What I'm Seeing Now

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Hope Springs Eternal

My neighbor's house across the street was built on what used to be a small pond.  The water in the pond seemed to come from no where, so I suspected it was fed by a small spring underneath.

To build the house, they "drained" the pond and began digging for the basement and foundation footings.  Before they poured the slab there was always water and mud in the bottom of the pit.  When the slab was poured water came up from some of the lolly columns under the steel beams.  In other words, the water had gone no where.  It's source was still there.

Now, their basement is always damp, they have burned out two sump pumps in 10 years and the current pump runs all the time.

I ran across the circumstance below on a pre-drywall inspection. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this house so much water was percolating up under two lolly columns that it was flooding about a third of the basement.  And there is little rain or snow recently, so the water is coming from elsewhere.  The other lolly columns were all dry.  As was the sump pump pit about 40' away!  So water is not being diverted from AROUND the foundation to the pit, at least not yet.  But it is coming up from underneath.

Does this say spring under the house?  When they were scooping out the hole for the basement, did they run into water?  There is a natural creek about 50 yards away, or less.  Is this natural water coming from under the house?

For certain, when this water is pumped out and those squares filled with hand-mixed concrete, that water will not go away. 

I am not a soils engineer or hydrologist so I cannot predict how much of a problem this will be in the future.  The client can HOPE that it isn't one.  I did recommend to the client that she ask the builder to have a hydrologist or other professional look at this and provide her a report.  That would be very prudent.

My recommendation:  water is THE killer of houses, inside and out, in all of its many forms.  It has to be controlled every way possible.  Personally I would NOT discount this circumstance above!  I would want to HOPE that this is NOT an eternal spring!

 

 

 

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 51 commentsJay Markanich • December 29 2010 08:23AM

Comments

As most of our real estate is on septic systems this home would have failed to get a permit here in the mountains. The soil test would have revealed the water and the county would not have permitted construction. Interesting post. Wonder how they were ablle to proceed top begin with

Posted by Charlie Ragonesi, Homes - Big Canoe, Jasper, North Georgia Pros (AllMountainRealty.com) over 7 years ago

Jay, I can't imagine what the builder was thinking.

No mistake here. Ethically challenged would be kind.

Posted by Gordon Sloan, Salt Lake Homes For Sale, Salt Lake Real Estate (Group1 Real Estate, selling houses in Salt Lake City Utah ) over 7 years ago

Good Morning Jay. I have seen "seeping" springs really create havoc and can be a real nightmare to correct... 

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 7 years ago

As Charlie says above, I was also wondering how they got a permit to build in the first place.

Posted by Bob "RealMan" Timm, Bob Timm, Project Coordinator for Tivoli Homes (Tivoli Custom Homes) over 7 years ago

Jay,

Looks like they'll be keeping the sump pump supplier in business for a long time. Resale would certainly be a challenge in the future too.

Rich

Posted by Richard Iarossi, Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) over 7 years ago

Charlie - it may be that the water did not show up until after they started digging.  But they got a permit to build that house across the street from me and there was a 30x40' pond there!

This is public sewer in this particular neighborhood so there was no percolation test to fail...

Corie - that is why I suggested that the buyer ask the builder about the lot's history.

For sure Michael.  I don't know how it can be corrected!  Underground water sources are huge and it isn't like you can get a spring to dry up.

Hard to know Bob.  But methinks this to be a real problem.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

I would think so too Richard, but, as I said, the sump pump is not nearby in the basement and dry!  I would worry that this water will not conveniently make it over to the pump.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Oh.....so it Does have an Indoor pool.......

 

Wow...this is bad news!

 

Gary De Pury, SFR

Tampa Short Sales Specialist

Broker Owner

Bay Vista Realty

Posted by Gary De Pury, ESQ. (Bay Vista Realty) over 7 years ago

Gary - the fact that it is percolating and flooding is indicative to me of an active spring.  Even if not a deep, vibrant spring, this will continue to produce water.  That is hard to control with a little concrete filling a hole.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay,

How can anyone ever get a permit to build on an old pond bed?

I would think the soils would make footing specs extremely difficult.

What a mess.

Posted by Mike Jaquish, 919-880-2769 Cary, NC, Real Estate (Realty Arts) over 7 years ago

Great observation Jay!  What many people don't understand is the raw power of water.  Water goes where water wants to go.

Posted by Damon Gettier, Broker/Owner ABRM, GRI, CDPE (Damon Gettier & Associates, REALTORS- Roanoke Va Short Sale Expert) over 7 years ago

They need another sump pump and battery back-ups for sure, and a good lawyer.

I remember a new community built in Bowie about 20 years ago.  The developer, Richmond American, drained and drained that bog for a year before they could get a single building permit. 

The county finally put a pond on the lower level of the track and it filled in little time.  Most homes that I show there over the years ( a luxury community ) had either a wet basement or several sump pumps. 

I sold a home in that community with 6 inches of water in the basement.  The bank foreclosed and didn't pay the electric bill.  Fortunately, my buyer was smart enough to understand and we got the house at a terrific price.  Since I knew the history of the sub-division, I was able to sell 3 homes there. 

Water, as you say is a killer of houses.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 7 years ago

Mike - if you are referring to my neighborhood I don't know!  As to this house, this water may have not appeared until AFTER construction began, and the county would never be told.

Damon - it is a hard thing to control, especially when the source is of unknown size.

Lenn - if that is the solution, one over on that side is easier to do now than later!  And in all its forms, water is THE killer!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay - Water is the bane of homeowners, and when it's coming from sources other than the plumbing pipes, it can literally destroy a home.  And while it's relatively easy and not that expensive to "guarantee" a dry basement, few builders understand exactly how to do so.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) over 7 years ago

Well, John, the first thing would be not to build right on top of a spring, even if it's found after digging!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

maybe they can set up a natural spring bottling plant in the basement?

Posted by Alan May, Helping you find your way home. (Coldwell Banker Residential) over 7 years ago

Just did a home in a hilly, rural area with tons of boulders around.  The basement was saturated and the ground water dumped into the sump pit constantly, so that the pump never stopped and (if unplugged as a test) the pit filled in less than 5 minutes.  This was 3 days after a moderate/light snowfall.  When the sump operated properly, the water was manageable, but I can't imagine having to endure a sump pump running 24/7. 

Always a good idea to question the presence of water around the columns - it can never be a good thing.

Posted by Joseph Michalski, PA Home Inspector (Precision Home Inspection) over 7 years ago

Reminds me of when I was a kid.

We actually had a spring under the finished basement and when it rained really hard you could lay on the floor and here the water underneath.

Enjoy the day

Posted by Don MacLean, Realtor - Homes For Sale - Franklin MA (Simolari & MacLean REMAX EXECUTIVE REALTY) over 7 years ago

You can't fool Mother Nature! And you can't re-direct water. What were they thinking when they built?

Sarah

Posted by Sarah, John Rummage, Love Being Realtors® in the Nashville TN Area! (Benchmark Realty LLC, Nashville TN 615.516.5233) over 7 years ago

I just don't get it! Why on earth the town inspector would give a building permit in this situation, in the first place? I couln't agree more with Sarah:

"You can't fool Mother Nature! And you can't re-direct water. What were they thinking when they built?" ...indeed!

Another question: Since it is your neighbor across the street, how's your house? : )

Posted by Lydie Ouellet Dickinson, Realtor (Realty Executives Tri County, Bellingham MA) over 7 years ago

Some pieces of land just are not meant to be built on and if you ignore that you are only asking for trouble.

Posted by Christa Ross, Helping you buy and sell Pittsburgh's Best Homes (RE/MAX Select Realty - REALTOR and Green Homes Specialist) over 7 years ago

Jay, Several years ago I opened up a small restaurant in a new mall in my home town. I had heard it was built on a spring but never put much faith in that until one day I was in my kitchen in the restaurant and water started bubbling up through the concrete floor. It did it for 15  minutes but stopped and I guess never happened again. I sold out and now there is another store in that space but floors always look dry. 

Posted by Mike Frazier, Northwest Tennessee Realtor (Carousel Realty of Dyer County) over 7 years ago

Jay,

Water intrusion is a big deal here in our wet climate. Some people take it for granted that it will be there, but that does not help the building materials one bit.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 7 years ago

Alan - now that's thinking like an American!

Although, the County and State would find out and start taxing the effort!

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Alan - no that's thinking like a true American!  Although there are taxes to follow!

Joe - sumps running continually are not a good thing.  Too much water there!

Don - I have been in houses where I could hear water running under the basement!

Sarah - it is somebody else's problem!  What happened to the Golden Rule?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Lydie - the permits may have been extended before the water was discovered.  My house is bone dry!

Christa - and I am afraid this house is in for troubles.

Mike - water tables are unpredictable things.  There may be water there still!

Steve - I bet you have continual problems of this type.  I don't remember - are there more crawls than basements?  I bet basements are problems.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay,

This seems like a particularly risky situation. I'll watch your blog for futures updates.

Brian

Posted by Brian Madigan, LL.B., Broker (RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto)) over 7 years ago

Brian - I hope there is an update, or two!  I would also like to hear what happens here.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

When you pull a permit, where are the inspectors from the city or county that issued the permit?  The building inspector should have noticed this condition and red tagged it right when the foundation was dug. That is why you pull permits to make sure that construction is done right.

Posted by Maureen Megowan, Palos Verdes Real Estate Blog (Remax Estate Properties - ) over 7 years ago

This is in a development of new homes being built Maureen.  I don't know what, if anything, the County does with foundation walls, or if this was visible when the County came by!  I am hoping to hear what happens from here on!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

That my friend is brutal!  I bet the fix is very expensive :-(

Posted by Justin Dibbs, REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale (Pearson Smith Realty) over 7 years ago

Well, after reading your post I feel a little better.  I have a rental that is located in a low water table, but not a natural spring.  The water only comes up in heavy, heavy rains when the water table rises.  The support beams are raised on to cement pier blocks.  Water and homes don't mix.

Posted by Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED (RETIRED / State License is Inactive) over 7 years ago

Thinking someone did not do their soils' testing properly (if at all) and how in the world could they have continued on so far with the water still on the rise, so to speak!  Great information; thanks and Happy New Year!!!

Posted by Tish Lloyd, Broker - Wilmington NC and Surrounding Beaches (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) over 7 years ago

It's amazing how much damage water (and in turn mold) seems to cause.  Can affect just the basement or entire house.

Posted by Debbie Gartner, The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers (The Flooring Girl) over 7 years ago

Well, I don't know Justin.  That is why I recommended an expert.  For all I know it is easy, but you don't know what you don't know!

Carla - houses don't make very effective boats!  It is good that you are up on stilts!

Tish - it seemed to me that this water had been there for some time.  I hope they get an expert's opinion!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Debbie - I have seen more than one basement with all the drywall removed because of molds.  Continued moisture is a continual problem!  The moisture has to be eliminated, and if a house is on top of a spring, I don't know how that is done!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Jay, that is just sad and how can it ever truly be resolved?

Posted by Renée Montgomery, Northern Virginia Real Estate (Century 21 New Millennium) over 7 years ago

I don't know Renee and I hope they take my advice.  Hopefully a follow-up from them is in my future because I really want to hear what is up!

See you tomorrow!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Relax, it's just a Feng Shui element to build upon.  

Posted by Hank Spinnler, Atlanta Home Inspector (Harmony Home Inspection Services of GA) over 7 years ago

That is an indoor water feature. Very chic. I'm certain they will be paying extra for it.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

Surely the local authority's building inspectors examine slabs etc. etc.  Why did they not find fault with this construction?

Posted by Christine R. Sutherland, REALTOR - CIPS, TRC, e-Pro (Downing-Frye Realty, Inc - the best in SW Florida) over 7 years ago

Jay, I could say "why was there a permit issued" but then again, it's already been said about 5 times.  Your patience is excellent!

But not a fun situation for the new homeowner.

And you and I are kept in business by the same thing:  people who don't build it right!

Posted by Jeremy Wrenn, President, Wrenn Home Improvements (Wrenn Home Improvements) over 7 years ago

They're going to need a lot of mirrors to hide all that Hank!

The water view probably makes that a prime lot Jim.  I bet they had to pay big bucks for that water view too...

Christine - I don't know when the water showed up, but it seems to me that it is percolating.  I guess they County has not been by since the permit was issued, OR they have not gone downstairs (which would not surprise me).

Jeremy - I worry about things like this.  Unfortunately, my client was not present at the inspection and so I sent her a report and photos.  She has not called.  I will call her if I don't hear from her so we can discuss this, because I think there's stuff to talk about!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

This reminds me of when I was young,  we had an old farmhouse that was built on a stone foundation.  The foundation had a hole in the side and a channel cut into the slab.  Another hole in the opposite side of the house let the water out.  The channel was approximately 2 feet deep with about one foot of water always running through the house.  It was actually a very good system for controlling water.  

As you said, controlling water is a key to having a happy home.  I am not sure house they can solve this except adding additional pumps and changing them regularly.  

 

Aaron Flook

AM Inspection Service, LLC

Posted by Aaron Flook (AM Inspection Services, LLC) over 7 years ago

Aaron - wow, it's hard to imagine an intentional creek inside a house!  But, it seems, it controlled the water!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

What a pain.  I'm sure that whatever it takes to fix that, it ain't gonna be cheap.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 7 years ago

Reuben - I have no idea what to do.  For sure they have to determine the source of the problem.  Can they?  Hence my recommendation to call an expert.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

 Hi jay. Yep the killer of most homes, is the water. Yes it can come in many ways, not to mention the sun,wind and oh yes the uncaring homeowner. good luck for this homeowner. Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) over 7 years ago

Thanks Clint.  And enjoy that desert sun!  I don't get a lot of that around here!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

Wow, Jay, feel bad for these homeowner's as it looks like a baddddd situation. 

Posted by DeeDee Riley, Realtor - El Dorado Hills & the Surrounding Areas (Lyon Real Estate - El Dorado Hills CA) over 7 years ago

Well, I hope not DeeDee.  We will see what comes of this.  They have me scheduled to do a final inspection Feb 7.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 7 years ago

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