Dear PoPville – Unclogging a Basement Drain? and Basement water sealing?

by Prince Of Petworth May 16, 2011 at 2:30 pm 33 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user yostinator

“Dear PoP,

My main basement drain is clogged, and every time it rains or I do laundry the water level increase more and more.
I need a drain cleaning company with big snake to clean that up. However I am not able to find anyone trustfull, I know this thing can be expensive and also I am single female and I am very often get quoted at least the double of the price!! maybe you reader can give me references and how much the payed for the service?”

And I’m also curious for those who’ve had this service done – how much did it/should it cost?

“Dear PoP,

We’re looking for recommendations on someone to seal a portion of our basement. Any suggestions?

Here’s the situation: We have a 1912 rowhouse in NE and have never had water issues in the basement until last month. Most of the basement is above grade but one small part is below. The water is at the front wall and seems to have started after we did some “landscaping” in the front yard very near to the house. We think we may have caused this damage by putting a few layers of heavy plastic down beneath the mulch in that area to block pernicious weeds. I suspect the plastic caused rainwater that had previously been absorbed by soil to run toward the foundation where it seeped through the foundation and up the drywall. We have removed the plastic, and are now looking for companies that might offer a simple interior basement sealing in just this section.

We’re wondering if you or your readers knew someone to recommend for this kind of work. Someone licensed is a must and a warranty would be a plus. I’ve tried to look over older posts regarding basements but we don’t think we need the french drains often recommended.”

  • anon

    In addition to recommendations from fellow PoP readers, you might also want to look at the user ratings (which includes information on the kind of work done, price paid, etc.) on Angie’s List.

    As a newbie homeowner, I’ve found it helpful.

    • anon

      haha, I just checked out angie’s list. You have to PAY to read reviews?! Are you kidding me??? That’s insane.

      • Mt P Resident

        Well, they need to be able to pay for upkeep of the website, reminders to users to submit reviews, etc. I don’t recall membership being pricey. And it’s been beyond worth it on many occasions!

    • I signed up for our first year in the house, hired 6 contractors – all different services, and have had not one issue yet.

      I highly recommend it for first timers and those without recommendations or plans for lots of work.

      • Oh yeah – Angie’s list plummer, snaked our back basment drain in a few minutes, only $69 dollars.

        • OP

          Do you have any contact information for that plumber?Thanks

  • Eric

    Snaking the main will be anywhere from 300-600 dollars depending on the company, day of the week and whether its an emergency call. Just hope its a regular clog and not tree roots or a damaged pipe.

    • jcm

      I paid $800 to have it done on a Friday night after normal business hours. I guess I got ripped off, huh?

      As far as the second question in the original post goes, I wouldn’t bother sealing the basement walls, because in my experience it doesn’t work very well. You’re better off hiring a landscaper to fix the drainage of your yard and keep the water from the house.

      • joker

        Yes…you got soundly gouged.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve found that $300 is the going rate in DC to have drains clogged. I find I have to do this about once a year. I’ve often used Roto-Rooter and found that they are reliable and I believe they guarantee their work for a period of time.

    • Anonymous

      you can buy a great snake for 300. one time purchase.

    • Eric

      +1 on Roto-Rooter. They did a good job with my house, and gave a warranty on the work (6 months I think)

  • Anonymous

    I meant to say **unclogged**

  • Anonymous

    rent a snake from Home Depot. Much cheaper and quicker. Fairly easy to do.

    • fz

      Is there a difference between the type of snake you can rent at home depot and the one a professional company would use?

      • Anonymous

        no. wear gloves.

  • ah

    For the basement water problem, start by making sure the ground slopes away from the house. If it slopes a little, make it slope more. Waterproofing on the inside is the last solution, because it’s not going to be very effective–you need to keep the water out to begin with.

  • J&E on Quincy

    I used Budget Plumbing for drain snaking among other things. I find them to be reasonable and they have never taken advantage of me once. (I have an out-of-town plumber friend who verifies the diagnosis/cost for me). I don’t know how much they would usually charge for a snake-I had to do an emergency weekend call and it was $675.

    4206 Edmonston Road
    Bladensburg, MD 20710-1231
    (301) 864-1800

  • Anonymous

    Steve Miller plumbing, look them up (Angies list etc). I used them recently and they were great, reasonable, and fast for the exact same problem you are having. Not only that but they determined that the problem lay outside our property in the main sewer line. This is important because they submitted a ‘sewer report’ to the city which means the city will come out to fix the sewer line themselves in the future free of charge. And, if the problem is in your basement off your laundry drain, there’s a very good chance you just have old and clogged sewer lines. So, pay Steve Miller (or some other plumber) once to fix it, make sure they submit a sewer report to DC if they determine that the off-property sewer line is your problem, and then if it ever happens again, you’re set. Make sure to get the report number when they submit it, you’ll need that if you have to call the city in the future again (although, in our case, when we did need to call the city Steve Miller actually did it for us).

  • Anonymous

    first try using a curb plunger on your exterior drains. Go to a real hardware store and ask them to build you one or get the pieces and make it yourself. It’s just a rubber disk attached to a pole that created suction deep in the drains / forces clogs out with brute force. My home needed all the exterior drains curb plunged when I bought it.

    Cost is like $4 for everything.

    • gk

      second this recommendation. we used this plunger combined w/ a high powered spray nozzle thingy. worked perfectly on our exterior clogged drains. it was awesome. frager’s in capitol hill has them to rent and has the parts to buy – cost was more than $4 but not more than like $30, i think.

  • Leslie

    Call these guys:

    O’Neill Plumbing Service, 703-655-0071

    After two years of bailing our basement and dealing with terrible plumbers, O’Neill Plumbing was responsive, effective, and reasonably priced. The problem was solved and our basement is dry. It also helps that WASA repaired their collapsed pipe under the street (after denying the problem for 24 months) but I will save that for another post.

  • Anne

    Buy one – great long term investment.
    Dirty too – buy gloves.

    I think you can rent them from home depot/loews, or probably your local hardware store even.

    good luck!

  • Nikki

    For your basement: This guy


    We called him when we had water coming into our basement, and he gave us a few tricks that cost us about $250 and that we could do ourselves. B-Dry quoted us over $2k. He doesn’t do the work himself, nor will he recommend anyone. He stays impartial, and just tells you exactly what is wrong so you can be more educated while you shop for a contractor or do the work yourself.

  • PetworthRes

    I would seriously reconsider the french drain option…that was the only thing that ultimately stopped ground water from a rising water table from seeping up around our foundation and into our basement. Especially if the water is coming into a finished area where it can come into contact with drywall (which is the perfect recipe for a serious mold problem).

    The only other product I’d recommend is a waterproofing paint for interior walls called UGL “DryLok” that we used on our basement walls where we had some slight water seepage/moisture. You can buy it at Logan Hardware, HD, etc. FYI…it’s also great if you need to paint a porous brick wall that is letting in smoke or other odors from a neighbor. Good luck!

    • PetworthRes

      BTW…don’t pay someone to do this. Buy a gallon of it, buy a brush, slap it on thick…and save yourselves hundreds of dollars.

  • Anonymous

    Similar thing happened to me, but it was going to rain again that day, so I needed the drain cleared right away. I called two plumbers recommended by neighbors, but they didn’t answer or call back, so I called Roto-Rooter, which charged $800, but they came in two hours and cleared the drain before it started down-pouring again.

    I thought about renting a snake, but Home Depot told me it would be too big to carry home on the Metro, and that even if I got it working, I wouldn’t be able to tell if I had cleared everything out.

    • SF


      There is robbery happening in DC, and they aren’t using guns!

      If you’re anywhere around H, call Sonny. He can be a bit scattered but he’s a super straight shooter and wouldn’t (I think) dream of charging anything in that ballpark for an emergency call.

  • victoria

    Just dealt with extensive basement waterproofing in 6 condos – I’ve used Drylock paint before – successfully – but our “hydro engineer” recommended a different product I think German made, but sorry, can’t find my notes. Same idea, superior product – google around and you should find it.

    From your description, it sounds like you’ve identified the problem – a change in landscaping affected a previously dry basement. You’ve fixed the problem, the (better kind of) drylock should be enough to handle future occasional super-saturation due to excessive rain.

    French drains & sump pump are necessary for rising water table, but it doesn’t sound like that is your problem. However, pretty much every waterproofing company will try to sell you on this. Good luck.

  • ebb

    re: putting plastic under mulch in your yard to block weeds.

    Use a couple layers of newspaper or one layer of butchers paper (or brown paper bags) instead. It will decompose after a year or so, but will provide the same weed blocking protection without the water issues.

    I did it a year ago with brown paper bags (used large yard waste bags from home depot that I cut into single layer sheets). Hardly a weed since.

  • victoria

    Or you could buy weed-blocking fabric at any hardware home depot type store. However – the weeds will actually grow IN your mulch, on TOP of the fabric, paper, or whatever you put down anyway. But it will be easier to pull them.

  • 99vmi

    We had some major issues with leak in our basement due to poor workmanship by the developer. Every contractor we got estimates from wanted to put in a french drain or sump pump which would have cost us at least $3800. Most of these issues can be solved with just the hydraulic sealing cement they use in cracks and holes.

    For the basement sealing and waterproofing, look up Steve Cullen from Pipe and Stone. He was referred by our home inspector who was fantastic as well. He wanted to charge us way less than he should have for the work done. Also his guys replaced the tile and drywall they removed. And did a great job.

  • Matt

    Snaking a main is not recommended for your average do-it-yourselfer. Pay the money to have a professional do it. If you have PVC pipes you could put the wrong bit on the snake and cut a hole right through your sanitary line.


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