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Question DetailsAsked on 1/11/2012

front wall of my basement is bowing & needs replacement. Other 3 walls have cracks but NOT leaking. What is the best method?

I have had quotes for just digging a trench inside and directing water to a sump pump. Please recommend a contractor that will do it right! I've had quotes from $20-25,000. House is 32 x 24 ft. Live 1 mile from Lake Erie so lots and lots of clay. Nice front porch will have to go and be replaced later. Thank you.

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3 Answers


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Todd Shell
Todd's Home Services

Answered 8 years ago by Todd's Home Services


There are a lot of companies that seem to specialize in solving the symptoms without addressing the problem. Why would you put a trench on the inside of your house? Short answer is it is cheaper than rebuilding the wall correctly, but wasted money in the long term.

Clay and high water tables are tough cookies. The clay is heavy when wet, and pulls back when dry. The high water table from the lake means you will always be fighting water under and around your basement. Water takes the path of least resistance, so the solution is to provide easy pathes around your house, while fighting the clay's tendency to shrink and swell against your walls.

The general answer is drainage boards, gravel and drain tile. You are correct, the porch will have to be removed, and your house will need to have the basement walls exposed down to the foundation. The existing drain tile will need to be checked (is there any, and is it working?). The basement walls (after being repaired or rebuilt) will then get a coating of mastic (tar) waterproofing, then drainboard will be applied over the mastic.

Drain board is exactly that; a board with pores/openings that when the water gets to the board, it is directed vertcially (usually down), so the water never gets to the basement wall. The mastic is the final barrier, and should be applied thick and with no scratches or missed areas. The drainage board also protects this waterprooffing when you back fill.

Because of the clay, you do not want to backfill with dirt like normal construction. A gravel back fill with a geofabric between it and the dirt is a better option. The fabric will help prevent (or at least slow) the clay from mixing in with the gravel over time. As the clay shrinks, the gravel will fill in the gap, as the clay expands, the gravel will again move, relieving the pressures on the basement walls. The gravel will also allow the water an easy passage around your house. At the bottom of the drain board install a second drain tile (keep it separate from your existing foundation drain). If possible run this new drain tile to fresh air, if there is no slope, install a yard drain away from your house to run this water to. The yard drain will allow the water to disipate in the surrounding ground slowly and evaporate into the air: as long as the water isn't against your house anymore it is good.

As you can see this is a lot of material and labor; not a cheap solution. But removing the clay from against the basement walls (gravel) and providing drainage from the walls (drain tile & drain board) will prevent leaks and further cracking. Your exisitng sump pump should still be able to handle any moisture coming from under the slab.

Good luck!

Answered 8 years ago by Kenny Johnson


Call HomeSpec basement systems in Ypsilanti, MI. They can take care of business for you!

Answered 8 years ago by JGHamm

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