11:51AM | 10/18/01
Member Since: 09/12/01
8 lifetime posts
I just bought a house that was built in 1933 and was told by the past owners (who only owned it for two years) that the basement never leaked. The basement does have a fairly modern sump pump that the past owners believed was a true sump pump, although it was obviously installed recently.

Well, we just had some biblical rains here in Michigan, and the basement wall leaked. The problem is the basement walls are painted with a sealant (Drylock?) and I cannot localize where the leaks are occuring. The water simply leaks out at the base of the wall. Any ideas on how to localize the leak? Also, is there a problem with leaving water trapped between the sealant and the walls?

A related question: The base of the basement walls are lined with what feels like styrofoam. It is about 4 inches tall and 2 inches wide and runs along the entire perimeter of the interior basement wall. What is this? Is it related to the sump pump for removing water that leaks through the walls?

Sorry about the long post, and thanks for any help.


03:09PM | 10/18/01
Member Since: 09/23/01
242 lifetime posts
First, I would contact your realtor. Most states have disclosure laws. If the previous owner had knowledge of the leaks, or was told of what had been done to take care of them they should have told you.
The Styrofoam could be to insulate the floor from the walls, but then mabye it is part of the sump system.

Jay J

09:31AM | 10/19/01
Member Since: 10/26/00
782 lifetime posts
Hi benrobin,

I'll give some quick, short answers first ...

Seller Disclosure (as DH points to) is required in some states and is mandatory in others. Depending on the laws of your state, you could be at a loss. EVEN if your state required it, and the owner 'lied', you'd have to prove that they knew the basement leaked. The presence of a perimeter drain system and a sump pump don't mean that the basement had leaked. It may be shown that they were installed 'just in case' the basement leaked. In short, trying to prove the previous owners knew 'something' may cost more $$$ than any recovery will pay.

RE: Biblical Rains - It's quite possible that the Biblical Rain you're refering to was the rain that 'broke the camel's back'. There MAY have been Biblical Rains PRIOR to the sale of the house but proving that they 'infiltrated' the basement may be hard to prove now.

The styrofoam lining may be part of a perimeter drainage system. Look for 'channeling' in the foam or channeling on the floor of the basement. All that's, essentially, done is a way is made to 'channel' excess water to the pit. If the foam doesn't have anything to do w/a perimeter drainage system, I can't tell you what it is. I DOUBT the foam has anything with removing leaks through the walls ...

RE: Trapped Water under the 'Drylok' - If the water doesn't run 'down' the wall and out the bottom, it will eventually 'blister' through the Sealer. So far, you're lucky that the water isn't pushing through the Sealer. For now, leave well enough alone on this ...

Did you have a Home Inspection? Please answer this ? for me. If you did, what did the Inspector say about what you're asking 'us'? (You said you just bought the home, so you should be allowed to call him back if you don't have a 'good answer' to your question(s).)

Lastly, 95% of water-in-the-basement problems are associated with leaking gutters, missing gutters, improperly INSTALLED gutters, missing or improperly installed downspouts, water-dumping at the foundation, and wrongly-sloped landscaping around the house. The next time you get a heavy rain (and you don't have to wait for a Biblical Rain), don your raincoat, boots, and an umbrella (watching out for lightening), and look UP and DOWN. Look at both. See if you have leaks, excess runoff on the roofline, watch where the water is running to or collecting at, and so on. The KEY to fixing these problems is relatively inexpensive. Sealing up walls and installing perimeter drain systems and sump pumps are usually 'bandaids' on a forever bleeding wound. Over time, water that is 'permitted' to leak into the basement may be undermining the foundation, or causing cracks to enlarge, or who knows what else. FIXING the problem from the outside should be, IMO, the FIRST line of defense.

Take this all to heart and you should do much better in the future. Please tell 'us' what the Inspector said about your ?'s. My best to ya and hope this helps.

Jay J -Moderator

PS: God Bless America!


02:16AM | 10/20/01
Member Since: 09/12/01
8 lifetime posts
Thanks for the replies.

I checked into the disclosure laws. You are right, unless I can prove they lied, there is no case.

The contractor that inspected the house noticed past water damage but said that it did not look recent. The basement is not finished, but the past owners used it is a living space. They had a couch, a TV, a computer, and art on the walls. All circumstantial evidence but it pointed towards an historically dry basement. That was my thinking, at least.

I was a little paranoid about rain in the basement, so I habitually check downspouts and eaves during every rain. Everything appears to be connected, and water goes where it should.

Thanks again for your answers.

Jay J

04:56AM | 10/20/01
Member Since: 10/26/00
782 lifetime posts
Very good. Not to beat a dead horse but you only made mention of 'inspecting' the gutters and eaves during the rain. Be sure you've extended your downspouts at least 3' away from the foundation. And be sure your landscape slopes at least 1/4" per foot (over 3') away from the foundatio wall. Of course, the more slope, the better. If you could slope it about 1" per foot (for 3'), then the water at the 3' mark would have to rise 3" to 'reach' the foundation wall. This is why more slopage is better.

My best to ya and hope this helps.

Jay J -Moderator

PS: God Bless America!

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