I am house hunting and recently I came across a house I really like and I am
thinking of making an offer. The house is a 40 year old ranch with a
basement. A small room on one side of the basement contains a crawl space,
although I suppose it really isn't a crawl space since you can walk in it.
Inside the crawl space room there is a damp smell and a sump pump in the
floor. There's also a big mound of dirt in the crawl space with a plastic
sheet over it. There is no damp smell anywhere else in the basement.
I'm wondering if this is a bad sign of serious moisture problems and would be
really bad when we try to sell the house in the future. Can anyone give me
his or her opinion?
Depends on the area of the country you talking about. Where I live in
Arizona deserts, finding what you described would be "RUN not walk to the
nearest exit". Other places like Florida where the ground water table is
pretty high maybe not. Do the neighbors have similar installations?
Being a resident of the area, and having shopped
specifically for homes with basements just a few years ago,
I can tell you that it's very common, almost essential, you
should be glad it's there, and it doesn't detract from the
house in the least.
If you happened to be living in the house next week
(Katrina), you'd know why houses with basements in North
Georgia (clay) have sump pumps.
The damp smell should worry you more than the existence of a sump pump.
1. pull the cover off the pump and look inside. Is it dry ? or full of
(if full of water and it hasn't rained in months, you may have a water table
2. look at the area where the pump outlet drains, is the ground wet or
soaked in that spot ?
Even in houses with storm and sanitary sewers it never hurts to have the
sump as a backup.
Weepers can plug up, sewers can (ugh) back up,
A sump at the lowest part of the floor will drain out anything it needs to,
or sit and wait until it's needed.
I don't know why you are questioning about a home in that area having a sump
pump. If I had a home with a basement, ( I don't care if it was on a top of
a mountain with steep sides all around the house) I would want to make sure
that the home was tiled around the foundation and the tile ran into a sump
with no less than a 1/2 HP pump installed in it. If the basement smells
musty, no problem buy a dehumidifier and run at 35 to 40 % that will take
care of it. I would view a home that has a basement with a sump as a big
plus. A home with a basement that has no sump, I will bet that when a big
rain comes it will have a seepage problem. My 2 cents worth
Here in Chicago, in the land of basements, sump pumps are quite
How much you need to worry about water infiltration as more to do with
the grading of the lot and how the house sits on the land than it does
with the presence of absence of a sump pump.
From his description, I'm sure the dirt predates the house. In that era,
less-than-full basements were quite common, and depending on frostline or
local soil conditions, the walls for the crawlspace may go down nearly as
far as the basement itself. The 'walkable space' he refers to is merely the
inside of the trench dug way back when for pouring the footers and laying up
the walls of the crawlspace. Space like that usually didn't get a real door,
just a inside or outside cubby for access. (My 1956 childhood home was like
that.) Around here, on mid-20th-century houses, it is not unusual to see
crawlspaces like that that were dug out, and a second set of footers and
more wall added, with a 'shelf' about 2 feet deep all around the outside,
leading back to the original walls. Almost nobody uses partial crawlspaces
any more- it is either a full crawl on a entry-level or high-water-table
house, or a full basement. On a 200k + house, the cost difference is
insignificant, especially the way basements are dug these days with huge
excavators. On a 1950s house, usually on a small lot, the digging was
usually a short-reach backhoe, and there was still a lot of hand work.
Is that because a home in Atlanta shouldnt have frequent discharge? I
don't see a problem with a frequent running sump unless you know
something specific that this shouldn't occur in Atlanta?
My sump is like leaving a 100w light bulb on all day just about. Not
all that bad. Plus its good to know the hydrostatic pressure is being
removed, which is the real concern.
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