on his nickel?
Neither I nor the family member in question have ever done anything like
this before, so I guess what I'm wanting to know is whether this is a
significant problem, or something fairly normal? I have a feeling the
contractor is not going to think it's anything to be concerned about, and
if that is the case, is it worth making a fuss over? Time is of the essence
here - if the situation is going to be rectified, it will be much harder to
do so after another week or so.
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You shouldn't "worry" about it, but the problem should be remedied.
Local code enforcers vary in thier interpretations, so i can speak for him,
but generally, basements must have a drainage system in place.
Have a meeting with the contractor on site so the problem can be seen by
all. A topping of concrete can be applied to the floor to achieve adequate
drainage. Check with your local concrete supplier. They will have a
"topping" mix design, and the procedure for application. I would categorize
this defect serious, with a simple solution.
What you describe is not within any tolerances for poured concrete,
therefore it would be considered performed with poor workmanship. The
expense would rest with the concrete finisher, but ultimately with your
As I said earlier, it is a significant problem with an easy fix. If he
feels that a sump pump that is placed in the highest point of the basement
is nothing to worry about, you need a new builder. He should have
contingencies in his pricing to cover mistakes such as this. If he balks,
ask him if his basement drains properly.
If the floor got wet because you have no basement windows and the rain
came in that way I would not worry. If there are perforated pipes
correctly installed under the floor and/or a perimeter drain leading to
the pit then the pit will work (once you put a pump in it).
I used to always assume that they pitch the basement floor to the pit for
drainage, but I see them poured flat most of the time now.
From your description it sounds like the basement was open to the sky
when it rained, right? No house on top of it yet? In that case, not
to worry. The sump is not really there to drain the basement from the
inside. If correctly installed, the way it works is this: drainpipes
are installed circling the perimeter of the foundation on the outside,
and are connected to the sump pit. When it rains water seeps through
the ground, hits these drainpipes, goes to the sump to get pumped out.
In other words it intercepts the water before it gets to the
foundation itself. The ground next to and below the basement stays
dry. There may also be a floor drain in the basement (and/or in the
stairwell, if there is an outside entrance to the basement) that
drains to the sump. The only circumstance where the water would drain
from the basement floor directly into the sump pit would be if there
is a pipe leak, washing machine overflow or some such. Again a floor
drain usually handles that.
You have three questions right here, nobody.
This one does not warrant "worry." Concern and attention,
Or am I concerned over
See above and below.
Should I keep my nose out of this?
That's up to you. Are you your brother's keeper? If it is
your concern, nose on in. If it is not your concern, you
can share what advice you choose with your family member.
other words, is
take an interest
that makes any
Perhaps codes, certainly building standards . . . especially
the one known as "commonly prevailing in the market."
approach to take with
Now with four questions! I wish I could pay my bills with
First, bring it to the builder's or general contractor's
attention in an informative, not accusitorial, way.
that create other
You slipped another question in here. No and yes,
>If you are a contractor, would you categorize this sort
I would categorize it is a defect without adding an
inflamatory adjective. (A pretty routine defect, sorry to
say, and very likely created just as you surmised, as all
the grading indicators would have been removed or
obliterated by the time the finisher reached that corner.)
As a defect, I would correct it to reasonable industry
something that the
be considered a
be required to
No and yes, respectively.
whether this is a
It is not a problem . . . only a defect and a minor
I wouldn't say normal, but I wouldn't say abnormal, either.
You know what they say "happens." Well, it does, and you
have to wipe.
concerned about, and
No. I have a feeling, also, the contractor is not going to
think it is anything to be concerned about, as he knows he
will take care of and correct the defect without your
You could have left this out. Time is always of the
You say so. Why? The quicker the better, I'd say as a
general rule, but you say much harder. Let the contractor
set his schedule. He has far more scheduling considerations
than does a new home buyer (who has plenty without worry
over a detail).
My advice in one word (your math):
Don't sweat it. Be thankful if that is the only "defect"
you'll discover or, at least, the worst. (But, somehow, I
expect we will hear from you again.) Have your relative
speak to the builder or contractor. That is your relative's
responsibility (first) on any question or concern.
I have one more word for your relative:
Relax. Enjoy the building of your new home. It is
interesting. Be a partner with the contractor. He is not
your enemy. He is, right now, more proud of what he is
doing than you are. He wants you to be more proud than he
once you have taken posession. I have seen many, many new
homeowners worry themselves sick before moving in . . . and
for a year thereafter, looking for anything than they might
have missed or could go wrong. They have missed, forever,
one of the great experiences of life. Count the blessings.
They are many in a new home. Defects, like life, are sure
to be there. A house, a home, like a life ain't perfect but
it is a joy . . . if enjoyed.
The floor needs to be sloped toward the drain not the sump pit. Our
county ammends the Illinois plumbing code to require a drain within 5
feet of each water heater and furnace. The drain is then connected to a
pipe that runs under the basement floor and is pitched down toward the
sump pit. If you look in the sump pit you will see the knockout has been
removed where the floor drain connects. It is usually about a foot below
floor grade. You indicated there was some water on the floor so I would
check the drain to see whether it has been hooked up yet. Sometimes the
finishers stick a rag in it to keep it from getting filled with concrete.
If your water heater is at the opposite end of the basement from the
sump pit, if (when) it leaks, you don't want the water to run through
your entire basement to get to the sump. You want it to go into the
drain that's closest to the water heater.
The last thing in the world you should worry about is the concrete level
by your sump pit. It's the one place you'll never go, no one will ever
see it, it's damp, it smells. Save your anxiety for something you'll
have to look at the rest of your life, like the woodwork or the drywall
On Tue, 23 Sep 2003 08:26:00 -0400, someone wrote:
A sump and a drain are two different things. A sump pit is NOT
typically to collect water that is already on the basement floor, it
is fed by pipes under the slab to keep water from rising up. Why does
this house with excellent drainage need a sump pit?
If there are floor drains, yes the floor has to be pitched to them,
but most people do NOT want sloping floors.
If there is no spec for the job that the floor has to pitch to drain,
there is probably no obligation on the part of the contractor to do
anything. There is a customary tolerance of un-evenness, a
residential basement will NOT be finished to a commercial flatwork
standard unless that is specified (and paid for).
The owner should tell the contractor his concerns, see if something
can be worked out, but it does NOT appear to be a "defect" that the
contractor has to fix.
I don't think you have a problem.
The purpose of a sump system is to remove rising ground water before it
gets into the basement. It should have drain tiles next to the
foundation that direct the water into the sump pit and then the pump
will take it from there. The level of the floor should have no affect
on this capability.
If water gets into the basement you've got other problems that need to
be fixed (landscaping, pipes, etc). It is reasonable to want a floor to
slope to the sump pit, but that should have been specified in the
building contract. With a heavy sand base I suspect the pump will
rarely be used as the drainage should be excellent.
Make sure the inspector and the builder know about the situation and
find out what the codes specifiy. I suspect your family member will be
very happy with a dry basement and plenty of headroom.
I've got a full basement in a heavy clay base, no foundation drain tiles
and am at the bottom of a hill. I put a sump pit in the lowest corner
as a stop gap measure. I'd rather have your problem. (The pit hasn't
been used in a couple years since I installed various drainage systems
in the yard.)
In a perfect world, the sump would never pump water from anywhere but the
outside drainage system and the basement would always be cozy and dry. In
the real world, we have fast snow melts, heavy rains, etc. that tend to end
up at the lowest point in the area (i.e. a basement), and the sump is real
handy to get rid of the extra water. In my years of building, I have yet
to see a basement that is perfectly dry after a few years. The sump is a
good backup plan for basement flooding, and if it is at the highest point,
it sucks (...air that is, rather than H20). Think about the landscapers
that build up beds around the house and create a dam for drainage. It
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