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First time home owner with wet basement problems, rain causes me anxiety... It's causing problems.



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First time home owner with wet basement problems, rain causes me anxiety... It's causing problems.

Old 03-21-2021, 11:56 AM
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First time home owner with wet basement problems, rain causes me anxiety... It's causing problems.

Just like the title says, I'm a first-time home owner of an older home built back in the 50s whose basement the original home owners dug-out after the home was built. Living here in the Midwest, I've always heard people tell me that there's no such thing as a dry basement... I'm sure there's exceptions to that idea, especially if you have the ability to properly grade and reroute downspouts, etc. but that's not the case with my house. I have no room to regrade my yard and my downspouts have already been extended to the 10-15 feet distance. But in any event, I closed on this place sometime back around 2011 after being its last renter. The prior owner (my last landlord) passed away from cancer but before dying, arranged the sale to avoid leaving it to his late wife to mess with. When I rented here, I knew it had problems with water in the basement but I never understood the expenses involved with trying to fix them, which I always wanted to naively tackle because I never realized back then how hard it would be to find people or companies willing to just come out for quotes, let alone do the actual work (and that's all assuming it's within my financial ability to begin with).

Fast-forward to today where I just wrapped up replacing 2 entire sides of the basement this past November. This work involved lots of stuff, not only ripping out old walls and excess areas of useless dirt and old block, etc. (to make the basement bigger), but it also involved the installation of a perimeter drain which connects to a second sump pump. The outside of the new blocks were coated with roofing cement (to waterproof) and that was covered with protective paneling. The blocks were given rebar for support up to about hip height, and the drain lines were covered by pea gravel. That work took a month to finish and my AC still hasn't been reconnected back to the house with the contractor promising to come back out at some point to reconnect it. But after everything was done, it cost me about $36k to do just these 2 sides of the basement. Ugh.

And despite all that work, the basement still leaks. It's not as bad as it was but that's mostly depending on the amount of rain we get. The sides of the basement that were replaced no longer suffer from any bowed walls, so structurally, everything is absolutely better and I now have almost double the space I had before, which is great. The walls themselves don't leak (they show damp spots during excessively-heavy rains, but they don't actively leak or dribble, spurt out, etc. like they did before the work, so that's awesome, too). The bad part is just that damn water that still comes in but no, almost entirely at the joints and corners where the old basement walls and floor meet up with the new basement sides.

This past week we got hit with a 1.5"+ heavy rain and that was right after being hit with a 3/4ths rain a day before. To make things worse, water was coming in from my neighbor's yard where it had pooled up to such an extent that it was making its way over next to my house to sink into my basement and perimeter drain. During that rain, the sumps were working hard and there was water everywhere--but it didn't technically "flood." It was just really wet inside (think big puddles in about 60% of the basement).

I'd be lying if I said that going through all of this has me thinking about taking my own life. Insurance won't cover any catastrophe related to the foundation (not that there's any reason to suspect it would happen but just that it's impossible to say--prolonged water penetration has the tendency to erode things through time). Thinking about all this fills me with so much hopelessness that I wake up each day having absolutely nothing to look forward to. All I sometimes ever do is spend all day worrying about the next rain. I still own about $52k on the house, which will take me about 4.5 years to pay off if I proactively pay $1k each month towards the principle and that's assuming nothing unexpected comes up during that time, which it will. But then after that, I want to try to save up about $50k for a newer home to move into. Between then and now, I have various upgrades I'm wanting to do to the home to make the place worth buying, such as upgrading the HVAC (~$8k) as well as the installation of an internal French drain line system (not sure how much that will cost). I'm also wanting to swap the engine in my truck for about $7k to avoid being forced to deal with another monthly payment on a newer truck purchase. There there's the home rewire (~$8k), possible new siding and windows (likely another $8k)... So a rough estimate about getting out of this place is between 12-15 years before I'm able to with any confidence and convenience of finding a home I want to move into rather than moving into another just to escape this one.

Every time I see a rain forecast, I feel my heartbeat speed up and through time, I've noticed that I've lost weight from the worry. I've spoken to the contractor about the water I still see in the basement and he never seems to act concerned about it. Thing is, I'm not sure if that's confidence from him that I see or liability avoidance because his work claimed to come with a 10 year warranty and yet, the man never provided me with any documentation on anything for it once everything was paid. When he and I had some words about the water, he practically joked with me about my needing a hobby or girlfriend--not in a jerky way, but rather, in a dismissive, "bud, you're worrying too much," kind-of-way. So I'm not sure what to think.

I'll never kill myself over this despite thinking about it all the time. During my 30-something years on Earth, I've come to the understanding that it's the romanticizing of suicide as an ultimate form of escape that causes those thought processes in my mind to keep coming up, so I say "suicide" when in reality, I just mean "escape." But this house stuff combined with how everyone is now since this pandemic situation began, and combining all of that with how people were already antisocial... It's causing some major problems that I'm having a hard time handling and it's making me hate everyone for it. I can't even depend on any family members to just listen to me without them finding an exit from the conversation. I'm closest to 2 people in my family (really the only people in my family that I ever speak to): my older sister and my grandmother. Every time I call my sister to talk, she eventually finds a reason to hang up. It's either something to do with her house, something going on with her boyfriend, the kid... There's always something, and yet, I've never once treated her that way whenever she calls me up to bitch about something. And my grandmother is impossible to talk to about any of it because she doesn't think things through at all. I'm not sure if it's her age or other stuff, but I know she's very well-to-do with absolutely no worries about money whatsoever, so she's naturally inclined to feel as if any problem isn't something she has to think through when she can just throw money at it. To make things worse, this past Christmas she flaked out of our holiday dinner at my sister's due to her concerns about Covid-19, but we later learned that she decided to go look at Christmas lights with our other side of the family on Christmas day. So I honestly feel like I have absolutely nobody in any of this to just talk to about it. And as for me, I don't make a lot of money. I'm middle-class and gross about $50k, so all this stuff I'm doing with my house has me on a very tight budget. I just don't think I've ever been this miserable.

But in trying to look at things on the bright side, I'm going to get the contractor back out to talk about the waterproofing options (with another contractor coming out that next week for the same things) and I've installed a drain line to capture the neighbor's yard runoff--it's not much--just a black drain pipe connected to a surface grate where the water comes over, so I'm not sure if it will work but it's a start. I'll have to watch it the next time it rains to see if it works...

Have any of you ever lived in an old home that had water in its basement after heavy rains? How did you cope with it? I've been told that structure is the important thing where leaky basements are concerned and as of right now, there's no bowed walls, so I think structurally, the basement is fine. It's just that damn water that has me on the verge of panic attacks. I plan on doing everything I can to make it better before I try to sell the place at some point, but I just don't have the money to redo the entire basement and even if I did, I wouldn't since replacing those 2 entire sides didn't really result in the outcome I was hoping for. It took care of structural issues, yes, but since the water issues persist (albeit somewhat better), it's just a hopeless idea to even consider racking up more dept on a basement that will probably never be what I want when I could instead use any money I'm able to save up to do what's minimally required to get out of this place at some point.

Here's the original basement I had when I was a renter with the older walls right after a 2"+ rain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgkZChyyLqs
Here's the basement with the new walls + new perimeter drain after a 1/2" to 3/4" rain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E25nIpY1th8
Here's the basement with the new walls + new perimeter drain after this week's 1.5"+ rain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZOcXiP7-5U

Sorry for the book and I hope you're all doing well.
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Old 03-21-2021, 05:46 PM
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Hi Wolf -- I'm sorry you are so stressed about this. I lived in a lovely house for 15 years that got water in the basement. Built in late 1940s. The entire neighborhood was the same. It's very common in older homes. We did some upgrades ourselves with drainage, new walls, etc. We still had seepage. We removed rugs, had all items on some footing or raised a bit, nothing that could get damaged. We had dehumidifiers. Fans. We made it work. My spouse had an office in the basement. My brother even lived in our basement for a few years. It was nothing fancy but it was perfectly fine. When we sold the house we disclosed "seepage after heavy rain." We sold it 2 years ago with no problem.


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Old 03-21-2021, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by silversky View Post
Hi Wolf -- I'm sorry you are so stressed about this. I lived in a lovely house for 15 years that got water in the basement. Built in late 1940s. The entire neighborhood was the same. It's very common in older homes. We did some upgrades ourselves with drainage, new walls, etc. We still had seepage. We removed rugs, had all items on some footing or raised a bit, nothing that could get damaged. We had dehumidifiers. Fans. We made it work. My spouse had an office in the basement. My brother even lived in our basement for a few years. It was nothing fancy but it was perfectly fine. When we sold the house we disclosed "seepage after heavy rain." We sold it 2 years ago with no problem.
Thank god for people like you, silversky, because you give me hope. Seriously. I mean, talking about it helps with the anxiety, ya know? It's been a major problem in my life lately and I'm trying to find a way to make things work on my end. My hope is that, through a combination of internal drainage, a good dehumidifier that I'm planning on buying this month, and some pump contingency systems for backup when the power goes out, I'll be able to stomach this for another 12-15 years. It's not going to be easy but I do believe that the structure of the home is now fine and that once I get the internal drainage installed, I think it will make things a little easier to deal with. But I sometimes cry over this, especially when I know we're going to get hammered with another big rain. It's become such a neurotic thing for me that I sometimes fight myself when feeling compelled to look at online forecasts and each time I get ready to look at them, I feel my heart rate increase and anxiety buildup to the point that I almost begin to feel my hands shake. Anymore, the forecasts almost determine how good my day is going to be but once I see the big rain icon for some day ahead of the current, I just feel defeated and it determines the rest of the week... I hate that I'm like this.

But I'll remember what you said about the disclosure. You and my older sister said similar things. I've spoken to her about this because she's got a lot more experience than I do with home ownership. I think she's had about 5 or 6 different homes in her life and she's told me that every older home has issues like this. She felt the walls were perfectly fine and not going anywhere anytime soon, which makes me feel good. It's just the water that's more so irritating than anything to actually worry about. She told me about how once she came across a home that had an actual "mote" around the basement. (I think it was a home a realtor was showing her.) She told me that when she asked about it, the realtor acted like it was "normal." When I asked her if she was just talking about a French drain system that she saw (which actually is normal), she said, "No, it was an actual mote. It wasn't connected to a single pump. It was just a literal mote in their basement that collected water." Makes you think about things.

I know a lot of my anxiety about all of this comes from my inexperience with home ownership, especially where older homes are concerned. I always thought I'd be able to handle most things and for the most part, I've done okay, but I never thought my first home would be something like this. I guess I shouldn't complain too much when many people in the world don't even have a shelter each night to stay in. But it's just a hard experience to reconcile. I've also had many people tell me that having a dry home in the Midwest is a myth. I think a lot of them say those things to try to comfort me, but part of me hopes they're right because this is just such a hopeless feeling I've been battling for awhile since my basement project wrapped up back in November. I was 100% convinced it would bring better results than it did and after seeing it not meet those expectations (despite things being better than they were), it just feels like a castle of cards crumbling down. Hopefully one of the contractors I'm meeting with soon will have some workable solutions.

But seriously, silversky, thank you so much for the reply. It means way more than you might realize. Just having someone somewhere provide some hope for me is invaluable.
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Old 03-21-2021, 06:31 PM
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I got water in my previous home's basement. I was able to install french drains to correct the problem. A lot of work but well worth it. Best wishes!
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Old 03-21-2021, 06:43 PM
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Originally Posted by tomls View Post
I got water in my previous home's basement. I was able to install french drains to correct the problem. A lot of work but well worth it. Best wishes!
I've seen a few videos about the kinds of drainage systems some companies can install and the one I'm hoping to install in my basement is the kind that uses weep holes in the bottom wall blocks combined with drip board to encapsulate the water underneath the eventual concrete that seals the drainage trench that the drain pipes rest in. Here's a video example of the kind I'm referring to: https://youtu.be/IVgmcXlONpA?t=144

Seems like it would be awfully difficult for any water to bypass something like that.
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