Your Home, May 2009   Brought to you by The Reilly Group - Home Inspection Services in CT. 203-785-8141  
Tips & info on maintaining your Connecticut home and living comfortably
May 2009
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Do It Yourself
Fixing Leaky Basements in Spring

We’ve had an unusually wet spring and in these circumstances even the driest of basements may get damp or wet. The most common reason for a wet basement is drainage problems around the perimeter of the home. If your basement is wet, check the following common causes:

Poorly maintained gutters are the most likely cause of a wet basement. Clean out leaves and debris from your gutters then repair disconnected joints and any areas that are leaking. Redirect drain spouts away from the perimeter of the foundation.

If your home was built before the 1960’s, some or all of your drain pipes may have been connected to clay pipes that run underground. Sometimes the clay pipes were also installed directly into the basement and then connected to your home’s sewer drain. Here are some examples of gutters connected to clay underground pipes:

gutter downspot that connects to under ground clay pipe
gutter down apout that connects to unknown location under ground

The problem with these installations is that over the years debris like twigs and leaves have accumulated and now are clogged up in the pipes underground. Another issue is that tree roots and compacted soil cause the clay pipe to crack underground.

Here is an example of an underground clay pipe that has cracked. As you can imagine, the pipe was directing the water directly along the walls of the foundation, causing leaks in the basement walls.

The easiest and most affordable way to deal with these underground installations is to disconnect the exterior gutters a few feet above the ground and add an extension downspout that directs water away from the foundation. Here are some examples:

Another option is to install a rain barrel to collect rain water for your garden. Here’s an example of a downspout directed to a rain barrel:

Available from Gardener's Supply

Once you’ve fixed the gutters, make sure you clean and check your gutters each fall to avoid recurring problems in the future.

If you’re still experiencing problems with wetness in your basement after you fix your gutters, check the grading around the perimeter of your foundation. The best time to check is during or just after a heavy rain storm. If there are any areas where water pools around the edge of the foundation, you may need to regrade that area.

The next time it rains, go outside and see if or where water is pooling around the perimeter of your foundation. If your yard is flat, you may be able to fix minor pooling by raising the soil level around the perimeter of your home. Add 6 inches of soil around the edge of your foundation with a gentle slope that extends out ten feet.

If your yard is not flat or your home is at the bottom on a hill, you may need to call in experts to help you fix the problem. The best way to fix the issue on this type of property is by building a French drain or a swale that directs water around and past your home as it moves down the hill.


Additional Resources:

Video - Fixing the Home’s Gutter System with Bob Villa

Video – How to Build a French Drain

Online Article – Building a Rock Drainage Swale
A rock drainage swale - click here to go to article

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