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Question DetailsAsked on 10/18/2011

How can I find someone I can trust to give me an answer about my basement?

We just moved in to a new house in June and we got about 1-2 inches of water in the basement from the recent hurricane.

I called in three different basement experts who had quotes from $2500- $12,000.

One called my home inspector incompetent and scared the cr@p out of me with talk of building pressure against the walls and the need to drill holes to relieve pressure.

I had one who said we just needed a stronger pump.

I don't want to under-react and I can't afford to over-react.

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Voted Best Answer

A sales technique is to instill a sense of urgency. Act now; sale ends tomorrow; don't wait or your house will fall over, etc. If the contractor treats you this way before you have hired him, imagine how you will be treated once the project starts.

The problem with getting estimates about a leaking basement is each estimate is taking a guess at what the problem is. So the $2,500 estimate may be to install a larger sump pump and an outside drain, where the $12,000 estimate may be to dig up the entire perimeter and install a better drain system and water proof board on the basement walls. Both may be fair prices for the work, but you are not comparing apples to apples.

So your first step is in pinpointing the problem you want solved. If a hurricane dumped 2" of water in your basement, the first question is how often do you get hurricanes? If you are looking at a once every 3 to 5 years, then accept your basement will flood occasionally, consider a larger pump to get the water out faster and just 'deal with it'. If you want a dry basement, in all weather conditions, no matter what, then (well, good luck with that!) you need to address WHY the basement flooded.

So where did the water come from? Did it come from the bottom of your basement wall, from the mortar joints in the wall, from the top of the wall, from a basement door or window, from one side of the basement, etc?

This will help you decide what you need to fix. If the water came from the doors and windows, for example, you may opt to install a few outside yard drains in these areas so when the rain falls faster than the ground can absorb the water, it will flow into a drain instead of the window or door. You may be able to simply add more grade (dirt) around your house so that the ground slopes enough for rainwater to run away from your building. A French drain around your building may accomplish this as well.

If the water came from under the basement wall, this indicates an underground water table that rises higher than your basement slab. A larger sump pump to pull this water faster might work, a variable speed pump might work, or multiple pumps may work. You may also need to dig down outside of your building an install larger or better perimeter drains to get the water away faster.

Sometimes a simple fix like extending the downspouts of your gutters to ensure the roof water is well away from your building will solve your issue. The best bet is to hire a licensed Architect, one with facilities management experience, who can investigate the cause of the leaks and pinpoint the solution you need. Then you can proceed with estimates to do the same work, and have your issues resolved with the peace of mind knowing that your funds are wisely spent. Using a third party, like an Architect, lets you know they are not trying to sell you a service instead of solve your problem. (To a person with a hammer, every problem is a nail. . .)

Oh, and the Building Code provides the minimal construction standards for saftey. Every footer and foundation, including the water drainage system is required to be inspected before backfilling and continuing with the construction of your home. While the minimum construction standards are sub-par to most builders, threats about relieving the pressure of the ground behind your new home's basement walls, shrink/swell and other basement fears are not fast acting problems.

You will see signs, such as cracking and bowing, doors sticking, your ground outside the home will have pockets where it drops or rises non-uniformly with the ground around it, etc. Again, having a licensed Architect look for these signs while they are investigating your water problems should remove any fears you have. Before you hire anyone, do make sure you check them out to ensure they have a legal business and go talk to their references; preferrably at the place where the work was done. References should include at least one that was over a year ago, so you can see if their work stood up to time.

Good luck.


Answered 9 years ago by Kenny Johnson

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