Guest post: How I dealt with water problems and saved the house

Crawlspace walls after foaming

My good friend Jerry takes to the keyboard today, telling us the trials and tribulations of having a house adjacent to a hill….


We bought the house not knowing the backyard had really bad water retention issues (note: never buy a house when there’s snow covering the yard).  After heavy rain in the spring, the back yard would essentially be an unmowable mudpit for several weeks.  We had French drains installed which greatly alleviated the issue.  With the remodel, we figured we’d further address the wet yard by channeling the downspouts from the gutters in the back of the house into an underground collection pit (a dry well), which would run off into a rocky bed leading to the street.  This also worked well.

Unfortunately, during construction they built an open crawlspace under what would later become the kitchen extension.  Open to the sun and the stars…and the rain.  The first rain after they built it happened on a weekend.  The carpenter/job manager came over without us even calling, luckily, and build a makeshift cover out of plywood.  But it was a heavy rain and we had to run and get a pump as well to keep the crawlspace from filling up and coming into the basement.  Eventually they built the kitchen over it, and that was the end of that.  Or so we thought.

Original crawlspace walls after excavation

See, we had the new sunroom built, but it had no gutters on it yet, let alone downspouts or a place for the downspouts to run off into (landscaping comes last).  So the next rain, all the runoff from the roof went directly into the ground adjoining the crawlspace and the sunroom.  The result of which was that the ground got saturated and the water started to fill up the crawlspace from underneath, since there was a slit in the cement to allow water to drain _out_, but which had the reverse effect.  I don’t think it ever rained quite enough to fill up the crawlspace to the level of the window hole into the basement, but I had at least one or two sleepless nights worrying about that happening.  We didn’t know how much gutters and landscaping would alleviate water in the crawlspace, but at the point the landscaping was going to be done, it seemed prudent to put in the foam.  I think it cost something like $1000 or $1500, and it was a no brainer to dig up the dirt around the foundation since the landscapers already had their crew there for the other work.

In the end, I have never since seen a drop of water in the crawlspace.  I do know the gutters had a significant effect as well, since the floor tiles in the sunroom were a porous clay type with an impermeable sealant on top, and until the gutters went in, the sealant was peeling off the ones at the edges because water was permeating them from below – through the cement and tile – because it was so wet.  Anyway, all good now.



Jerry’s story shows almost all that can go wrong and the steps taken to alleviate the problems.

I remember, soon after Jerry moved in, he complained of basement moisture. This was pre-sunroom/construction projects. As he noted, his backyard would become a mud-pit during the rainy season. This water would saturate the ground around the house, and, of course, would force its way in through the foundation walls. I had gone over to take pictures while he was having moisture problems because he noted some mold problems in the basement….


Mold growing on the PVC drain line

I’ll say there was a moisture problem!

Fortunately, with a new baby in the house, Jerry took the problem seriously. As he noted, he installed a drainage system in the yard, which helped some, then got the gutters drained properly around the house and away from the foundation, and finally did the spray foam job on the sun-room crawl space. While it was inconvenient (and somewhat expensive in the short-term) to take these measures, had he not done them, his house would have been seriously compromised by moisture problems. It would have been a “bailing out the Titanic” situation. Not only would he be constantly trying to dry the basement, using expensive dehumidifiers and so on, the mold problems would likely have persisted, leading to potential health issues for his family.

Jerry – thanks for the excellent case study. I wish everybody would bite the bullet and fix their home’s problems the correct way.


2 thoughts on “Guest post: How I dealt with water problems and saved the house

  1. Pingback: Types of insulation: part 3-Insulations compared « Ted's Energy Tips

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