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Basement Problems and Repairs

cold_feet | Posted in General Questions on

I’d really appreciate help learning who to look for and what questions to ask for this repair issue.  Our 1980’s home was built on top of a mini-hill, but the grading on one outside corner of our home has sloped back towards the house over time.  This corner is the location for one of three downspouts and splash blocks.  A concrete walkway also runs around this same corner and has sunken in at that spot.  The basement on that corner is an unfinished utility room that takes up about a 1/3 of the basement space, with the rest being finished living area.  After it rains, the basement smells off for a while but the smell will dissipate.  There is some kind of staining (water & efflorescence maybe?) on the inside exposed cinder-block wall of that same corner.  The exposed cement floor in that area has a very skinny crack.  We know that the cement floor is paper thin with foam underneath (something chipped the floor in one spot and exposed the foam allowing us to see how thin the cement is).  The drywall in the finished part of the basement and through the rest of the house appears okay to us; no cracks or signs of water damage or staining.  The floor in the basement is also dry.

Who should I search for to investigate and repair this problem?  We live close enough to DC that there should be plenty of businesses to choose from; the problem for me is learning who to look for and how do I tell the good from the bad.  When searching for businesses, does it matter that we also want to get some air sealing work and window repair/replacement work done or are we best off handling each project separately?

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  1. GBA Editor
    Kiley Jacques | | #1

    I’m giving your question a bump. It sounds like you are dealing with air infiltration/moisture in at least a portion of your basement, and that you have an insulated slab. While you wait for building experts to chime in, read these articles:
    Fixing a Wet Basement and Insulating a Slab on Grade. They should help you feel more informed about questions to ask the pro you ultimately hire. My suggestion is to keep thd projects separate, as they require different areas of expertise. That said, you might get lucky and find a builder qualified and willing to tackle all of them.

  2. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #2

    You really want to fix the water issue first. Insulating over a water problem will only make things worse. I would recommend draining those gutters out past the depression as a first step -- draining the gutters into a depression near your house only ensures that even MORE water will be going into the ground near your foundation, which is something you definetely want to avoid. The easiest way to do this is with long extensions on your down spouts. If you have something in the way or don't like that look, run a piece of PVC pipe underground with a pop-up emitter on the end. This way the water goes out further from the house, and the pop-up emitter only opens when there is water to let out, so it is pretty unobtrusive. Just make sure whereever you drain the water to is downhill from your house (ideally), and outside of that depression zone you mentioned.

    Try to fill in that depression so that you don't have anything holding water near your home. The easy way to do that is to just order a load of topsoil from a garden center and fill in the depression. All you need to do is build up the ground there enough that water won't pool up near your house.

    I'd get into the air sealing work after fixing the above issues. If you air seal over a water leak, the water is going to build up and get out somewhere, causing even more problems for you, and possibly resulting in the need for expensive repair work.


  3. cold_feet | | #3

    Thank you Kiley and Zephyr7.

    Any advice on how to pick a foundation company to work with or what to look for in a company? A quick search reveals many in the area (JES Foundation Repair, BDry, NV Waterproofing & Foundation Repair, and The Basement Pros, just to name a few).

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