Basement Flooding – Real Life Story

Basement flooding
Pool tables don't like 12" of water

Continuous Basement Flooding Plagues Family

A woman called the office complaining that her basement was continuously flooding. Upon further explanation of her basement flooding problems she told us that she had gone through 15 sump pumps in two years. In addition she had installed a pedestal pump because the impeller was easier to clean. She explained that a white chalk like film had built up on every sump pump installed and they continued to fail because of the buildup.

Basement Flooding

As you can imagine this is a highly unusual situation, in fact one that we had never come across before. Obviously attempting to make any diagnoses over the phone was impossible and irresponsible so we suggested we stop by the house. We set up a time and date to do some investigative work and we were confident we could get to the bottom of the problem.

My service plumber went to the appointment. We expected him to be about an hour or so to assess the situation about three hours later we got a call from him saying “you guys have got to see this, I’ve never seen a think like it. I’m going to bring rubber seat from the check valve to show you the build up on it, maybe you guys have a different perspective.” An addition the discharge piping was 80% blocked where it left the house and entered the storm piping. This detail alone might be contributing greatly to the sump pumps failing. The pump is essentially pumping against itself because the discharge piping has been blocked.

The plumbing technician brought the check valve part in the office and the entire part was covered in an off white substance that was slightly harder than chalk.

Where do we go from here?

We had to ask ourselves a couple questions; was the basement flooding occurring just because the pump was failing or because the drain tile system was obstructed or a combination of the two? Camera location in corrugated drain tile is almost impossible due to the ridges in the pipe so our only way to see inside the drain tile would be to break up the concrete in a few locations around the perimeter of the basement. At each location the drain tile was between 50% and 75% blocked. Because the problem was so wide spread compromising both the drain tile system and sump pit we wanted to look up the builder to see if he could give us any ideas. We did get a hold of the builder but unfortunately the owner of the company retired and was not eager to discuss the basement issues. OK, the builder shed no light on the situation so our next stop was to see if we could hire a testing company to determine the nature of the foreign substance compromising the storm drainage system. We thought the best place to start would be to contact the municipal building department to see if we could see foundation inspections or foundation boring results. After explaining the situation with the municipality they were pretty forthcoming with the information requested. We then contacted the testing company that performed the original boring and they informed us that testing on the substance found would be approximately $3,000.00 dollars. The gentleman we spoke to did add that he had seen this problem once before and it ended up being a by-product of the waterproofing clay used on the outside of the foundation walls. This substance was leeching into the drain tile system. We made one last call to the home owner’s insurance company to see what their stance was on repair of the drain tile. We were told by them and it was confirmed by an independent homeowner’s insurance company that this repair was not covered by any traditional homeowner’s insurance plan.  (Any additional information on this insurance issue is welcome)

Important Details

As you can see we were not having any luck getting someone to commit to the problems, cause or to a possible fix. We felt responsibility to our customer as a professional licensed plumbing contractor to offer some advice and a possible repair to their drain tile system.

Let’s go over some of things we know for sure:

  1. A substance is leaching into the drain tile system and making its way to the sump pump.
  2. The discharge piping has the same substance build-up greatly reducing the pipes capacity to remove the water from the pit.
  3. That unknown substance is fouling the sump pumps and an astounding rate.
  4. The drain tile surrounding the perimeter of the basement is partially blocked at the three (3) locations where we opened the floor.
  5. The basement is flooding whenever there is a decent amount of rain; water is coming from the seams where the floor and wall meet.
  6. The home is 7 years old and the issue has only been present for the last three years.

Here are some points we’re not sure about:

  1. We don’t know what the substance is that’s building up inside the sump pit, on the sump pump and in the discharge piping.
  2. We don’t have a clear picture of where the substance is coming from.
  3. Is the entire drain tile system blocked?

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