From the Forum – Need Help — English Basement Flooding

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Need Help — English Basement Flooding:

“I own a row house south of H Street NE that has a basement. In the last 14-15 months, the basement has flooded every time DC has had a really hard rain. I believe the problem at first was that the drain at the back door of the basement was clogging. We fixed that and did not see any flooding for nearly a year, until a few weeks ago. In the last two weeks, the basement has flooded three times. The first time, there was about an inch of water in the back half of the basement. The last two times have been pretty minor. The water seems to be coming up from the middle of the floor, through the laminate flooring, and always starts in the back of the basement and spreads from there.

I had a plumber come out to investigate because I was worried about a groundwater problem or a leaking pipe. He told me that groundwater would have come through the whole apartment, not just consistently the bedroom in the back. We suspected that it was a foundation issue on the back wall (there were large cracks in it where it looked like water was coming through), so a contractor repaired that with cement and then applied water proof sealant to the cement. But it then flooded on Friday again. Believing we had ruled out the foundation as the issue, we suspected the cause was a leaking downspout pipe in the back corner of the house. The plumber thought he found a crack in the pipe that was about level with the basement floor, so we diverted the pipe. But yesterday we found water again had come through the middle of the floor after the rain in the morning and afternoon. It’s less water now, but I’m not sure if that’s just because it rained less than it did on Friday and a week or two before that.

At this point, I’m baffled about what’s going on. Is the plumber right, that it can’t be groundwater because it would come through the floor in the whole apartment? Could we have a crack in the cement pad that’s letting water come through? Could it be another leaking pipe (we diverted the downspout to a different drain)? I asked a neighbor after the really hard rain a week or two ago, and she said she hasn’t had any flooding issues in at least ten years. And I haven’t seen any signs from my other neighbors that they’re having flooding issues.

Does anyone have any clue what could be causing this issue? And does anyone have any recommendations for someone who could help me?”

15 Comment

  • The once and only time that my basement flooded the water came up from the ground and spreaded the entire apartment. At the time I was puzzled about how it happened. I was new to home ownership as well. I ripped up the carpet installed tiles and my basement has never flooded again. Still don’t know the reason why it did that one time.

  • Our basement flooded at the beginning of June and JES Construction (basement specialists) diagnosed the problem on the spot (faulty french drain system). They proposed a solution (new system with additional sump pump) that is backed by a lifetime warranty that no water would ever come in to the restored area. Might not have been the cheapest solution but its nice to know that someone else will step in if it ever happens again. Call Mitch at 540.760.9999.

  • My neighbor was displaced by flooding for the past 2 months. They have a basement apartment and as it turns out the problem is the city’s inadequate drainage system and crumbling infrastructure!

  • ah

    I think the plumber is wrong – water can come up wherever it has a place to push through the floor or walls. If there’s a crack in the slab in the middle, water will bubble up there and flow to the lowest point.

    Is the drain still clear? I suspect that’s your #1 problem. Could be any downspout that clears into that drain. Or it could just be saturated ground that has raised the water level creating a problem.

  • Our basement flooded a lot for the first few years we had it. Ultimately, we installed a sump pump and French drains around the foundation, it helped, but we still had a little water during Sandy when the pump just couldn’t keep up.

    • The ump pump and French drainage system route worked for my friend’s row house basement in Georgetown. Unfortunately, it was quite expensive if memory serves me correctly.

  • I suspect you’ve always had the tile down there since you’ve owned the property? Simple explanation in this city of sketchy renovations: somebody poured leveler on a bare concrete floor and laid tile, BUT they just left an old drain covered up somewhere in the middle. This would not shock me in the least. If there is a blockage somewhere in the line where that drains, water could be backing up and out of the lowest point (which would naturally be a basement floor drain)

    • I have the same suspicion. Even if remodelers laying the tile didn’t see it, a previous crew could have covered a secondary drain which future workers might not even know was there. Based on the behavior of the water described, I think water might be pushing through a second floor drain and migrating to the low point. Best bet would be to a stake out. Assuming your basement dries, wait for a heavy rain and start searching for damp patches. That will help you locate the source. Good luck.

  • We used to live in a basement apartment in Trinidad and had similar issues and were unsure what to blame it on. What ultimately fixed it was a sub pump. We never had flooding after that.

  • Had a recurring leak in the corner of my basement a few years ago. Almost every time there was a hard steady rain water would stream in through the corner of the bathroom. Called a waterproofing company and the guy explained to me that it was a result of the water table rising from the rainfall, which could be caused by any number of things. Suggested installing a second drain outside of the basement door along with a drainage system that extended along the back wall of the basement and a couple of feet along the side walls, all of which would run to a collection area where it would be emptied by a pump. Did the install and have not had a problem since – knock on wood. A good waterproofing company will give you a solution tailored to your problem. The first company I called wanted to install drains around the perimeter of the entire basement, which was unnecessary and more expensive. The second company – B Dry Waterproofing – limited the drainage system to where the problem was – the back of the basement.

  • I feel ya. Moved into a basement in January. Fortunately it only flooded in one place after the heavy rain last month which ended up being a closet adjacent to the laundry room/unfinished portion of the basement. Sucks that that space has been unusable for a month and that I had to clean up a bunch of mildew but otherwise I’m ok. My theory is that it might be the watertable is high and there is a section of the foundation which is letting it in locally. We got nearly 3 times the normal amount of rain for June and depending on the local geology it might not have adequate drainage to clear that fast. If my hunch is correct it should solve itself within a few weeks after the rain.

  • When we had flooding in our basement apartment, it seemed to come in from under the baseboard in the middle of the back wall. Several friends and colleagues recommended B-Dry to waterproof that wall/part of the foundation. B-Dry put up some kind of plastic against the foundation to help direct the water down into a trench and flowing towards a sump pump. We haven’t had any problems since. While the person who came to give us the sales pitch was a little slick, we went ahead with them based on all of the positive recommendations, and are glad we did.

    Good luck!

  • I have experienced isolated flooding in a corner of my apartment during heavy downpours. The home is not a rowhouse so I’m not sure if this would apply to your situation but one of the contributing factors was a rooftop gutter that was badly clogged. We (myself and the homeowners) are vigilant about clearing the ground-level drains just outside my back door but when the rooftop gutter clogs up, water always comes in but appears to be coming in from the ground rather than the ceiling. Might want to check all gutters as well.

  • Set aside some money for a high water bill and try to recreate the issue yourself with a hose.

    Water intrusion issues are tricky to diagnose if you aren’t there when it is happening (which your contractors aren’t).

    Leave it running in your downspout for a while, if nothing happens make a nice big puddle near your house (this shouldn’t be all that possible if the grading is right), check the grading of your yard (needs to be pitched away from the house), if all else fails you can TV your sewer and check for root invasion, or just have it snaked by a plumber that knows their stuff.

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