Heavy rains in eastern Massachusetts can leave homes in the region with water in their basements. Extraordinarily severe rain events over the years have at times caused widespread basement flooding.
For houses in areas with high water tables, you can sometimes see a hose snaking out to the street from the basement – a sure sign of basement pumping!
Wet basements mean heartache
If your basement is finished and gets water, then you know what a heartache a wet basement is. Wet carpet needs to be dried (and may need to be replaced). Wallboard may be so soaked to be deemed ruined. Furniture and personal possessions may have been destroyed.
Even if a basement is unfinished, chronic water penetration is a real problem. Moisture can keep you from using the basement for storage and can rust mechanical system components.
Common basement water penetration problems
How to deal with basement water penetration depends on the type of problem your basement has.
Below are some water penetration issues commonly found in Massachusetts. (I am not a waterproofing contractor but have seen a lot of wet basements in my years as a real estate agent in Massachusetts.) Please consult a reliable expert before undertaking any water penetration mitigation work.
Water around bulkhead doors
Water coming in around bulkhead doors seems to be one of the most common water penetration problem affecting basements in Massachusetts.
This can be relatively easy to rectify.
Basement stairs often are precast concrete attached to the exterior of the foundation. Voids in the soil can form around the stairs letting in rain water.
Solutions can include caulking seams and filling voids with crushed stone.
Holes can be drilled into the basement floor in front of the bulkhead doors to allow the water to drain away. Larger drains opening to beds of crushed stone can also be cut in the same area.
Surface water runoff that is not being properly dispersed
Surface water with nowhere to go often produces relatively limited areas of basement wetness; often you’ll have one “trouble” area or corner of the basement that gets damp during heavy rains.
Solutions can be surprising simple: sometimes simply extending your gutter downspouts or re-grading the ground around the foundation will solve this penetration problem.
Heavier penetrations may require the installation of a sump pump in the troublesome area of the basement.
Crack in the foundation
Cracks are quite common in poured concrete foundations. Most are non-structural and harmless.
Trouble comes when water begins to enter the basement from a crack. This can occur repeatedly as a “weeping”, or suddenly when quite a volume of water invades your basement from a crack during a time of very heavy rains.
If your basement is finished, it can be very difficult to tell whether your problem is simply a crack or is a more serious water penetration issue stemming from ground water (see below). You may have to cut some drywall away in the area of the water penetration to look for a crack.
Once you find the crack, it is a very easy fix: a crack-sealer company can do a permanent seal and give you a warranty – problem solved!
Ground water penetration into basement
This can be a much more serious problem.
When a basement floor is below the high point of the ground water table, the basement will likely flood during heavy rain events. In effect your basement is a leaky boat in the ocean; the ground water will keep coming in until it finds its level.
If a large area of a basement repeatedly gets water, or if all of the basement floods to a uniform depth (one or two inches of water can be commonly seen with some really wet basements), the problem may be a high ground water table.
A sump pump may not be able to handle the volume of water entering a basement if the source is a rising ground water table. The water will sit in your basement until the ground water table goes back down.
A perimeter drain system (also called a French drain) might be the only real solution for a basement that is within the ground water level.
Explore options before you sign a contract
If you think you need professional help to solve your basement water problem, please be careful with contractors. Most are honest, helpful experts. Some unfortunately seek to make a quick buck and prey on your anxiety.
So get multiple quotes and sign no contracts in a rush.
I can refer you to reputable contractors – just ask!