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Question DetailsAsked on 4/3/2014

How do I stop water from entering basement from underground water collection/storage of unknown type

My home was built in 1927. In a “cubbyhole” in the basement is a large motorized pump which no longer works, connected to an underground water collection/storage of some type – well?? cistern??. During heavy rains this underground collection fills up and then water seeps from around the bottom of the pump into my basement. The more rain, the more water. I want something done to prevent the water collection , but I have no idea what type of service to contact.

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3 Answers


It sound like from the age of your house and the description of the "cubbyhole" (though not described that well) you may have a hand dug well in the basement. I have seen a few in older homes in my area and some were in a pit in the basement large enough to go down in (root cellar?), some had a floor of sorts covering the pit, Some had a large clay lined well and others had a stone lined well with a lid over that as well. If this is the case it seems the water level is doing what it is supposed to during a rainey period and is rising. Aside from letting it be if it is at the bottom of a pit and not damaging any belongings the only other option that will not cost alot of monet would be to hang an automatic sump pump at an acceptable level to keep it with in a reasonable level. As I said at the beginning it is hard to diagnose long distance and maybe some of the others that answer questions might have some other thoughts.


Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon


Contact either a Plumber or a General Contractor . Both services should be able to provide service . From the sounds of your statements , You should get the sump pump running sooner than later. It also sounds as thought you may need to enlarge the sump " PIT AREA ".

On paper it is easy to do ,in actuallity it will probably be more difficult , BUT it needs to be done , ASAP . IF you are handy with your hands , you CAN do this yourself !

IF , the sump pit is too shallow or just wide and deep enough to get a pump in it , IT IS TO SMALL .

The pit needs to be at mimimum , twice the size of the pump , meaning ,if the pump measures in a square configuration 12" wide and 12" high , you actually need a FINISHED Sump PIT 24" inches square.

Lowes and Homedepot also carry a Pre Built PVC Sump kit that you dig a hole and insert it in the hole. Costs about $ 50.00-$85.00 . They do NOT contain the pump , You must buy the pump separetly . More about the pump needed later on !

This can save you a lot of work and hassel ,as you do not have to form and pour the pit.

Just dig a hole and insert the PVC assembly in the ground ,and backfill the sides .

They work GREAT !

These pits are almost always hand dug and to accomplish what you need , you'll need to have the pit dug large enough to finish out with concrete walls 24" X 24" x 2", meaning you'll need a rough pit 30" x 30 " x 30" , form the side walls with plywood, 4 pieces of 1/2" x30 "ply. Obtain some short pieces of 2" pvc pipe to insert sideways in the forms behind the plywood for weep holes .You can buy 5' sections of pvc pipe at Lowes or your hardware store. It is helpful to install some screen wire on the dirt side of the pour ,to act as filters to keep dirt from filling the 2" pipe to block any dirt carried in the ground water, these pipe sections stay in the forms and get covered up with concrete .Set several around the forms on each side near the top , Then cut 2x4 blocks to block up the forms at the 30x30x30 finished size and hand POUR the forms on the side, remember to set the forms 1/2" down from any existing concrete floor ,to accomodate a 1/4" to 3/8" steel plate for the TOP, which will be installed once the pit is completed . Once the sides are poured,and they need to be no thicker than 2" thick , remove the plywood ,it does not matter if the ply gets torn up unless you are creating multiple pits ,so do what is required to get the forms and braces out !

Once the form and frame material are OUT , again Hand pour the pit floor usually 2" is enough, just be sure to leave enough space so the sumbersible pump gets covered by ground water . You may want to slant the sump floor to mimimise the amount of water that remains in the pit under and around the pump . Once the floor is poured install the pump . You'll need to set the pump in place with discharge piping installed .

NOW , when obtaining the steel , you'll need to allow cut outs for the discharge line and electrical lines to go through the plate , Getting these cut outs correct requires some thought and preplanning .

TEST the system by using a hose, or use empty buskets to fill with water , to fill the sump well and make certain you have NO leaks .Once completed and pump installed and tested , install the cover . Should you encounter a dry spell ,NO RAIN , you can always pour a 1/4 cup of clorox or lysol into the well to minimise any residual odor that may occurr .

NOW You have a sizable completed sump well and pump assembly that should handle anything mother nature throws at you.

Total material cost should be less than $ 125.00 , and certainly not more than $ 185.00.

not counting the pump cost ! It is recommended that you use a minimum 1/2 H.P. pump for discharge to the cistern !

Best of Luck !

Answered 6 years ago by BentheBuilder


1) If it is a cistern, which it might well be in that old a house, check for a pipe coming into it to fill it - coming from the roof valleys or gutters somewhere. If there is such a pipe, then is probably a cistern, though remotely possible a well that was a poor yielder so they added a roof collection pipe to it too. Abandon as per below if a well; if a cistern only (plumber should be able to figure that out) then remove the pipe (making sure water does not end up landing or pooling near your foundation) or divert its flow away from the house. Personally, I would concrete or grout the cistern full in case it leaks and becomes a place for groundwater to enter the house in the future, though you could just cover it with a safety plate that can be walked on and see what happens - putting a bit of bleach in there from time to time to keep it from going stagnant.

2) If this is just a sump pump, as it might be, then you need to get it operating again - plumber would be my choice for a contractor. Sump Pump typically looks like these -

3) The "well" or the sump where the water accumulates in a sump pump system would not be more than a couple of feet deep - I don't think I have ever seen a deeper one than about 30 inches deep. Easiest way to tell if it is a sump pump or well pump is to trace the discharge pipe from it - if it connects to the house water piping or a storage tank, is a well. If it just discharges to the sewer pipe (which is usually illegal), through the wall or foundation to the ground outside, or to a drain pipe or channel leading away from the house, it is a sump pump designed to remove water from under your basement slab during times of high groundwater levels or heavy rains, and you are just lucky that the high water condition is such it just barely wets your basement.

4) If it is a sump pump, in addition to getting it operating (or replaced if non-operational) I would at least have a very loud house powered with battery backup water alarm put in too, to alert you to high water or pump failure. A more positive but more expensive alternative is to install an auto-charging battery backup secondary sump pump to take over in the event of a power failure or primary pump failure.

5) If this is a true well - probably is at least five to ten and maybe dozens of feet deep, then I would say you need to have it officially "abandoned" - meaning concrete plugged, and in your case to prevent groundwater coming up into the house from the casing or around the casing, should then be pressure grouted below and around the plug - either before or after the plugging, depending on well construction. You do NOT want to just concrete plug the top foot or two, because the water in the well will just find another way under your slab, probably leaking through the joint between slab and foundation walls. Whether you should keep the top few feet open to use as a sump pump sump depends on the well construction and how hard it will be to perforate the casing so water under the slab can reach it - this is what I would do. Abandoning a well like this requires the expertise of a civil / geotechnical engineer with well design and abandonment experience, and will require either a well contractor or a concrete and grouting contractor, depending on how it was built.

6) A well pump would be more likely to look like one of these, and have several shutoff valves and one or more pressure gauges and likely a metal tank connected to it as well, and would connect to the residential (or agricultural) water piping or storage tank -

7) As Don and Ben said, however, at a minimum you should have a plumber get a sump pump (maybe the pump that is there, if it is a sump pump) operating right off to solve the water problem till you solve the well issue. Or if a cistern, divert the fill pipe to drain outside away from the house.

8) If it is a well, and has never overflowed significantly, you could alternatively have a protective cover put over it or a sump screen put in it, and run it like a sump with a sump pump, though when water is high you will be pumping a lot more water than a sump would normally produce, and of course if water table rises more you will likely be inundated to whatever level the water table raises to.

9) Cost obviously depends on situation - maybe $200-300 range to remove or divert the pipe and cover it if a cistern, more like $500-1500 range to do that AND grout or concrete the cistern full depending on volume. Maybe $150-400 range if is a sump pump and just needs fixing or replacement plus adding a water alarm if it overflows ($400-1000 range for one with battery backup sump pump also depending on how fancy or redundant you go), to maybe $300-500 engineer cost plus $1500-4000 contractor/materials cost range if a well and needs to be abandoned, depending on well design, depth, and on abandonment laws (sdome require full-depth pressure grouting) in your state or locale - generally towards lower half of that range for residential wells.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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