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When A Sump Pump Gets Stoned

Stone foundations are famous for leaking.  But especially if the soil outside it is not graded, water from downspouts not extended away from the foundation.  And certainly if a sump pump is not discharging well away from the house, and onto a graded slope.  It can become a circuit.

When all three of those things are present, well, a life raft may be in order.

This is another view of the stone foundation in the historic property in Manassas VA.  It leaks.

It leaks so much and so regularly that everything in the cellar is up on stilts of some sort.  Even the water heater, partially seen on the left.

The concrete directly ahead probably used to be the coal chute, which was sealed at some point with a concrete foundation.  It does not look original to the house.

The stone foundation leaks.  The concrete foundation leaks.  And not much has been done to arrest that leaking.

So they deal with it.  They installed a sump pump.  And not very recently!

This inundated cellar is only about 10'x10'.  And when you leave the room you need to pay special attention to clean your shoes of the Virginia mud which is thick on the floor.  The sump pump pit is nearly full of mud and must be cleaned regularly.

If you aren't going to arrest the water flow, this was the only place to put a sump pump.  The companies that would "dry" your basement would have wanted a drain pit all along the stone/concrete foundation, all around the cellar.  That would have been a huge mistake.  That system would erode the soil under the foundation walls and completely compromise the house in time.  Stone foundations have no "footers" as do our modern concrete foundations.  The underside of the walls would literally wash away!  Big, big NO, NO.

My recommendation:  It is best to get advice from a landscaping architect on how to keep water away from the house.  Houses do not make effective boats.  But if you have water getting inside, consult an engineer with historic home experience to create a solution that will not compromise the whole house!

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 17 commentsJay Markanich • January 22 2010 05:05AM

Comments

GRADING, grading, grading.  Over the years, it has become clear to me that, with minor exceptions, poor grading is the cause of 95% of wet basements.

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 9 years ago

Looks very similar to some in this area as well. You are right about old stone foundations leaking. I wonder what they did before sump pumps...

Helping you help others live their American dream...

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 9 years ago

No doubt Lenn.  And when things like downspouts are not extended, well, you are asking for it!

Michael - probably brooms, dust pans and pails.  And before sump pumps was likely before landscape architects!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Jay, In our area I find that grading really doesn't make that big a difference.  But the downspout are CRITICAL!!  The way we receive rain is very slowly, but constantly over 8 months.  It never comes down hard enough to flow across the grade.  But I know in most other parts of the country grading is pretty important.

Posted by Jim Allhiser, Salem, Oregon Home Inspector (Perfection Inspection, Inc.) over 9 years ago

You might be able to artificially build up the grade with some clay Jim.  We have clay here naturally and it acts like a great barrier toward water deflection.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Jay I sure do love to read your post. You have and interesting job, I am starting to wonder if I should be a home inspector:) Keep the post coming.

Posted by Mandy Buchholz (Benchmark Realty, LLC) over 9 years ago

Mandy - I am glad you enjoy them!  My problem is the time it takes to post them.  More could be done!  There is no reason you could not become a home inspector...  it would take a lot of study and some practice, but when all is done I am sure you would do fine!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

  I don't think here...we have ever seen a pump and a stone basement in the same house...here in the days of old foundation...you are likely to find a palmer valve..those oldies but goodies often stuck shut....and risking breakage and non-replacement by the plumber...but that's another blog and not for me to un-stick...blog on my Dear.

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) over 9 years ago

S&D - I have never seen, or heard of, a Palmer sump.  I will have to look it up!  

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Jay, I hate mud-wrestling in basements----where you can't even tell if there is a slab there or not:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

There was a "slab" Charlie - apparently put in long after the house was built and about 1" thick.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Whenever I inspect an old property, we have many of these here in CT, I expect to find water in the basement. It just seems to go with the territory.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 9 years ago

It does James.  A stone foundation without some moisture, or even an occasional deluge, would be rare I think.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

Sounds like they just keep putting a band aid on an open wound instead of trying to stitch it up and let it heal.

Posted by Troy Pappas, Virginia Beach Home Inspector (Safe House Property Inspections) over 9 years ago

That's right Troy, and this has been going on for many years!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

As a contractor in rural Wy and Id I helped a lot of owners determine their final grade (or finished floor elevation) of the house. It was amazing to me how many contractors were more worried about having to haul in a few extra loads of soil for grade than setting the elevation correctly for the long run. Worst mistake ever? Set the finished floor too low and have your home in a hole.

Posted by Harley Wilcox, Harley Wilcox (West Group Real Estate) over 9 years ago

Harley - that is the original cellar, surrounded by those walls, put there in the early 1900's!  No grading though...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 9 years ago

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