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OT - sort of - Basements

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  • OT - sort of - Basements

    G'day all
    This is something that I have been meaning to ask for a while.

    Here in Australia basements under houses are quite rare. I'm talking "hole dug in the ground and house built on top" type basements. We have a lot of houses that are built on the sides of hills so have garages and rooms underneath, but the traditional "basement" is not common.
    So my question is, what sort of problems to you have with water getting in and how to you deal with it. I suppose this is more to do with older homes where the water proofing that was done during construction (if any) wouldn't, possibly, be as good as what can be done with a new construction these days. I'm not asking this because I'm looking for answers to a problem, just simply curious to see what you do on the other, uphill, side of the world.

    Where I'm living now is on a hill with a single garage and storage area underneath. Built in the early 1960's. Has a real problem with water coming down the hill under the topsoil and then appearing in the under house area. I'm in the process of digging trenches and putting in sub soil drainage in the back yard atm.

    This has started me thinking about basements so I'm just curious as to how you deal with water and high humidity in them.

    I've read lots of posts about the trials and tribulations of installing machines in basements and I always admire the efforts some of you put in to do that.


  • #2
    The floor is sloped to a drain called a sump. It's a hole about 18" in diameter and 18" deep. In the sump is a pump. It's a sump pump. When the hole fills up with water, a float switch makes contact and runs the pump which pumps the water out of the house.

    Basements don't normally get much water in them, if properly built and the soil is right. There are several ways to keep water out of the basement including the french drain, which drains water to the sump before it can get into the basement, routing water away from the foundation, or waterproofing the outside of the basement walls.

    We've routed water away from our house now. Before, the pump ran all the time and would flood to 8" within an hour or so if the power went out. Everything of value in the basement is off the floor.


    • #3
      I have a basement workshop and don't have any trouble. Check to see how high your water table is. In my case, I'm on a small hill (full basement-none of it's above ground) and the water table is quit a bit below the footings of my basement. I have poured, reinforced concrete walls with a footing drain which leads to a sump pump. The pump almost never runs, but is a must if you want a dry basement. I ran drainage tile from all the downspouts on the house to a spot nearly a hundred feet away.

      Poured concrete walls will leak less than anything else. You still should put some kind of water proofing on the outside of the walls.

      It's possible to maintain a dry basement even with a high water table. A friend of mine had a basement in a location where the water table was no more than three feet below the top of the basement wall. She had multiple sump pumps which ran constantly. The basement was dry until the power failed. then the basement would flood. She ultimately installed a back up generator and an additional back up pump which ran off city water. If you have a high water table you will need a foundation drain on the outside and the inside as well as drainage tile running under the basement floor. If I had to deal with a lot with a high water table, I probably go some place else.


      • #4
        Well, I'm an apartment dweller but all relatives are house owners PLUS work (water where it is not wanted is one of three top issues).

        Winnipeg, is, more or less, built on what eons ago was a lake bed, more recently I guess a "flood plain" would be a kind way of describing "it".
        There are any number of businesses whose main occupation is trying to fix water coming into basements. Basements here in perhaps 95% of houses (Winnipeg is towards on end of a much larger plains area, so relatively few hills etc. to build into). IF it is bad, you dig down to weeping tile and make sure it is functional (real old style used to be half round terracota tiles turned convex up but now is largely fairly large diameter perforated plastic pipe w sock around it to reduce penetration by roots etc.) and then begin several coats of tar or mix of tar and newer technology (sheet goods or roll goods).
        If it is not so bad, or periodic (very wet years followed by very dry years cause a ton of ground movement here, basements shift, cracks appear or re-open, soil on the exterior "separates" from where it was touching walls etc. etc.) you try all sorts of things, some work, some do not.
        Perhaps a bit more to what you maybe asking, dehumidifiers are pretty common here as part of a furnace package to try and control humidity, though, relatively speaking compared to Ontario, our winters are considered very dry [large indoor areas, warehouses, sports facilities (other than ice rinks) you can literally feel how dry it is]. Mom and dad have had a fan or two going more or less non-stop for years, just to circulate air. More used perhaps every other spring or summer if they get a lot of rain accumulating on the street side of the house (there is one wall that still has seepage over perhaps half its length).

        What Tony said about "soil is right"...that more or less does not exist in Winnipeg, nearly all clay. Edit: roadway heaving in Winnipeg is a major problem, worse the closer you get to one of two major rivers that run through the city and amplified by extremes of temperature (35 C in summer to -40C in winter is very common). The road that defines the perimeter of the area I grew up in has never lasted more than a couple of years and they go down almost to the water table each time trying to come up with a way to repair it.

        At work I spend perhaps a quarter of my time right now (this time, spring) coping with water penetrating building. Combo of poor roof, lots of snow but there is enough hydraulic pressure in poor soil in a location that is poorly drained that we get water being forces up from around post footings.
        Last edited by RussZHC; 03-07-2013, 08:40 PM.


        • #5
          My shop is in the basement with a "Walk out" door for access, plus an entrance inside to the upper level of the house. So far, we have no water problems at all.
          In a cold climate like where i am it is a great place to have a shop, always heated, and easy access to the electrical pannel for lots of circuits, access to phone, etc.
          (Oh, and good access to that "Extra morning cup of coffee" which happens quite often.)


          • #6
            A basement also allows some amount of natural heat from within the
            ground to come into the house. Not a lot, but houses with basements
            are naturally warmer than those say, with a crawl space or slab.
            Also, they are cool in the summer. The general temperature of a
            6 foot deep basement wants to be is 53deg F year round.
            If ambient of the house is less, the basement adds heat.
            If the ambient of the house is more, it absorbs heat.


            • #7
              Doozer,,, HOW does the basement ADD heat if the ambient of the house is less???


              • #8
                The wife and I live in an earth bermed home dug into the side of the top of the hill. The shop and home are 30'x60', the shop has a 10' ceiling and the home is 8'. The walls are sealed and there is drain tile around each building. If there is no heat in the garage the temp will not get lower than 40 deg. I have an all electric heat pump for heat and cooling in each building. The home will have low humidity in the winter and high humidity in the summer so I run a humidifier in the winter and a dehumidifier in the summer. In the shop the humidity in the winter stays about 50% but in the summer I have to run a dehumidifier to keep it at 50% to keep things from rusting and mildewing.

                There are advantages and disadvantages to basements and earth bermed homes and much of it has to do with moisture. Those that ignore moisture pay the penalty.
                It's only ink and paper


                • #9
                  My shop is in the basement of the house but have never had a problem.
                  In this area there is a lot of under ground springs and the water table is high. When the house was built and drain field and sump was placed under the basement floor before the concrete was poured. When the water level gets up in the sump a pump starts and drains it.


                  • #10
                    I used to have my shop in the Basement and really liked it cause it was always so cool in the Summer.
                    I also never had to worry about my various weird noises bothering the neighbors in the middle of the nite.
                    Tom M.


                    • #11
                      A properly built foundation and walls help, but sometimes luck plays a large part. My parents house (built in the 1860's) had a foundation made from stacked stones. We were without power one time for a week. OUr neighbors were all having to pump their cellars out every day as they were collecting 12" of water a day. My parents house had abiut 6" at the end of the week. Why? haven't a clue.

                      In many places the houses have a cellar as a place to put a furnace (and out in the country) a place to put the water pump that won't freeze. Here in Texas houses are either built on a pad or on pillars. Not much need for a furnace, and it rarely gets cold enough to even think about a freeze.

                      Another reason for a cellar was for a place to store vegetables and such for the winter.


                      • #12
                        kf2qd: Basements generally arise from the requirement of foundation footings needing to be below the frost line. In colder climates, this is pretty far down and basically, all one has to do to create a bunch of usable space is excavate the dirt and pour a floor.
                        Here in Texas, foundations needn't be very far down, so very few basements are found. A single pour makes for a simple and solid floor/foundation, thus the ubiquity of slabs here.


                        • #13
                          My house, circa 1850, has a full basement, rare in our neighborhood because the amount of granite ledge around here. It also wreaks havoc with the water table (we have a dug well uphill of the house which always seems to be nearly full).
                          We used to have water problems given that we have a fieldstone foundation. Water comes in when the ground gets saturated. The floor down there had been crushed gravel, which basically acted as an interface between the air in the house and the water under the gravel. The water found its way out through the downhill side of the basement, in the back via pipes laid under the gravel. Eventually we just poured a slab over the gravel, keeping a 3" perimeter of gravel to take any water that comes in under the slab and out the back of the house. Moisture problems solved!


                          • #14
                            It freaks me out to think of building a house on such wet foundations!


                            • #15
                              Water in the basement comes from water in the soil. Route/keep the water away from the house, and the only water nearby will be from a high water table.

                              If you have a high water table, you have a "houseboat", and if the hull is breached, it will flood. No way around it.

                              Nobody I know around here has a sump pump, but we are on a hill. It is pretty rare to have a high water table up on a hill, even though this is a low hill. We do have a drainage canal around about half the hill. The ditch is nominally known as the "river des Peres", as that river flows in it, but it rarely has much in it when there is no rain.

                              Here, clay and all, if you keep the water away from the foundation, you won't generally have water issues. Any such are normally due to runoff, not regular water table issues.

                              Oddly, my in-laws, who live in a house 25 metres from the top of a fairly high hillside that is nearly a cliff, have a sump and pump, which runs quite a bit. Their basement is a root cellar, the old part of the house was built 120 years ago or so, as a miner's shack. People up there have actually had flooded basements. The hill/cliff is about 30 metres high, going down to a river.

                              Personally, I'd think about running a pipe from the cellar floor to the cliff, rather than have floods....

                              Keep eye on ball.
                              Hashim Khan