Two waterproofing contractors have suggested the same remedy of
installing an interior perimeter drain system consistng of digging
out the 12-18" concrete slab perimeter and trenching to the footer.
Installing stone aggregrate and drain pipe and then covering with
stone, vapor barrier and "mira-drain" material at the wall/floor
joint up to about 1" above the replacement slab level. They will then
reinstall an improperly installed sump pit/pump and add an additional
sump pit/pump on the other side of the basement. There will be a
battery back up system installed as well. They think the house is
sitting on a spring. Lucky us!
Both contractors will issue a "dry walls and floor basement
guarantee" for as long as I own the home and it is able to be passed
on to 1 future owner. I can also receive a certificate of dry
basement for future mortgage requests.
There is 146 ft. of linear pipe to be installed along with 2 sump
pits. The prices were both within $600 of each other @ about $11,000
for the job.
1. Will the fix work?
In my opinion, once water has penetrated the concrete, damage has
already been done, and therefore, no interior "fix" will "work". Water
must be kept out of the concrete. Any solution must be executed outside
the building envelope. Water in concrete does damage, to the concrete
itself during freeze-thaw cycles, and to the rebar. Furthermore, water
inside a basement, whether standing or running, is a bad idea, health
In "problem" areas, (such as areas with high ground water) specific
solutions may need to be developed for specific sites. Each site is
different, and each solution is different. These solutions must be
professionally designed, and such design is not what contractors do-
it's what engineers or architects do. Contractors execute designs once
they've been designed.
You don't need a design based on the idea that someone "thinks the
house is sitting on a spring". You need to know if the house is sitting
on a spring, and design accordingly.
For what it's worth, I have yet to see a house that really is sitting
on a spring. Houses aren't easy to build, and most of the builders I
know are too lazy to build a house while wading around in a spring.
What I have seen is many houses that different people said were sitting
on springs, when what they meant to say was "there's lots and lots of
water in the basement".
Some contractors "specialize" in waterproofing. When such a contractor
recommends an interior solution, it's because they don't understand the
problem, and aren't capable of correctly analyzing the situation and
designing a solution for it, or it's because they have some pet
"solution" that they sell, and they are convinced that their one wrench
fits every nut. These "solutions" frequently take the form of magic
gunk, magic glue, inject-a-goo, interior trenches, sump pumps, and my
favorite, heavy nylon and plastic stapled to the inside of the basement
In my city, (a wet one, Seattle) dozens of these waterproofing
"contractors" open their doors for business every year, and every year,
dozens of them fail. The reason I know is because I've picked up behind
them for many years, after they've failed, and the customer's basement
is still wet. The only part of this that disappoints me is that the
customer ends up paying twice for the same work, and I am, therefore,
working uphill, against suspicion, to satisfy him. One of the main
reasons I'm still in business is because I know how to recognize what I
don't know, and I know how to call for the professional services I need
to get a project executed correctly. Wet basements are really bad
places to cut corners or save money.
Enough of that.
The first thing I do is call out an engineer to look the project over,
and tell us The Truth. We're not talking about a lot of money, we're
talking about a couple hundred dollars. With your check already in his
pocket, the engineer becomes our hired gun, and he has no reason not to
tell us the truth, and every reason (professional liability and
reputation) to give us the whole, ugly list of things that are causing
water to enter the basement.
What you get, then, is a fast, accurate answer, that either Standard
Solution A (new exterior footing drain, new emulsified asphalt, gravel
and landscape fabric), Standard Solution B (a rock pit) will work, or,
C, a custom design is needed. Note that none of these options include
water penetrating the building envelope. The goal is to Keep Water Out.
If A, great. We locate a Place For The Water To Go, and start digging.
Water likes a place to go. In fact, it likes a place to go so much that
it will always, always find one. Water is also very lazy. It will
always choose the easiest place to go. Water is relentless,
particularly in its choice of route. But most of all, water hates to be
If B, great again. Now we need a place for the pit. Placing it so it
floods your neighbor's basement usually isn't good for the local
political climate. Only do this if the political relationship with your
neighbor can't deteriorate any further, and you are already at war. In
that case, it makes a great weapon, but be warned that it will almost
certainly trigger the nuclear threshold, and loose the lawyers.
If it's a custom design that's needed, we proceed as necessary. We pay
for the design, and then we execute it precisely. If your site is real
trouble, (for instance, if it really is sitting on a spring) the
solution can be expensive. But if that's the case, it is what it is-
better to know, and build accordingly. The worse the site is, the worse
the choice of proceeding without a professional design becomes. No one
wants to put yet another 2 gallons of water into a radiator that has a
hole in it. Sooner or later, you loose the engine.
Designs and professional advice are worth every penny. What you get in
return is a dry basement.
2. Does the price sound reasonable?
No. I wouldn't pay a penny for an interior solution. Water inside your
basement can make you sick, literally. I refuse to have mosquito
nurseries in my basement. If I really couldn't find a way to keep the
water out, I would sell the house, and move. Really.
Best of luck, and let us know how it comes out!
Lyle B. Harwood, President
Phoenix Homes, Inc.
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