Home Ownership

According to Ian Argent: “more fun than a barrel of monkeys on nitrous oxide.” I agree. This summer, I ended up replacing a lot of dirt around a corner of the house where soil was mysteriously subsiding. I was wondering where this dirt could have gotten off to. Recently we decided to renovate my office, which is in the finished basement. I ripped out the baseboard heating units today, and part of the drywall. I ended up discovering a trench drain several inches wide along the perimeter, which was filled with dirt. Under the dirt, I found a weep pipe through the foundation wall that went into the drain. The mystery of the dirt had been solved. Kill me now.

With a hand trowel, some water, and a shop vac, I carefully removed all the dirt to get back down to concrete. It was several trips with a bucket to get it all back outside. The weep pipe is now completely uncovered. The question now is whether it was part of a previous failed basement waterproofing attempt that I have since corrected, or whether it is something I have not yet discovered. Best case scenario this weep pipe no longer weeps. Problem solved! Worst case scenario, it still carries water and dirt, which was cut off to the sump by previous owners who finished the basement and blocked the trench drain with extreme prejudice. The fix for that is non-trivial, and may require a jackhammer, so I am sincerely hoping this weep pipe is extinct, or will at least remain dormant until such time as I can sell the house to the next sucker owner.

UPDATE: I should note that it was disclosed to me at the time of the sale the basement had water intrusion issues, and so I will be required disclose such to the next owner unless I spend the big money to fix the problem permanently, which is not out of the question. But for now, I want to get on with cleaning out and redoing my office, so this can is getting kicked down the road for now.

20 thoughts on “Home Ownership”

    1. My understanding these days is that’s a bad idea. Anything I’ve done without a permit that wasn’t an emergency is something easy for an inspector to notice and check out. When I’ve done things that get covered up, I get permits. I also get permits for big jobs.

  1. I once looked at a cute two family in western north central Marxistchusetts that had an actual stream running through the basement. There was a deliberate channel formed in the basement floor about a foot deep and half again as wide with several actual bridges made of four to six two by eights set into footings made for the purpose in the concrete. Even in late fall when we looked at the place there was enough flow from this underground stream that a small turbine near the outflow might have actually been useful. I have no idea what the place may have been like during spring runoff… An extreme example, to be sure.

    I hope yours is an ex-stream. But if there was movement of soil during your tenure as owner it may not be as ‘ex’ as you would no doubt prefer.

    Good luck! And let us know how things turn out…

    1. No stream… the dirt came in on the weep pipe. It could have been there for decades, and it may be that pipe is no longer active.

  2. Well, I hope you don’t have a Zoning Law that says your Home must be brought up to Code BEFORE you are allowed to list it, like in my Town.

    Of course, all the crap that was signed off by prior Corrupt Zoning Inspectors doesn’t give you a Pass, either.

    $6,000 worth of Driveway repair due to some Idiot NOT tying the Driveway Drain to the main line taught me that. And it WAS signed off by the City back in the ’70s.

    1. Can’t you sue the city for that? Afterall, they certified it had been done when it had not, doesn’t that make them liable? Especially if they are now forcing you to do something they certified as already having been done?

  3. I’d seal the pipe, leave it visible and wait a year. If it settles down, you don’t need it any more.

  4. I’ve currently got the joy of a septic system that is verging on needing cleaned out, so far rid-X is kicking that can down the road a piece.
    The problem is the previous owners decided it was a good idea to pour a slab of concrete over the septic tank, about 5 x 6 feet and 6 inches thick, with no provision for cleanout! Nor any provision for lifting it either, you’d think they would have a couple loops of re-bar at least to hook a chain to a backhoe or such but nope, just a big slab of concrete. And where it is I’ll have to take down a big section of fence to get any power equipment in there. Joy……

    1. I had a simial situation. The previous owners had built a stone retaining wall using the septic tank as footing for the wall. Fortunally it was near the end of the wall and I only had to rip out the last 6 feet or so. Of course I then had to dig out the hill and rebuild the retaining wall 4 further feet back so I could continue to get to the cleanout. The wall now has a odd looking dogleg but at least I can get the septic cleaned when needed.

  5. Got some drain tile under the basement entry steps (a 14′ long, 8′ wide affair sunk 8′ deep into the ground) that was improperly placed when the house was built 12 years ago. It’s been sucking sand into the sump. I patched it a few years ago and now the issue is back. I always knew it would be.

    The patch took some concrete to seal the gaps, and also about half a cubic yard of fill shoved under the concrete stairs. This time it’s not getting patched – it’s getting fixed. Concrete saws, high-pressure concrete and iron.

    Water is the kind of thing that eats human construction faster than anything else out there. When it comes to water intrusion, we cannot play around. Fight it with fire!

  6. One lesson I learned form watching This Old House with Bob Villa and Norm Abrahms was to expect the unexpected. This has been confirmed over and over as I attempt to update a 1900 cabin in the Adirondacks that has had several owners, each doing their own thing.

  7. Yup, you should have never posted anything about this. When you sell, the new owner has documentation that you knew about it, even if it doesn’t act up for you. If something happens when the new owner is in the house they can come back and bite you.

    1. That’s only the case if I don’t disclose it. The water intrusion was disclosed to me, so I will likewise disclose it to the next owners. But the form doesn’t ask the exact location of weep pipes, and I’m not touching the weep pipe or any other this other stuff.

  8. I found my problems with water in the basement largely were solved by the simple act of moving several tons of dirt to my yard to make the ground slope away from the house, instead of to it or flat.

    1. Yes… I did the same and the amount of water coming in went from substantial to the point where I could fill my sump well faster by pissing in it than a good rain can accomplish.

  9. We’ve got a wet basement issue too. In fact, during Irene/Lee we had about a foot of water in the basement. And would have had more if not for pumping with a trash pump.

    Still not sure what the best way to remediate it is. Do I hire someone to dig up around the house and lay a drain there. Or to cut the floor and lay the drain inside?

    1. From what I gathered in talking to other folks after Irene, I don’t think that any house stayed dry during that storm. I think during extremely heavy rains, it’s just a given around here.

    2. I had fortuitously put in an inside French drain and sump system the June before Irene. The water that came in went right back out post-haste. It’s what should have been done by the sellers by our requirement prior to purchase, but they skimped and only did the smaller room where we saw standing water, and we let them get away with it. The larger room is separated by a half-inch threshold from the smaller room, and that at the highest point. By the walls it got ankle deep once. I know this because I was standing in it to reset a tripped breaker!
      The electrical upgrade I alluded to is the last of a series of electrical system upgrades and additions. The only complete removal was that someone thankfully pulled all of the knob-and-tube – carefully verified by several inspectors directly or indirectly employed by us.

Comments are closed.