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Question DetailsAsked on 2/16/2016

Water Seepage/Plastic under carpet

We bought an older house that was completely gutted and rehabbed including a finished basement (the seller was a flipper and never lived in the property). Within two weeks of moving into the house we got water damage from a storm and again a couple weeks later. The seller said that they never had any water seepage. I just noticed a large spot were there seems to be plastic is under the carpet and it's only in this spot in the basement (close to were the water seepage is coming in)... Is this common? Does this indicate that they had water issues?

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4 Answers


No way to tell at this time - and no way you could prove it other than finding someone who knew there was seepage there AND that the owner knew about it, or finding the contractor who put the plastic in and getting him to testify or do affadavit that the owner knew about a water issue there.

And that presumes that in your state flippers are required to do a disclosure - in many areas owners (flippers, investors, foreclosure buyers, etc) who have not lived in the house recently are not required to do any disclosures at all.

The existence of plastic under there, if only an isolated spot, would certainly imply that the concrete had been wet or damp - maybe the carpet installer put down some visqueen on a darkish damp spot in the concrete.

If the entire slab has vapor barrier over it, that is no indication of prior water issues - commonly put down over any concrete slab on grade or basement slab before flooring is installed because any slab on the ground transmits water vapor through it to the flooring.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


Unlike structural problems which, unless concealed, are visiable and a determination can be made as to the need for repairs. When it comes to water entry problems, know one can see through the floor. For many years buyers relied on opinions as to the cause of the water entry. Sadly, many buyers where forced to deal with a water problem if the opinion was wrong.

In general, water entry occurs for two reasons. The home's drain tile (if present) are hampered or overburdened.

In Wisconsin, when there are concerns about water entry in a real estate transaction a test is performed on the interior drain tile to determine it's condition and the exact cause of water entry. Often the drain tile are found to be in good condition and operating properly. This indicates the water concerns are maintenance related. When the drain tile are found to be hampered, the test is able to locate the hampered tile. Once this has been repaired the buyers have the comfort level to move forward with the transaction.

Answered 4 years ago by chuckster


In W.I., what made drain tile testing attractive and common place in real estate transactions was the impact it had on litigation cases involving water issues between buyers and sellers. As the first answer explaines, it's very difficult to prove the water entry is a pre-existing condition.

I recall one of the first cases in which a drain tile test provided physical evidence proving the water entry was pre-existing and the sellers had to have known about it. Most drain tile is 3' in diamiter. The attorney in this case placed a drain tile on the judges bench which had a two and a half inch tree root inside it. Since it takes many years for a tree root to reach this size the buyers prevailed.

Drain tile testing has been used for over 30 years in W.I. and has proven to be an effective tool in saveing homeowners thousands of dollars on repairs that were uneeded. If drain tile testing isn't available in your area, it should be.

Answered 4 years ago by chuckster


Chuckster talked about two causes for basement water infiltration - he talked about drain tile issues, I missed the second one - I think maybe he got interrupted and did not get around to addressing it. Other common causes of water intrusion:

1) roof runoff not controlled, so it drops right by the foundation and inevitably finds a way through to the inside - or gutters concentrating the runoff right by the foundation

2) ground sloped toward house instead of away, or highly pervious soil right by the house so snowmelt/rainfall (if heavy) does the same thing - runs right down along and even under the foundation

3) leaking septic tank or leach field too close to the house or not infiltrating correctly (due to impervious soil, blockages in system, or oversaturation when combined with natural waters), so the excavation for the basement acts as a big sump to collect that water - a very messy situation when it happens

4) failed or inadequate basement waterproofing (a necessary partner for any external french drainage around the foundation)

5) the almost universal lack of a water seal between the foundation footer and the basement slab - probably on of the most prevalent design flaws in modern buildings, especially in houses

6) lack of basic soils and hydrology investigation before the house is built, so it is located in a natural drainage or low spot, subject to flooding from adjacent waterways or drainage ways or slope runoff, or the basement is built in or too close to the natural water table without proper design to accomodate that situation (or preferably elevate it to avoid the situation).

7) leaking water or sewer pipes, commonly right at the foundation penetration because no flexibility or accomodation for settlement of the backfill or the foundation was allowed for, so the pipe is rigidly help by foundation and by the soil outside, so any relative movement breaks it, commonly causing a slow and contained but persistent leak right at the foundation

8) improper foundation backfill - usually just dumping the excavated fill in without any selection for suitable fill material or compaction, or more importantly, to put a half to full foot of relatively impervious material at the top sloped at least a couple of percent away from the house to act as a runoff barrier - under plantings and such if desired

9) plantings near the house with tenacious root systems that penetrate and break open cracks in the foundation, letting water in when groundwater is high or one of above causes puts water by the foundation

10) driveways or sidewalks sloped so as to direct runoff to the foundation

11) failure to put french drains at or below the bottom of the footer instead of the usual at the top level, so it does not drain the water outside the foundation to a point below the slab

12) failure to put sump pump pit low enough - the HIGH water level in it should be well below the BOTTOM of the slab to prevent wetting it - generally 6-12 inches minimum, preferably several feet because the surface tension of the water can wick free water as high as 6-8 feet above the water table in fine sands and silts and clays

13) perforating through the foundation wall to connect to interior basement drains, which just invites flooding and overloading of the interior drain system. (How approipriate this ended up as # 13 - this is one of my pet peeves, seeing a perfectly good (or sometimes marginal) basement drain system which should work at least marginally well, totally fail due to overloading, silting up, and iron and lime buildup from openings to the outside surface of the foundation.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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