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basement leak from a footing drain

GBA Editor | Posted in General Questions on

I have been in my house for 21/2 years, the house was built in 2005, I am the original owner. We have had very wet fall/winter 15″ above the normal. We noticed the basement is leaking where the floor meets the poured concrete wall, only when it rains very hard(lately-just started leaking in the last 2 months.) What do I need to know to talk intelligently to a basement expert coming to my house to asses the problem. He suspects it is footing drain, which I did not know I even had in my home. This was not explained to me by the builder or real estate agent. What are some of the fixes, if any, and what a rough estimate may be? I do not want to get dooped.Help…..debby

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  1. Doug McEvers | | #1

    Does the house have gutters and does the lawn slope away from the house on all sides?

  2. GBA Editor
  3. Derek Vander Hoop | | #3

    Debby, in the old days, drain tile ran around the perimeter of the home both on the inside and the outside of the footing. Nowadays, they form the footings with form-a-drain, which basically is a hollow footing forms left in place after the concrete is poured and functions as drain tile. Water that collects around the outside of a basement wall is conducted via "bleeders" from the outside drain tile (or form-a-drain) to the inside drain tile (or form-a-drain), which then is pitched to drain into a sump crock. The water is then pumped out of the crock by a sump pump and ejected outside. If conditions permit, foundation drains can also "drain to daylight." In this scenario, if your lot drops off steeply, water can drain through pitched tile or PVC out to a point in your lot where it emerges from grade (your lawn). The advantage to this is no electricity is needed, and there are no worries when one has a power failure.

    Whether you have a sump pump or a drain to daylight, water should never rise high enough to come out where your floor meets your wall. This can happen for a variety of reasons. If your foundation is backfilled with so much stone that during a deluge, your sump pump cannot keep up and water slowly rises in the crock, in the stone under your basement floor, and outside the foundation, water can rise up to top of slab level. If your tile or form-a-drain are clogged or are incorrectly installed, and are not draining well, water that cannot drain to the crock will also rise between the wall and slab up to top of slab. I have seen gravity drains (to daylight) blocked by snow and ice, preventing water from exiting, and I have also seen rodents and other animals go into gravity drains, die and block the drain (even with rodent grates).

    Doug asked whether you have gutters and whether your grade is pitched away from your home. It is true that collecting and moving water away from your foundation will often solve or minimize foundation leaks.

    There are a lot of charlatans in the basement waterproofing business. Some of them come up with very outlandish schemes which have no possibility of being effective, yet people buy it. Some of the "solutions" I've seen that I don't believe in are ejecting bentonite into the ground, or digging down a foot or so next to your home and laying a visquine trench around the home, and tarring the top foot of your basement wall. You might want to call the better business bureau and get multiple estimates. Be careful and good luck!

  4. Riversong | | #4


    If it's leaking now only because of heavy rains, particularly if it's leaking only in one area, then the problem is that rainwater is not getting moved away from your foundation. Either there are inadequate overhangs, no gutters or ineffective downspouts and leaders, or the ground is graded poorly or too permeable at the surface or any combination of those.

    A footing drain is intended to remove rising ground water before it reaches the height of the basement floor, not to remove rain water. Your problem is above ground or at ground level.

    And, contrary to Derek's statements, few homes use expensive form-a-drain and most basement waterproofers are highly qualified. But if your "expert" doesn't investigate outside the basement, he's looking in the wrong place.

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