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“Could it be a drainage issue?”

by Prince Of Petworth June 15, 2016 at 2:10 pm 12 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

We have a 1930 rowhome and have been experiencing issues with our basement rear entryway. Although we do not seem to have any moisture issues in the basement itself, the entryway always seems to collect moisture and the bricks on all sides of the entryway appear wet at all times at the very bottom.

Does anyone have any ideas as to why this occurs? Could it be a drainage issue? Or perhaps an issue with the pitch of the backyard?

If anyone has any experience with this issue and what solutions they were able to find to mitigate the problem, we would greatly appreciate it.”

  • also anon

    Do you have a sump pump? If no you might need one. If yes make sure the discharge tube discharges water far enough from the back of the house so that it’s not saturating the ground around the rear entryway and then seeping through the bricks.
    These are the solutions that worked for us but we probably have a much bigger lot so I’m not sure if a sump pump would be the right answer for a small lot.

  • madmonk28

    We had a similar problem. In our house the basement opens up under the back of the house (what at one time had been a sleeping porch, but is now an addition). The soil on either sides of the entryway was loose dirt that was often wet mud. Moisture seeped down and through the brick walls onto the entryway cement.

    Our solution was to dig out some of the earth on either side of the entry way and replace in with about an inch of gravel. Water captured in the gravel evaporates before it has a chance to seep through the brick. Now, we only have the issue after very heavy rains.

  • HaileUnlikely

    Are you able to see the inside of the basement wall on the side of the house where this stairwell is? (I mean the brick/block wall, not any finish like drywall or paneling that might cover it.) If so, is the wall visibly damp there? Also, is there an interior french drain (note – you might not be able to see it.) I ask because my first guess, other than a possible drainage issue, is that the foundation may be slightly below the water table, at least at this location and time of year. The water table in my neighborhood is typically within about 5 feet of the ground in my neighborhood in April and May. My basement wall was saturated when I bought the house, which did not have a french drain or sump pump. I had a french drain and sump pump installed, and now in April and May, when the water table is high, I see a little bit of dampness on my basement wall, very similar to what your picture shows. The rest of the year, it is dry, except for a few days after snow melts after a major snow storm.

    • HaileUnlikely

      p.s. You can get a general idea of the depth of the water table in your area from tools available here: http://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/HomePage.htm (it will probably take some experimentation and persistence to find it – I did a while ago but don’t remember exactly how)

  • stacksp

    Looks like a ground water issue that is typically corrected by the installation of a sump pump. I had to put two in my rental at opposite corners with L shaped trenches. Have not had any issues since.

    • stacksp

      You could also try to “drylok” the entire basement as well and see if that works. We did this initially to avoid installing the sump pump and it stopped the flooding but it still would get damp at times. Ended up adding a second sump pump and redoing the drylok on the floor and it worked out well. Most hardware stores sell drylok.

  • SF

    It’s a drainage issue in one way or another. Is there a downspout outside of this wall? If so watch when it rains and check for blockage. If the downspout goes into cast pipe the pipe might have failed near that point where the water is coming in. If there’s a blockage the water may be pooling and running down the foundation wall and coming in at the bottom. If this is the problem you’ll need to either clear the blockage or run the gutter downspout further from the house.

    ]If there’s no gutter it’s likely a drainage problem associated with insufficient slope away from the house. Is the exterior surface dirt/gravel or concrete? If concrete, check the slope by pouring some water on it and seeing where it goes. If the water runs away from the house on the concrete, the soil under the slab may have settled and there could be a slope towards the house under the slab — check for cracks in the concrete and around the perimeter to see if there are ways that water is getting through the concrete to the foundation of the house. Finally, it could be ground water (but I seriously doubt it). Most likely there is a slope or gutter issue that needs to be resolved.

    Oh, and if there’s an AC unit outside of this wall, check to be sure the condensate is being ejected far enough away from the house and it’s not pooling up and coming back in this way. Good luck.

    • ah

      ^ This. Definitely the place to start is sloping ground away from house and ensuring downspouts are discharging away from house. Get the water away, and there’s a good chance you’ll solve your problem. If that doesn’t work after a few months, then start investigating other solutions.

  • jcm

    Is it a new problem? Last time I had a wet basement it turned out to be a leak in a neighbor’s water service line. And the water was moving a long way — the leak was in the back yard of a house three doors down from me, and the water was coming into the front of my house (and not into the houses between us).
    I brought three companies in for an estimate, all three recommended a french drain and sump pump, but only one correctly diagnosed that the problem was a leak, not ground water.

    • SF

      +1 to checking into the neighboring situation. With rowhouses it can most definitely be a problem with the adjacent property water issues or management– last time I had issues it was the neighbor’s gutter that had failed and was dumping tons of water onto my back patio when it rained.

  • I had a damp furnace room in my 1938 house in Tenleytown. I did four things:

    – Hired a mason to raise the window wells about 2 feet.
    – Pile soil up against the house sloping down into the yard to get rain water at least 10 ft. away from the house.
    – Install new drainage pipes from the downspouts. They now drain into a rain garden built by DDOE!
    – Paint the inside walls with drylock

    Of those things, I don’t know what worked, or if it was a combination of things, but the furnace room is now dry. In another area – the garage – the floor gets wet btw, but I think that’s condensation because the floor is colder than the air in the summer.

    • also anon

      Draining into a rain garden is a good idea but DDOE won’t build one unless it can be over 10 feet away from your house and that’s not an option in many row houses on smaller lots.


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