Waterproofing your basement may become an entire section of the website just by itself. If you're reading this page then, like me, you probably have some form of water or moisture issue in your basement. I had two floods and bought several hundred dollars worth of equipment before I figured out what my issue was.
I plan to have several most posts on this topic, but first I thought I'd share my story.
Water in your Basement is Stressful!
The worst part about it wasn't even the flooding or the cleanup or the money. Really it was the worrying! I started to hate spring thunder storms. I worried when we went on vacation that the basement might flood and my sump pump wouldn't go off. I hated hearing the sump pump sound, it's loud "clunk!" reverberating through the house, just reminding me that I had an ocean of water under my basement floor and if the power goes out, I'm screwed.
I consider myself fortunate though, I DID figure out the cause of the problem. Well, I didn't figure it out, it was sort of dumb luck. Never the less I have zero basement water problems now and my sump pump hasn't gone off even one time since the fix.
My Sump Pumps
My basement sump pump would go off a couple of times per day if it had rained in the last day to two days. It would go over every 10-20 minutes if it was actually raining at that moment. And if it was just pouring buckets, like it often does, then it would go off almost non-stop for the whole freakin' day.
I would go down to the basement, I could hear the water rushing into the collection pit. The system was working at least. The water was being pumped out. By why in the world was there so much water under my basement? This was a new house. I had gutters. I had down spouts. I had even had the builder divert the pumped out water 40 feet away into the woods. Still, Mr. Sump Pump was working overtime and one of these days he was going to kick it.
Then, about 2 years into this nagging problem, I decided to have some landscaping done, totally unrelated to this issue. I wanted some mulch replaced and I wanted some new garden beds dug. The landscaper asked if I wanted to go ahead and extend the down-spouts from the gutters about 15 feet away from the house, underground. He mentioned this just a suggestion for keeping the mulch from washing away each time it rained.
Gutter Down Spout Extensions
Man, am I glad I said yes. It cost a bit more money but as soon as they put those in I started to notice that the sump pump was not going off. I actually got really worried, I thought it might have burned out. It was September and it didn't rain for almost two weeks. When it finally did, I was just waiting to hear the pump go off. Nothing. It poured two days straight but didn't go off a single time and I didn't hear any water what so ever going into the sump pit.
When I thought back to the landscaping work the pieces started to fit together. During the most recent work they had extended 3 down spouts underground about 10-15 feet away from the house. A year earlier they had done 3 others for some beds near the front of the house but those seemingly had no affect on my water issue. These three new ones however were on the down sloping side of the lot, at the back of the house, close to but not right near the basement steps.
Prevention Instead of Clean Up
While it's clear now in hindsight that this was the solution it was not very clear at all for several years. The builder came out, made suggestions, tried stuff, but no solution. The landscaper, the same one who put in the extensions, did not suggest extending the down spouts in the back even when I described to him the problem. My neighbor also had the same problem, he didn't have a solution. I googled everywhere, never was this suggestion really highlighted.
If you have an epic basement recovery / flooding story I would love to hear it and share it. Email it to me or post a blurb here in the comments. I remember as a kid helping my parents bail out the basement of their first house. They were heart-broken at the time but in looking back being able to pitch in and help was a fond memory.
So I hope this might help you. Your problem may not be down spouts. Your problem may be something completely different. Try several different options to try and prevent the water coming into your home in the first place, before you spend a ton of time, money and worry over sump pumps, electrical backup systems, alarms and monitors.
Cheers - Jason