What to Do When You Find Water in the Basement

Basement Water

It’s never a good thing when your husband calls you before you even get into work on a Monday morning. The Monday morning after Christmas, less than a month of moving into our new home, my husband called to tell me that there were puddles of water in our basement. As a first time homeowner, your first big house problem is stressful enough. Its even worse when that big problem comes before you’ve even made your first mortgage payment.

On top of that, water in the basement – especially puddles of water – is no joke. It can become a serious issue. If left untreated, it can wreck havoc on your foundation. When you haven’t lived in the home for very long, you have no idea how long the problem went untreated.

Here’s what we learned to do after we were given an indoor swimming pool as a belated Christmas gift.

1. Try to remain calm and don’t go to the dark side. I’d like to say that we didn’t freak out or cry or immediately think the worst, but we did all of the above. And going to the dark side? Oh we went there. We automatically assumed that we were sitting on a crumbling foundation, our home would never sell, and we were going to be living in a slanted house for the rest of our lives. That night, I called my mom crying, spitting out such nonsense as “even if we wanted to have kids right now, we will never be able to because we aren’t going to have any money now.” Dramatic much?!

Don’t be like irrational me. Here are a few ways to stay calm:
– Realize that water in the basement is actually a pretty common problem in many homes.
– Realize that you have some options and they may not all cost a ton of money.
– Know that every homeowner has issues with their home.
– Think of all the reasons you love your home and why you bought it.
– Call your mom if you need to.

2. Get a second – or third – opinion. The day we found water, we immediately had someone out to take a look and tell us what was wrong. The guy who came out told us that we needed to install grating and a sump pump, which would cost at least $10,000. Yeah, ok. First of all, we didn’t care about having water in the basement more than we cared about water getting into the basement. That project wasn’t going to stop water coming in; it was just going to deal with the water afterward. The guy wasn’t even an expert; he was a salesman. After he left, we had a family friend come in who said that it could just be a drainage issue. We liked that a heck of a lot better.

3. Find the source. The best way to fix the problem is to find the source. You won’t know how to fix the problem without some idea of what your fixing or where you are fixing it. This may require you to make a few holes or tear down entire walls. We had some nice pine paneling and drywall that had to be taken down and thrown away, but we found the source(s) of the water.

4. Start with exterior solutions first. If you don’t know the source of the leak, try fixing the problem from the outside first. Exterior issues can be the easiest and cheapest to fix. Drainage can be a big problem – especially if you live near water. You want to keep water as far away from the home as possible, so find ways to redirect it away from your foundation and use more absorbent garden materials – including sod, mulch, and plants with thirsty roots.

5. Create a path. Water will go wherever it can, so limit its options. Once you find where the water is coming in, create a path it can follow to the nearest drain and make sure it is the path of least resistance. Use weather stripping along the floor or something else that can make a waterproof trail. We are going to try a funnel around the leak source and lay tubing to the drain for now. The best advice to remember is this: don’t just try to block the water, it will just find another place to travel, believe me.

6. Have a plan of attack. Write out all of your ideas, but start with the cheapest and easiest solutions first. If they fix the problem, you’ve saved a ton of time and money.

Here’s our plan:
– Inspect the gutters and clear out any blockage
– Insert gutter extenders, so the water empties farther from the house
– Remove pea gravel and replace it with dirt and wood chips angled away from the house.
– Refill the space between the house and driveway with UV foam and flexible cement tar.
– If the leak is corrected with exterior work, cover the basement walls with dry lock for extra protection.
– If none of these solutions work, start looking into interior grading and a sump pump (the aforementioned $10,000 project) and other solutions

While we work to correct our own basement leak, I can’t wait to share each solution we try with you and hopefully share our success story!

Have you ever had water in your basement? How did you handle it?

4 thoughts on “What to Do When You Find Water in the Basement

  1. Laying tile around house down about two/three feet and directing it away will work also. Just make sure to have a slight grade to take water away. Perhaps you can direct it to a hole 2 yards in diameter 6 feet deep with pea gravel/sand for drainage

    1. Great advice. That is the French drain option we may do in the future if the exterior remedies don’t work!

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