Dealing with Home and Basement Drainage

Many homeowners have at some point or another experienced unwanted water, seepage, or flooding in their basements.  These events occur in an unpredictable fashion almost all the time.  Homeowners should be knowledgeable in methods on how to deal with surface and subsurface drainage in basement and crawl space areas.  You never know when a situation will require your drainage system to be called into action!

A homeowner has several options to consider when dealing with a water or moisture issue including:

  • Sump Pump and Pit
  • Foundation Drainage
  • Gutter Control
  • Wall or Crack Sealing

Every home is different and has its own unique drainage conditions with regard to surface and subsurface drainage.  In all cases, you should evaluate your situation both inside and outside the home and review your options for professional consultation if you have any doubts.

Sump Pump & Pit
Sump Pump and Pit

Installation for any of these options will most likely involve professional consultation.   The make-up of your home and relevant drainage characteristics need to be considered for the best option to be employed.  A qualified professional will evaluate these conditions and work with you on a plan to mitigate unwanted drainage effects in your basement.  In some cases, you may need to look at outside topography, groundwater conditions, electric availability, construction characteristics of your home, and reliability.

Flooding in Wisconsin in recent years has emphasized the value of good surface drainage around homes.  It is important to review your gutters and downspouts and look closely at where water travels.  You should also review water coming into your home site from other outside sources, such as neighboring properties, streets, pipes, or other discharges.

Some homes were constructed in areas that are low-lying and near groundwater elevations.  Such homes should have a foundation drainage system that is reliable and that drains to a suitable outside positively draining location.  While foundation drainage is now a Uniform Dwelling Code (UDC) requirement for new construction, some older homes may not have this feature and the installation of an exterior foundation drainage system could be an option.  It is important that these home features are installed properly and discharge to suitable locations that do not contribute to additional property damage.  Further, most municipalities do not allow the discharge of foundation (clear) water into septic or sewer systems as this additional water volume can be a substantial detriment to wastewater treatment in your area.

Homes with minor drainage or seepage problems should always consider fast and low cost remedies as first options.  Many times downspouts are positioned in areas that do not drain away from the exterior foundation.  This can be alleviated by simply extending the downspout horizontally to a suitable location.  Also, window wells and other sill elevations should be inspected regularly for signs of water intrusion, as grade elevations around a home can settle down and impact the positive flow of water away from these openings.

Gutter Downspout
A downspout extension can ensure that water drains away from a home’s foundation

Seepage through walls is relatively normal but in some cases can lead to structural degradation, dampness, mold, and other nuisances.  After some of the above options are considered, the homeowner can also consider wall treatments to seal up cracks and small openings in the concrete walls.  There are a variety of products applicable to these situations that may or may not require professional assistance.  The primary action of these items is to seal up cracks which can sometimes be effective for minor seepage.

The homeowner, after careful review, has real options to deal with drainage and water issues.  Always take a good look at the situation and consider whether professional consultation is appropriate for your issue.  As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.