Author Topic: New homeowner: trying to problem solve water seepage in unfinished basement  (Read 2123 times)

mrteacher

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Hi all,

My wife and I recently closed on a two-unit home. We plan to live on the 2nd floor and rent the 1st floor, which will cover about 80% of our PITI! We got the home at a good price, in part because it is an older home (built in 1880!) and has not been taken care of so well.

The foundation is an old stone and mortar foundation. During bouts of heavier rain (1" over 24 hours) and the day or two that follows we are getting some water seepage around the edge of the basement (where the floor meets the wall.) The seepage does not cover the entire floor, but it is trickling in from a couple spots.

I'm trying to discern the following:

1. The seriousness of this and immediacy with which it should be fixed
2. If it needs fixing soon, what the best remedy is

Other relevant details:

1. The design of our roof results in two valleys, one on either side, off of which water gushes during heavier rains. As a temporary stopgap, I've placed 18 gallon beach buckets underneath. After hard rains that bucket is full!
2. We have no gutters as, from what I understand, many older homes in the area do not because they are trickier to install.
3. In some areas around our house the ground slopes, slightly, towards our foundation as opposed to away from the foundation.
4. The mortar in our foundation is loose and crumbling in some spots. Definitely needs addressing, but I'm trying to figure out how immediately we need to take action. 

Quotes so far:

1. We had a gutter company come out and quote us about $800 to run gutters along the sides of our roof and pipe it, underground, into our backyard.
2. Had a meeting with what seems like a boutique waterproofing company last night and they quotes me nearly $20,000 to do what is essentially a top-to-bottom waterproofing of the outside and inside of our foundation. That price is laughable, but I would hope that the work is awesome.
3. Another mason quoted around $3,000 for basement parging and tuckpointing.

Thank you for anyone still reading! What would you suggest?

TL;DR - we are getting water seepage in our basement. How pressing of a concern is this? What is the best way to prevent this? What is the cheapest way? What is the correct balance between timing, quality, and cost?
« Last Edit: May 17, 2018, 07:47:20 AM by mrteacher »

Sojourner

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Gutters definitely to collect then divert all that water away from your house.

Regrading the topography to drain surface groundwater away from your house.

If those 2 things don't work, then your house is probably at a low point of some sort of slope or hillside where hydrostatic water pressure is high enough so water is able to penetrate your foundation.  Then you are probably looking at the expensive foundation excavation/drains/sealing thing you were quoted.

If you are going to have someone living down there, yeah, this needs fixing.  Even if it's not occupied, yeah, put effort into correcting the problem to minimize other problems it will cause.

moonpalace

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We were in a similar situation after we bought our house. No gutters. Seepage constantly into the basement, and pretty heavy water flow into it after storms.

We got quotes for gutters ($2k) and for various complicated basement waterproofing systems ($7k - $20k).

Put the gutters in last year and the basement has basically been dry ever since.

mrteacher

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If you are going to have someone living down there, yeah, this needs fixing.  Even if it's not occupied, yeah, put effort into correcting the problem to minimize other problems it will cause.

Just to clarify: the basement is unfinished and no one will be living in it. The renter will be living on the first floor.

Sibley

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1. Get the gutters.

2. Fix the grading outside so that water is flowing away from the foundation.

3. Wait and evaluate. But do plan to fix the crumbling mortar.

Basically, what Sojourner said.

GuitarStv

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1. Get the gutters.

2. Fix the grading outside so that water is flowing away from the foundation.

3. Wait and evaluate. But do plan to fix the crumbling mortar.

Basically, what Sojourner said.

+2

Water in the basement typically means it's too wet in the ground next to your house.  Diverting water away through gutters and by grading the land close by will improve this.  Afterwards there could be additional complications that require more work, but this is the sensible first step to take.

lhamo

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A lot of people in our neighborhood have drainage issues similar to this -- steep hillsides, some with underground springs in them, and lots of rain.  I would also go with gutters first, followed by improved drainage around the house (lots of people here have had success with French drains, which also seems to be what our house has and it has been fine so far).

NV Teacher

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Also look into a french drain.  That's what my dad did with the irrigation water that was seeping into the basement.  Overall you want to keep/move the water away from the foundation as much as possible.

craiglepaige

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1) Gutters
2) Grading
3) French drain
4) Sump pump

5) Rubberized coating for the walls. Unless you want to dig around your foundation, I would just do it on the inside and see how it works. But by adding gutters and grading, you should be 99% set.

anonymouscow

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You could look into a sump pump, not that expensive if you can install it yourself.

You could also get a dehumidifier, I had a house that had seepage issues, it still had them after grading, it already had gutters and I wasn't going to spend a bunch of money. When it got damp I would just run the dehumidifier and it would be dry the next day.

MilesTeg

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You could have a problem with rain, or you could have a problem with ground water. Or both. So some must dos:

1. Gutters, Gutters, Gutters ($) -- divert all water at least 10' away from foundation (as far as you can)
2. Grading around foundation ($) -- make sure water flows away from the foundation
3. Lookup or get a new soils survey for your property. This will tell you the soil conditions including water content and water table depth. This information should be readily available from your local government.

If you have a high water table, you'll might need a sump pump and a weep system to get rid of the water intrusion problem.

Papa bear

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This is one of the posts where I'd like to see paddedhat back. I haven't seen him post in awhile; I'm sure he's off enjoying g retirement!

Agree with the above advice.  Gutters first and then regrade.  Get the water as far away as possible.

Rubble foundation walls are difficult to waterproof. Good luck with this! I've hand dug out 2-3' below grade to add mortar and have seen improvement, but not 100% mitigation.

So from a cost perspective, put those gutters on for 800, get a shovel and take to regrade.  If you hand dig and then add mortar yourself, maybe $50 in materials.  So total cost under 1k. I wouldn't even think about going the 20k "pro" route. 




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MMMarbleheader

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I am not a fan of gutters in cold climates. Given the age of your house they will probably contribute to ice daming.

I would look into sealing the fieldstone in the basement. I have seen it done a lot and it looks great. They re point any gaps then go over it all with a white sealant.


CindyBS

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Also run a de-humidifier. It won't really help stop the water coming in, but once the moisture is in, you don't want it to get damp down there. 

sol

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It's probably not urgent that you do anything at all.  The house has had a wet basement for a century, I doubt it's doing any permanent damage.

Many old foundations were installed with exterior drain pipes around the perimeter.  They clog over time and become useless, and are generally impossible to replace without risking your foundation.  You can recreate the same system inside the house walls if it's going to be occupied space, but I wouldn't bother.  If it's just damp floors, consider the dehumidifier.

If it's standing water down there, you can have a sump pump installed for about $3k.  They dig a hole in the floor, put a float activated pump in a perforated bucket in the hole, and pipe the water outside.  It consumes power, but locally depresses the water table below the bottom of your walls.  It's a pretty redneck solution IMO, but common in some parts of the country.


robartsd

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I have an older home.   And in my opinion conventionally installed gutters can be more trouble than they are worth on older homes. 

Most gutter systems collect all that water and then direct it to one or two corners of the building and provide a splash block or ~5 foot gutter extender at the ground.  This can be a problem with an older home with an older foundation.   I think this can cause step-cracks in the foundations at the corners of older buildings since during a rain storm the gutters would prevent the water from being equally distributed around the home and would make the soil at the corners of the building much soggier than around the rest of the building. 

I would suggest looking into getting a weep tile system installed.  This is a porous pipe that is laid at the base of the foundation (underground -- so excavation by a pro is involved), and then the pipe collects water and diverts usually to a dry well so that it can disperse at a location away from the structure.  While the foundation is excavated to lay the weep tile, it is possible to also have a water impermeable polymer coating applied to the outside of the foundation to prevent any water intrusion.
Weep tile and french drain are basically different names for the same thing.

You're right that gutters with just the splash blocks at downspouts is likely not enough, but it is far easier to collect the water in gutters to be drained an appropriate distance from the structure than it is to collect it in a french drain/weep tile after it gets to the ground. I agree that if you're excavating the foundation anyway it's not a bad idea to add a water barrier before back filling.

TheWifeHalf

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I can only describe what we did to our 1915 home:
We live in a small town with a county tile between the sidewalk and road that drains to the creek, around the corner. It seems everyone uses that tile to drain into, plus rain on the road/sidewalk goes there too.

We have an unfinished basement, that water sometimes seeps a little through the cracks  in its floor. Not much though. We hear the sump pump running a lot in the spring.
 
Our lot goes back 125 ft behind the rear of the house, and a creek is another 250-300 ft behind our back lot line.  That land is considered flood plain, but water has never reached our lot, our lot is at a higher elevation.. Flood plain means it's just a big field behind everyone's house on this side of the road. The county says one can't build in a flood plain. This area of Ohio is 'The Black Swamp' so water management is pretty high on the list of things to watch.

My Dad worked, as did his Dad, making drainage tile and laying it in farm fields. He made and used concrete, others used clay, now plastic is the way to go. When we bought our house, my Dad was putting in plastic only. He lay plastic all around our acre yard, put a perimeter tile at the base of our basement, and put in a new septic tank and field.  The sump pump pumped the water from the perimeter base tile to the tile out front by the road. The tile in the rest of the yard tied into a glazed clay tile (bigger diameter) that was here when we bought the house, and used for the antiquated septic system, and goes all the way back to the creek.

Our gutters tie into the yard tile, that goes back to the creek. There's a drain in the concrete driveway, and concrete floor of the newer garage that tie in too..
« Last Edit: May 17, 2018, 05:50:55 PM by TheWifeHalf »

GuitarStv

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I am not a fan of gutters in cold climates. Given the age of your house they will probably contribute to ice daming.

I would look into sealing the fieldstone in the basement. I have seen it done a lot and it looks great. They re point any gaps then go over it all with a white sealant.

What's wrong with gutters in cold climates?

robartsd

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I am not a fan of gutters in cold climates. Given the age of your house they will probably contribute to ice daming.
My understanding of ice dams is that cold overhangs and warm attics are the problem, not gutters. If the attic is vented well enough that snow on the roof only melts when it is warm enough for the water to flow clear of the building there is no ice dam problem. If the gutter freezes over the water will flow over it and form icicles off of it with very little chance of building up an ice dam causing water to back up on the roof.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2018, 12:08:42 PM by robartsd »

mrteacher

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Thank you so much for all of the thoughtful, informative replies.

It sounds like gutters are definitely the place to start, followed by a bunch of $3 bags of topsoil for some regrading.

Anyone done regrading? Any tips/tricks for doing it right?

MilesTeg

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Thank you so much for all of the thoughtful, informative replies.

It sounds like gutters are definitely the place to start, followed by a bunch of $3 bags of topsoil for some regrading.

Anyone done regrading? Any tips/tricks for doing it right?

Don't use expensive top soil that soaks up water by design. If you don't have a convenient place to get free dirt, go buy cheap fill dirt from a landscaping supply company. You can also check craigslist and similar places; lots of folks have leftover dirt/sand/materials that they give away for free if you haul it away for them. The easiest thing I ever "sold" on Craigslist was dirt, hah!

Don't use sand or any other dirt that allows water to soak in quickly. Make sure you compact the fill dirt well so it settles less. Tamping rod, feet/shoes, and a little water.

The only thing to worry about with grading is putting thought into where you are trying to get the water to go before you start. Moving dirt sucks, do it just once =) It really depends entirely on your lot and terrain so you just have to think it through. Just make sure water always flows easily away from your foundation and all flows off your lot and preferably not towards your neighbors house =P.

It's a lot of physical labor, but not difficult.

robartsd

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If you have enough landscaping space, than you may want to design to retain water in soil (just not right against your house) for a rain garden - helps to slow that storm water down which would be a benefit to your plants and your community's storm water system.

Sojourner

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Often, you can source the dirt simply from the high spot and transfer it by wheel barrow to the low spot.  Thereby making the low area near your house the high spot and the higher area, which is causing this surface flow problem, the low spot.  This cut/fill balance method is the optimum solution sought by civil engineers whenever possible.  They don't like to import or export material due to expense of transport, etc.

Not knowing your local topography, we can't make suggestions in your case, but it should be apparent whether it's possible to achieve this balance.

Also, you do not want earth against anything other than the foundation of your house (i.e., don't build up dirt against your stucco or siding) else it creates other problems.  Instead, excavate the ground lower in the high spots to get that positive flow away from your house at all areas.

This task is labor intensive, digging and moving dirt from here to there, so unless you enjoy the exercise (like I do), you may want to hire day labor help.  If this will involve too much labor by hand, you can look into doing it with the help of a machine like a Bobcat.  Or hire the work out if you prefer.

pecunia

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I had that problem.  The others are right.

1) grading
2) gutters
3) If problem remains, sledge the slab, install a sump pump and pour to fix slab
4) Waterproof mortar type paint for basement walls.  It seals the walls and brightens it up.

In my case, the gutters fixed the water.  Water in the house can lead to mold.  People today are batsh*t nuts over a little mold.  Bugs tend to like wet basements too.

I installed plastic gutters.  I took them down every winter for heavy snow.  The water can be collected from the gutters and used in the garden, but that is optional.

I've seen others dig ditches to install drain tile to route water from the gutters.  This may be necessary if slope isn't sufficient.  Still others have had to install French drains.

Sojourner

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You will want to route gutter water well away from your foundation, not just onto the ground or splashblocks near the foundation.  That will just end up concentrated against the foundation, which is probably worse than having no gutters.  The various downspouts should instead connect to below-ground drain pipe that have some positive slope to move the water to wherever makes the most sense...what are you going to do with all that water?  When you're done, you will be happy during rainstorms to know it's not accumulating against your foundation trying to get into your basement.

For the underground pipe that connect to the downspouts, do not use the type with holes in.  That is for a different application.

You can connect the system of underground pipe to the storm sewer system if available.  Sometimes you can dump gutter water directly onto your concrete driveway and let it flow away, if your driveway slopes away from your house.  You can dump it into a french drain or down a hillside.  You can dissipate it somewhere away from the house using various methods.  You cannot connect it to your sanitary sewer system (house drain).  Do not dump it towards your neighbor's downslope property.  You may need to consult with someone if the solution is not apparent.

Consider sump pumps a last line of defense.  The water has already gotten into the house.  You want a solution that controls the water before it even has a chance to enter.

TheWifeHalf

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We have a plastic tile on the outside, along the base of our basement. This tile drains into the sump pump, which pumps it to the county tile out front, between the sidewalk and the road. It eventually goes to the creek.  Everyone around here does it that way because the water table is so high.

sol

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You can connect the system of underground pipe to the storm sewer system if available. 

This is very illegal in some places.  It's probably worth checking the local codes.

Sojourner

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You can connect the system of underground pipe to the storm sewer system if available

This is very illegal in some places.  It's probably worth checking the local codes.

Hence, "if available".

misshathaway

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You can connect the system of underground pipe to the storm sewer system if available. 

This is very illegal in some places.  It's probably worth checking the local codes.

I'm going through the wet basement solution fix now - still at contractor stage. My town just changed its policy about storm drainage and is going house to house metering anything that goes into the town storm drain. I don't have a connection and will design the new system to drain to lower level land in my own yard.

nancyjnelson

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I had the same problem in an older house I purchased a couple of years ago.  My house had gutters, so that wasn't the problem.  I had someone in to do some landscaping so that the neighbors' yards wouldn't drain into mine.  I was surprised that didn't help. 

I paid less than $500 for a company to come in and install french drains along the back side of the house (where the water seeped in) and a sump pump.  (They worked from the inside down in the basement).  The sump pump doesn't go off often, but the seepage is gone.

Best money I ever spent.  I know the price will vary wildly from place to place, but I would happily have paid four times that amount.  I'm putting the house up for sale this summer and now I can say I have a dry basement.

 

mrteacher

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Thank you, again, for all of the insightful replies. I am going to do some continued looking into gutters, and plan to start regrading in the next week or two (once the rental unit is finished and our tenant is in!)

sabertooth3

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I had this last year when a massive snowmelt caused water to get into the finished basement. I had a company come out and they installed an interior french drain with sump pump. Cost me about $4k, with another $500 in basically refinishing the basement (ripped out carpet, cleaned concrete floors, painted and sealed them, installed new drywall and painted over that). I also regraded outside, as it was clear that the ground was sloping toward the affected area of the house.

We've had rain here for a solid week and no water in the house. I've only heard the pump go off once or twice, but I'm also running a dehumidifier so that's probably more contributing to water buildup than seepage.

BudgetSlasher

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I feel like I will be the odd man out.

It is an 1880's house (farm house?) with a field stone foundation/basement. Those allow water in, pretty much period. Around here that a little water is par for the course. Some people have what amounts to a gutter and sump pump around the perimeter, some people run a dehumidifier, some people simple don't set anything on the floor.

Look at it this way, it has stood this way for almost the past 140 years. If you have an issue beyond, but related to the moisture, they yes fix it. Things like smells, allergies, rot, shifting foundations, heat loss, plans to expand into the basement and so forth would be reason for me to address the issue. If your concern is the moisture on its own, I would leave it.

My in-law also own a house and barn from the 1860s. The house retains the original field stone foundation and is perfectly fine. The barn has a new foundation (the barn was jacked up and a an entire new foundation poured before the barn was set back down).

The differences:
1) The barn became living space and the seasonal shifting was damaging finishes (like drywall) that were not there when cows lived in the barn. and

2) The barn foundation was open, unheated, and partially above grade. Unlike the house basement which contains the boiler, the barn basement could get below freezing allowing ice to adhere to the foundation and frost heave is preferentially in the direction of colder/freezing temperatures. So, ice in the soil was pushing in on the walls due to cold air in the barn basement.

Also interesting, my in-laws basement used to stay wet even during droughts and everyone assumed that there was a natural spring/seepage in the area (they also had a wet yard). Assumed until the city replaced the water main, then suddenly everything got much dryer.

misshathaway

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We've had rain here for a solid week and no water in the house. I've only heard the pump go off once or twice, but I'm also running a dehumidifier so that's probably more contributing to water buildup than seepage.

Music to the ears of the still-wet.

Fishindude

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I was a builder for 40 years and always recommended that clients avoid installing gutters if possible.   They never get maintained (cleaned out) like they should and wind up being the cause of lots of roof leaks, including "ice damming" as mentioned above.    If the roof sheds off at the eaves and drips onto a surface that won't erode and is sloped away from the house / building, you should never have a problem.   I like to install gravel along the edge of the foundation about 2'-3' out as a splash area.   A hard surface such as concrete or asphalt is even better.

anonymouscow

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I was a builder for 40 years and always recommended that clients avoid installing gutters if possible.   They never get maintained (cleaned out) like they should and wind up being the cause of lots of roof leaks, including "ice damming" as mentioned above.    If the roof sheds off at the eaves and drips onto a surface that won't erode and is sloped away from the house / building, you should never have a problem.   I like to install gravel along the edge of the foundation about 2'-3' out as a splash area.   A hard surface such as concrete or asphalt is even better.

Seems kind of silly to me not to recommend something because it requires maintenance... I don't know if it's just my area, but every house has gutters. My current house has screens on the gutters.

robartsd

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I was a builder for 40 years and always recommended that clients avoid installing gutters if possible.   They never get maintained (cleaned out) like they should and wind up being the cause of lots of roof leaks, including "ice damming" as mentioned above.    If the roof sheds off at the eaves and drips onto a surface that won't erode and is sloped away from the house / building, you should never have a problem.   I like to install gravel along the edge of the foundation about 2'-3' out as a splash area.   A hard surface such as concrete or asphalt is even better.

Seems kind of silly to me not to recommend something because it requires maintenance... I don't know if it's just my area, but every house has gutters. My current house has screens on the gutters.
Screens on the gutters (or the fancy "LeafGuard" kind) seems like a much better solution than avoiding gutters. Where I live we don't have risk of ice damming. With 12-18" overhangs typical, the only problems I've seen caused by unmaintained gutters has been rotting facia and eaves.

Awesomeness

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The day I closed on my 1947, 2 bed 1 bath home it had a foot of water in the basement. Problem was the main sewer drain was messed up with tree roots.  Possible seepage from the walls meeting the floors but donít know for sure.  Gutted and redid the whole thing. 

Iím in a town with a high water table. 

Installed new sewer line and removed the trees. 9 grand.
All new plumbing in the foundation.
Put in one of those crazy priced waterproofing systems, interior trench around the foundation, the walls were lined with a barrier because the goal was to finish the basement for extra living space.  Put in three sump pumps with the third being a water pump instead of battery back up.  Was told thatís much better. 11 grand.

It seemed buttoned up pretty good but the waterline into the house was bumped when the sewer lie was being dug, created a small hole that allowed water to come in and over time built up under the vinyl floor without me knowing.  Stepped on the floor and it rippled like my old waterbed. I about had a heart attack then calmed down and found the source.  Pulled up all the vinyl floor myself, the whole basement.  Learned that concrete needs to breathe and it had molded in other places where the water hadnít reached so it needed to go regardless.  Had the basement dry by the end of one day, yes I felt quite bad ass. 

So I hire someone to patch the hole and ended up staining the concrete with a stain that breathes and didnít seal it, 200$ and looks really nice.  Basement is dry again.

Installed gutters with the nice mesh guards from Costco, they should last for decades. 1grand total.

I just added about 9 grand worth of work down there to make it into an apartment.  Itís going well and giving me 800$ a month.  I live upstairs and my housing is under 400$ monthly. Very sweet deal for the really nice space I have up here.   

The only thing mustachian about what I did is the fact itís now rental income. Otherwise I spent way too much hiring people. Overdid the work itself, itís a really nice space but it was very expensive.  I did a lot myself but should have shopped around more.


honeybbq

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It's probably not urgent that you do anything at all.  The house has had a wet basement for a century, I doubt it's doing any permanent damage.

Many old foundations were installed with exterior drain pipes around the perimeter.  They clog over time and become useless, and are generally impossible to replace without risking your foundation.  You can recreate the same system inside the house walls if it's going to be occupied space, but I wouldn't bother.  If it's just damp floors, consider the dehumidifier.

If it's standing water down there, you can have a sump pump installed for about $3k.  They dig a hole in the floor, put a float activated pump in a perforated bucket in the hole, and pipe the water outside.  It consumes power, but locally depresses the water table below the bottom of your walls.  It's a pretty redneck solution IMO, but common in some parts of the country.

+1. We installed a sump pump in our 110+ year old house in St Louis. (even though we never had standing water)

mrteacher

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Budgetslasher, great points. I am trying to be as minimally invasive as possible while trying to fix what is pretty easily fixable - we have a spot on either side of our roof where a valley forms and water, whenever it rains more than just a sprinkling dumps down from those spots. A half inch of rain dumps around 60 gallons off of those two spots - seems like gutters will help significantly.

But yes. It has stood for 140 years.

However, there has been some foundation shifting, evidenced by floors that are noticeably out of level in spots and some cracked drywall in several rooms. Nothing super dramatic - I know settling is to be expected - but still not fun!