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Wet basements

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Wet basements

Postby narcoleptish » Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:43 am

The last week is precisely why I never encourage anyone living in older houses, especially on the isthmus, to finish their basement. Back when many of these homes were built the basement was never intended or expected to remain dry all the time.

What I'm seeing this week in several places, including my own, is water seeping up through the floor. Sealed walls are dry but the ground is so saturated that houses are basically sitting in a puddle and the pressure forces water up through any cracks or holes in the floor. This happened to my house in 2008 and then not again until Wednesday.

So if you're getting water in where it doesn't usually happen, it's not necessarily something that needs an emergency fix, it's a normal occurrence for an abnormally wet week. Of course if you insist, I'm sure you can find any number of basement sealing businesses that will be happy to take a lot of your money. Or you can live with the fact that some basements should really just be basements.

Not to totally discount the basement sealing business, I would be curious to hear of anyone on here that lives on the isthmus, especially in the Tenney area, that has had a completely dry basement this week.
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Re: Wet basements

Postby Endo Rockstar » Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:59 am

narcoleptish wrote:
Not to totally discount the basement sealing business, I would be curious to hear of anyone on here that lives on the isthmus, especially in the Tenney area, that has had a completely dry basement this week.


Dry because of my sump pump. I'm buying a backup this weekend, just because that little trooper has been firing once an hour for the better part of 48 hrs straight. I could set my watch by it.

I also did some serious re-grading of the areas around the house to help with the run off earlier this year. I'm assuming that it was helpful, but I can't say for sure.

Dan Motor
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Re: Wet basements

Postby green union terrace chair » Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:23 pm

narcoleptish wrote:The last week is precisely why I never encourage anyone living in older houses, especially on the isthmus, to finish their basement. Back when many of these homes were built the basement was never intended or expected to remain dry all the time.

That's something I never thought of but quite plausible.

It is possible to improve one's basement to make it more livable but one should probably limit floor coverings to those of the outdoor patio type. Plastic green turf?
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Re: Wet basements

Postby fennel » Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:40 pm

I'm a big believer in good quality oil floor paint, but I do like a basement to be a basement. Certainly no drywall within a foot of the floor, in any case.
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Re: Wet basements

Postby Steve Vokers » Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:46 pm

I had water come in every spring. It would come up through the joint where the floor met the foundation. I finally had enough after one too many floods, and I had a drainage system and sump pump installed. Even with these heavy rains I haven't had a drop of water anywhere in my basement other than in the sump pump well.

That was $4,000 well spent, IMHO.
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Re: Wet basements

Postby Endo Rockstar » Fri Jun 28, 2013 12:53 pm

speaking of sump pumps, my neighbor had his sump discharge tied directly to the city storm drain system when my street was under construction a few years back. I'm freaking jealous of him not having clay water blast all over his lawn every hour.

Anyone over had this done after that fact? I'm curious what the city would charge you to have your sump tied in?

-Dan Motor
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Re: Wet basements

Postby barney » Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:15 pm

We had seepage, but no standing water. The previous owners of our home had a french drain installed ( I think after 2008), which kept us far better off than our neighbors, who did have quite a bit of water. We also had a little seepage this spring, when we got all that rain when the ground was still semi-frozen.

what about using that plywood with the backer to 'elevate' the floor above any seepage?
anyone have any luck with that?
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Re: Wet basements

Postby snoqueen » Fri Jun 28, 2013 2:16 pm

You do that, the water will just stay under the flooring and eventually mold.

I second "basements were intended to be basements." When I bought my present house, an unfinished basement was non-negotiable. The one I have is just fine. In 08 it got slightly wet, this year it hasn't. Any little puddle of water that comes in I sweep down the drain and that's that.

In my old place in Tenney-Lapham, the house was well over 100 years old. The basement (lime-mortar and stone, not concrete) was tall enough for short Norwegians, though not tall Norwegians like me (that is, it was way less than 5'9" deep). They were smart, those short Norwegians. They knew the deeper they went with the basement, the wetter it would be. Neighbors on both sides (with normal-size basements) had water most years, while my basement just got very very damp. It was the slow seepage Narco is referring to.

And it dried right up once the weather changed, especially if I opened the basement windows (yours should open, not be glass-bricked). No moldy places. It was like a clean cool pleasant cave. And the old foundation was dead level, after all those years. They must have dug down to undisturbed soil for the footings (it did have footings, though only a partial floor. The rest was sand -- good drainage, again). If your place is like that, leave it alone. It's the best you're going to get for that age of house.

Lots of damage has been done to some of those old marshy-area houses in the last hundred years. I'd suggest any buyer know what she/he is getting into. The worst thing is coating the whole exposed exterior and/or the whole interior in Portland. Portland is not water-permeable like lime-mortar, and in a wet year water pressure will build up in the adjacent soil and put a lot of pressure on your foundation. This can result in cracking or actual failure.

If you leave it alone with the original exposed lime mortar, it simply breathes along with the environment, seeps in a damp year, dries out later on. And it remains sound.

Hint number 2: If the city wants to put new storm sewer down your street (which results in an assessment to the homeowner) jump up and down with joy. Your basement should be a whole lot dryer afterward, and you might even be able to do without the sump pump.

Any house older than a decade or two, I'd say unfinished basements are the only way to go unless your drainage is phenomenal. Finishing provides too many places to trap moisture which results in hidden mold. Newer houses should have been built with layers of waterproofing (including a layer of foam board, ideally) on the outside of the foundation and better perimeter drainage if they were built up to the best standards, but those waterproofing materials are relatively recent. A new house should even have a layer of waterproofing under the poured concrete floor to prevent the seepage thing.

The ordinary Isthmus basement has no such protection and I've never seen a finished one that was halfway satisfactory over time. Same with a lot of the east side where the land is low-lying. Paint the floor, paint the walls, put in good lighting, make sure the windows open, and make the best of it. If you want to put down a piece of carpet, let it be loose not fastened down. Then you can take it out easily when it gets damp, which it will.

Running a dehumidifier (when you don't need the sump pump) is helpful but costs an arm and a leg.
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Re: Wet basements

Postby narcoleptish » Fri Jun 28, 2013 5:23 pm

-Endo & Steve V.

This is what I'm curious about. I know the drainage tile systems are great at catching the water that comes in through walls and the joint where the wall meets the floor, but have you ever gotten the seepage up through the middle of the floor like I mentioned?

Like Sno said, that's the main reason I tell people not to put in a finished floor in the basement. Even if the majority of the water is being pumped out by the sump, if you get moisture under a sub-floor or even linoleum lying on the cement, it's never going to dry out.

I run the dehumidifier even though they're one of the biggest power sucks you can own, but that's mostly to keep the musty smell down. For drying up this weeks water I went with the wet-vac and a high power fan. Moving air is the best, it gets in all the nooks and crannies.
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Re: Wet basements

Postby Steve Vokers » Fri Jun 28, 2013 6:28 pm

No, never had water come up through the middle of the floor.
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Re: Wet basements

Postby snoqueen » Fri Jun 28, 2013 6:45 pm

This shows how it happens. You actually get water pressure building up beneath the basement floor. If the floor is nothing but a slab without waterproofing and proper layers of sand and gravel beneath and drainage around the perimeter, the water will soak right through from underneath, come up through small cracks, or create new openings where it finds weaknesses or porosity.

Image
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Re: Wet basements

Postby Stebben84 » Fri Jun 28, 2013 7:45 pm

Had water in my basement for the first time in the 3 years I have lived here. Not major, but disconcerting to say the least. It was on the side under my deck that has no vegetation to soak up the water. Towels and fans have been my friend. Hopefully this rain trend will stop soon.
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Re: Wet basements

Postby WestSideYuppie » Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:03 pm

We were spared this time. For our particular house, the key to keeping water out of the basement has been to keep the gutters functioning. Also, I strategically dug what amounts to a makeshift french drain that goes around one corner of the house.

Water pooling directly in the middle of the basement could be condensation, if it has no obvious source. That happens in our garage.
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Re: Wet basements

Postby Endo Rockstar » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:22 am

I personally have never had water come up through the cracks in the floor, but its happened to a few of my friends.

Kyle Motor made a good observation while we were having a couple beers (actually beers and mojitos, but beer sounds more manly) on my deck Saturday night. He mentioned that this spring and the amount of precipitation its brought is so out of the ordinary that people who've never had a wet basement before get the lovely experience of wet socks and musty basement in the morning. Basically, if this has never happened in your house before this spring -- don't sweat it. At most it will be a once in 10 years occurence and its nothing some combination of shop vacs, towels, fans, and dehumidifiers can't solve.

-Dan Motor
Last edited by Endo Rockstar on Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wet basements

Postby Endo Rockstar » Mon Jul 01, 2013 8:28 am

Christ, I almost forgot about this and its very related.

This happened in the 'hood Saturday night.

Smoke Alarms Alert Family to Fire

this is very unofficial, but according to some neighbors who spoke the a firefighter at the scene, the fire may have been started by an old dehumidifier in the basement. The motor burned out. I wanted to to mention this because everyone I know has one of those dehumidifiers that "came with the house." It may be time for an upgrade.

Smoke detectors folks! have you checked yours in the last 6 months?

-Dan Motor
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