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help! water in crawl space


stuman168
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I had a house recently built in OR. The house is located in the flat area. The soil mainly clay with poor percolation and my bet is the water table is also high. When the foundation poure over compacted 4 inches of gravel over clay soil. I notice there is standing water after a rain and it doesn't percolate down. I ask the builder and he said once the footing drain is connected it will not be a problem. However he never installed the perimeter footing drain instead he put a 4 inch tubing thru the base of footing and drain it to the street. Now that we moved in to the house the crawl space has 2-3 inches of standing water that doesn't drain. the water level will never get above 3 inches because any excess water drain tru the footing drain by graivity to the steet ( somehow the drain was placed 3 inches higher than it should be. Even when it hasn't rain for weeks the water doesn't percolate. The builder place a sump pump which are able to take the water away but whenever it rain the crawl space is wet again and it take a while befor the sump pump catch up. I ask the builder that with continues water entry he should have build a perimeter drain but he keeps telling me it's normal to have water as long as it'll drain out eventually. Is it true?

I'll try to post some picture when I figure out how

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That's a friggin nightmare and if you don't get it fixed stat you're going to end up with a crawlspace crawling with rot and mold.

Jim Katen is probably more familiar with code requirements down there, but if you're in IRC country the builder doesn't have a choice he has to put in footing drains unless the floor of the crawlspace is on the same level as exterior grade, which it isn't, or if it's on well-drained ground or a sand/gravel mixture (IRC 405.1X), which it also isn't. Since you say the soil there is expansive the leaders from the gutters have to discharge a minimum of 5ft. from the footing or into an approved drain system separate from the footing drains (IRC 801.3).

It sounds like you should get an attorney to write the builder a pretty strong letter suggesting that if the situation isn't fixed yesterday he (the builder) can look forward to dealing with a lawsuit and a lot of really, really bad publicity when mold develops under the home.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by stuman168

I had a house recently built in OR. The house is located in the flat area. The soil mainly clay with poor percolation and my bet is the water table is also high. When the foundation poure over compacted 4 inches of gravel over clay soil. I notice there is standing water after a rain and it doesn't percolate down. I ask the builder and he said once the footing drain is connected it will not be a problem. However he never installed the perimeter footing drain instead he put a 4 inch tubing thru the base of footing and drain it to the street.

The drain to the street is often adequate. For it to work, the crawlspace floor has to be pitched toward a single low point and the drain has to be placed at that low point. It's also important to have a backwater valve on the drain to prevent water from the street from flowing backwards into the crawlspace and to prevent rodent entry. If you've got standing water in your crawlspace the drain, by definition, isn't working.

Now that we moved in to the house the crawl space has 2-3 inches of standing water that doesn't drain. the water level will never get above 3 inches because any excess water drain tru the footing drain by graivity to the steet ( somehow the drain was placed 3 inches higher than it should be. Even when it hasn't rain for weeks the water doesn't percolate.

The depth of the water isn't particularly important. It's the surface area. That's what the air in the crawlspace "sees." Standing water in the crawlspace humidifies the air. It causes high moisture levels in the wooden framing. It rises through the house via imperfections in the framing and it follows electrical and plumbing chases to the attic where it condenses on the cold framing and sheathing in winter, particularly on the north side, causing mildew growth and sometimes rot. Also, and this is very important in the Eugene area, standing water reduces the bearing capacity of the soil. In short, water in the crawlspace is bad for the house and it's bad for the occupants. Before you'll be able to make any progress with this builder, you'll have to get him to understand that water under a house is a bad thing. Without that understanding, there will be no forward progress.

The builder place a sump pump which are able to take the water away but whenever it rain the crawl space is wet again and it take a while befor the sump pump catch up. I ask the builder that with continues water entry he should have build a perimeter drain but he keeps telling me it's normal to have water as long as it'll drain out eventually. Is it true?

I'll try to post some picture when I figure out how

One of the most persistent myths in our area is that it's normal for there to be water under a house. It's not. It's a bad thing.

Another persistent myth is that it's ok to have water under the house as long as it drains away after a day or so. That's a really dangerous myth. Recurrent cycles of flooding and draining are possibly worse for the foundation than consistent flooding is. The cycles tend to "pump" the foundation, causing movement and cracking.

Yet another myth is that simply placing a sump pump in a crawlspace will solve a water problem. A sump pump is only one part of a drainage system. I've been evaluating wet crawlspaces and water abatement systems for the past 14 years. I've never yet seen a sump pump, by itself, solve a crawlspace water problem. You need a "drainage system." The sump pump can be a part of that system.

Here's what I suggest you do. First, convince the builder that water in a crawlspace is not acceptable. It might help to cite the 2005 Oregon Residential Specialty Code, section 408.5 which says, among other things, that if water doesn't readily drain from the site, then there needs to be an approved drainage system.

Another cite that's helpful is from the Residential Construction Performance Guidelines published by the National Association of Homebuilders. (This is your builder's trade organization. Maybe he'll believe them.) In section 2-18, they say that any accumulation of water deeper than 3/4 inch and larger than 36 inches in diameter is unacceptable and needs to be fixed by the builder.

Once you get the builder to admit that the water has to go, you've got to convince him that he's got to get rid of it with a drainage system. This means a series of drain tiles in trenches, lined with filter fabric and drain rock. They should be installed well *below* the level of the footings (but not too close to the footings -- to avoid undermining them) and placed in such locations that they interrupt the flow of incoming water before it reaches the surface of the soil. All of the tiles should lead to either a gravity drain (with a backwater valve) or a sump pump. A 6-mil black plastic vapor barrier (ONE LAYER ONLY) should be placed above everything so that the entire system is invisible.

Designing systems such as this takes skill and experience. Most builders have no experience with these systems.

I know of two companies that excel at this work: John's Waterproofing, 800 810-5883 and Ability Plus Drainage, 503 246-0474. If you were to hire them, expect to pay about $3K.

One other thing. If the builder isn't cooperative, you can file a claim against him with the Construction Contractors Board. They're the governmental body that regulates contractors in this state and they provide dispute resolution services for a nominal fee. (I think it's $50.) Visit them at http://www.oregon.gov/CCB/

To file a claim, you first have to notify the builder of your intent to do so via certified mail. So you might want to get on that right away. (You've only got a year to file a claim with them.)

- Jim Katen

Oregon Certified Home Inspector #15

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Thanks for everyone input, I have several meeting with the builder already and I told him that a perimeter french drain is necessary to prevent the water entry into the crawl space. He said that he did not put any in the subdivision and those system are useless anyway because it gets clogged. ( On prior meeting he told me it's too expensive because we have to tear dowm the patio, driveway and lanscaping and he said he's not paying for it and offered sump pump instead)

Everytime I insist on putting the drain he'll come out with different excuse.

In our contract there is a statement that state any dispute should brought to arbitration first instead of lawsuit. Is this mean, I can't sue him if he is unwilling to fix the problem?

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Originally posted by stuman168

Thanks for everyone input, I have several meeting with the builder already and I told him that a perimeter french drain is necessary to prevent the water entry into the crawl space. He said that he did not put any in the subdivision and those system are useless anyway because it gets clogged. ( On prior meeting he told me it's too expensive because we have to tear dowm the patio, driveway and lanscaping and he said he's not paying for it and offered sump pump instead)

Everytime I insist on putting the drain he'll come out with different excuse.

I wouldn't put a french drain around the outside of the house. Too much trouble. Put it along the inside perimeter of the crawlspace at least a foot or two away from the footing.

Putting it outside means a lot more excavation because you've still got to place the tile below the level of the footing.

In our contract there is a statement that state any dispute should brought to arbitration first instead of lawsuit. Is this mean, I can't sue him if he is unwilling to fix the problem?

That's a question for your lawyer. However, I'm certain that you can open a dispute with the CCB. It's relatively quick and nearly free. Do it. Just be sure to have all your ducks in a row. Make your case brief and cite sources to substantiate your point of view.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Hi,

That would be a drywell here on Puget Sound. It's funny how that imaginary line between the Canada and the U.S. and geographic differences between states create some interesting differences in terminology. Drywell vs. French drain, eaves troughs vs. gutters, leaders vs. downspouts, etc.

Not to get off track, but here's a little primer on exterior drainage methods used here to supplement footing drains and properly pitched exterior grade next to the home:

French drains are used strictly to remove surface water and really aren't effective at keeping water out of basements or crawlspaces, although they'll usually work for situations where infiltration is minimal. They're usually roughly a foot wide by as much as 10 to 14 inches deep. They're lined with geo-textile fabric and then an inch or two of quarter stone is spread in the bottom on top of which a length of perforated pipe is lain. The pipe either daylights to the street or downhill from the house or discharges into drywell below grade someplace on the property. Around here, they're placed along the edges of driveways, patios and sidewalks to prevent water flowing beneath them, undermining them and causing them to settle.

Next up are curtain drains - essentially French drains that are much deeper and are buried below grade. These are usually placed between 2 and 4 feet below grade and are about 18 to 24 inches wide. Like French drains, they're first lined with geo-textile fabric and then a bed of quarterstone - usually at least 4 inches thick is lain and pitched to drainage at about 1/4 inch for every 6 linear feet. A perforated drainpipe sleeved with a fines sock is placed on the gravel and then more gravel is added on top up to a depth of about a foot. The geo-textile fabric is folded inward around the drain and then the whole arrangement is buried.

Curtain drains are typically placed no closer than 6ft. to a foundation and can be staged in echelons about 6 to 8 ft. apart on slopes uphill from a house, although just one placed at the 6 foot mark will usually work fine to keep water out of a basement up to about 10ft. deep. The idea is that they interdict and divert any groundwater moving downslope long before it gets close to the foundation.

Drywells here can be several types. Sometimes they are big plastic perforated tanks that are buried below-grade and then filled with gravel or surrounded by gravel.. Sometimes they are just large holes dug below grade that are lined with geo-textile fabric and then filled with chunks of broken up concrete. Extensions from the downspouts, French drains or curtain drains are brought into the center of these, they apply a layer of quarterstone, fold the fabric inward and bury it.

The smart contractors will typically get one of those large plastic industrial-grade barrels, drill a bunch of holes in it, wrap it with fabric, place it smack dab in the center of the drywell, with the drain extension emptying into it, and will place the lid where it will be barely half a foot below grade. Once it's buried, they'll place a big concrete paver there to mark the location of the barrel. That way, when all of the crud that washes into it from the gutters fills it in 5 - 10 years, the homeowner can dig up the lid and clean out all of the muck that's preventing it from taking any more water.

Sometimes drywells here will take the shape of fat curtain drains that are about 2ft. in diameter and anywhere from 10 to 30ft. long and placed at either end of a horseshoe-shaped curtain drain placed around and uphill of a house. When these are used, the downspouts, footing drains, curtain drains and even sump pumps, if used, might all discharge into them.

Recently in the city of Seattle, they've been requiring builders to install large concrete tanks - essentially drywells - below grade to accept runoff from downspouts and footing drains. I've yet to actually see one of these before it's buried but, according to the builders I've talked to, these have to be sized according to the lot and roof size and are designed to hold a lot of water before they overflow. When they overflow, they discharge into the city storm sewer - if there is one - or into the sanitary sewers when there isn't any storm sewer. They're also designed to drain - albeit very slowly - between rains.

Sometimes these aren't designed to drain and are equipped with very large sump pumps that periodically discharge to storm sewers in streets uphill from the house or away from the home. I recently did one condo where the builder was required to take the discharge from one of these into an alley behind the building and then down the alley half a block and tie it into the storm sewer. The tank was huge and was equipped with an alarm so that if the pump failed the occupants of the condo would know about it. A big steel spring-loaded door in the driveway gave it away. Release two latches and the whole thing swings up with a light pull and there was a steel ladder inside leading to pump which was as big as most of the typical maceration tanks one finds in the basement of a one-family residence.

Most of the time here, the only thing that we see are the French drains. Sometimes a catch basin or a cleanout will reveal the presence of curtain drains and every once in a while there's the occasional cleanout lid for a sludge barrel in a drywell that's left un-buried. On one little home I did over in Kirkland recently the only thing I saw in a tiny little cottage community (Essentially a bunch of little individual cottages grouped around a central green and organized like a condo association, that look like an old-time 19th century village) were the downspout receivers. The site was relatively flat but was downhill from some higher terrain and I didn't see any drainage ponds to collect runoff. When I talked to the super on-site, the super informed me that they didn't want any ugly drainage ponds ruining the look and feel of their community, so runoff from every house in the complex was collected in a huge cistern beneath the clubhouse. When that is full, it overflows into the storm sewers. Kewl!

More than RobC wanted to know I guess, but hopefully worth the read.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Mike,

I never know enough, the reason I'm always asking questions and periodically hanging out here.

Yes, french drains, dry wells with combination laterals make sense for controlling surface run off especially in a high precipitation locale.

I can also appreciate the need for residential holding 'areas' to prevent shocking the storm system. I suspect this requirement is prevalent in other high precip jurisdictions.

I seldom see dry wells here primarily due to our cold climate and the amount of precipitation we get(16 3/4"/year).

What is required by code in AB is a perimeter foundation weeping tile system. The word 'tile' is a misnomer as we use corrugated plastic pipe now, either with sock or plain. There is no requirement for drainage fabric or the pipe socked, however, it must be located adjacent to the strip footing and below the underside of slab level or elevation. Then backfilled with 6-8" of drainage rock, usually(1" washed aggregate).

Additionally, vertical connections are required from the perimeter system up to the bottom of the window well grade level usually 8" from the bottom of the window sill.

In the past we used to tie into the sanitary service. But with the increase in population , sewage treatment plants became overwhelmed during prolonged rain storms and caused to discharge raw sewage in the river. The newspapers and green people got in the action and you know the rest of the story.

Now, we are required by code to connect foundation drainage to the storm service only.

BTW,

Yes the line is imaginary

I think we can agree on this,

Drywell - a hole or tank in the ground

French drain - a hole or tank with rocks in the ground

Gutter system:

1. eaves trough - fascia or built in (Yankee?)

2. downspouts - verticals connected to the troughs

3. leaders - the things you trip over and squash

Stuman168

I've just realized that your question has taken us off topic somewhat and I apologize.

So to answer your question,

Water doesn't belong inside a house unless it is contained and controlled and without repeating what others have so eloquently stated, you should take action before the project continues.

I would force a work stop order on the building.

Good Luck,

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Thanks Rob,

Unfortunately we closed on the house already in oct 2005. When, our inspector inspect the crawlspace it was fairly dry except for small amount of standing water towar the back of the crawl space (of course rainy season doesn't start after we moved in). In november when it started rainning, my crawl space had 2.5 inch standing water and it doesn't receded even after period of no rain for 10 days.

I felt that the water table is high and the water somehow enter the crawl space very readily.

As a background. The house is build on a clay soil not too far from a large pond. the builder compacted 4 inches of gravel below the foundation.

I am enclosing the picture of the lot while they are excavating and my house is the same level with the neighbor to the side

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On the next picture you can se how high the house is above the street which really puzzle me why we have water problem

and the drain from the crawl space but I believe may not placed at the lowest point in the crawl space because water will accumulate in the crawl space but never any higher that 2.5" because it drain to the street. But I still feel there is a proble if the water enter the crawl space whenever it rain. I know it's not the gutter because the gutter go to the drain around the house the drain to the street.

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Originally posted by stuman168

. . . On the next picture you can se how high the house is above the street which really puzzle me why we have water problem. . .

Here's how it works. When the builder excavated the site for your house, he cut a hole that's slightly bigger around on all sides than your foundation would be. He had to do this to allow room for forms and workers. After the foundation was completed, he backfilled the "trough" around the house. The backfilled soil is more porous than the surrounding, undisturbed soil. When it rains, the rainwater flows through this porous backfill till it hits the bottom of the excavation. Then it spreads out laterally into the crawlspace.

In addition it's common in our clay soils for the foundation excavation to interrupt an underground vein of water that naturally flows beneath the surface of the ground.

To repeat:

Water under a house is bad.

Fixing it involves trenches containing drain tile, rock and filter fabric.

It will cost money to fix.

By the way, is that house with the stone veneer yours or your neighbor's?

Have you been reading up on stone veneer by any chance?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Water ingress is a tough one to solve.

So where could the water come from?

If I was trouble shooting this, I would consult the developer and request a copy of the geological survey, soil test result and grade slip. The grade slip would indicate any geological restrictions that apply.

Seepage can come from basically 4 different directions.

1. Bulk - stuff from the sky you need to direct away from the structure proper that require trough systems, flashing (I don't see at every horizontal junction between 2 different exterior finishes), grade differential 1": 1'-0" for the first 6 feet (slope would appear sufficient or greater than).

Could the trough system 'perimeter leaders' be leaking?

Since clay is in abundance and you don't have to import it, it would be advisable to insure that a clay cap with appropriate slope (in this case it would be the backfill itself) has been installed around the perimeter beneath the topsoil to direct water away from the foundation.

2. Capillary - stuff that rises against the law of gravity. You mention you have a capillary break in the form of gravel, so I guess we can rule that one out. On a different note, I don't see window sills to divert water away from the building face.

3. Vapour/Air movement and diffusion - NA

4. Condensation - NA

We could suspect a 5th mechanism in this instance, building placement. We want to stay away from high water tables and underground springs that could affect the building adversely. As Jim suspects, the builder might have made an error or ignored geological surveys.

Moisture control, accumulation and removal is an interesting subject and one thing is for sure you need to deal with this soon.

Quick question

Are you the only owner with seepage in the subdivision?

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Hi All,

Thanks for pointing them to that image resizer Rob. Stuman168, you don't need to resize the images. I've done it for you.

Guys, it really helps everyone, even the guys on broadband, if you resize all of your photos before you post them to TIJ. That way the guys on dialup won't have to wait five minutes for an image to open.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Sorry for the large files on the images

RobC

Yes It appears, I am the only on with the water problem on this subdivision. they are still buidings though. My immediate neigbors which are only 10 feet apart on each side doesnot have problem. one of the even sitting few inches lower than our house

Jim

Yes our house is the one with stone veneer. I haven't been reading about it. It is a cultured stone manufactured by rouge river in grants pass oregon.

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That's good news

We can rule out building placement or sub surface activity.

Here is something you could do rather inexpensively.

1. Pump out the crawl.

2. Get a garden hose and a bottle of septic system 'leak detector' and test the trough system. Follow the directions on the bottle and simulate a rain storm.

I would do one side of the house at a time (with different colors if available), observe the crawl over the next day or so.

If that fails (no colored water), then I would turn my attention to lot grading and drainage which I suspect slopes away from the house - yes?!

The strategy is quite simple, fix what you can see, trough system (including underground leaders) and grade. If that fails, then I recommend excavating, damproofing, perimeter drainage systems etc.

One last thing, try to stay away from complicated mechanical gizmos such as pumps and lifts. Let mother nature do her work-gravity is less expensive and requires no maintenance.

So again, you have a square hole in the ground and water is getting in, if it was round you would have a well, this is a basement and square holes are supposed to be dry.

Good Luck and let us know how you make out.

PS don't stop sending photos-we like pictures[:-slaphap

800x600 at 80KB works well.

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RobC,

My crawl space was finally drying up after there is no precipitation for at least 10 days.

The sump pump slowly takes the water out.

Well today it rains here in eugene OR. I checked the crawl space and the water start entering the crawl space again.

I called the builder and notify him about this.

He get really upset and said "I build the house per code and I did extra by installing the sump pump". "A lot of house in eugene has water during rainy season. and I will not do anything else". So I told him if that's how he feel strongly, I asked him to put in writing that he won't do anything else since he build the house per code. But he would not put in writting.

here is the picture of the sump pump. it's placed not necessarily at the lowest point but close to access for easy access.

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OK I rename the pic, I'll start with the sump pump and how it did help dry the space with no rain for approx 10 days. then I retake pic from today since it started raining this morning. I felt the water enter too easily

sump pump :

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the crawl space after 10 days with out rain

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here is how it looked today with rain since morning

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before my crawl space look like this even without rain for extended period of time

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basically it look like this for over 2 months even when there is no rain for at least a week.

What my builder try to convince me is the crawl space is better than it was.

I'll continue taking picture as there will be rain for the next few day and I will keep you guys posted

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Hi,

That's fine, but you need to realize that at this point you are preaching to the choir and there's not a whole lot more anyone here can do for you. They've given you the best advice they can, now you've got to take it from here.

I will say this though, that's one of the absolute worst installations of a barrier and sump pump that I've seen in years. Your builder obviously hasn't the faintest idea what he's doing under that house, and trying to get him to fix something when he doesn't know what he's doing is like spitting in the wind.

Hire a competent contractor who can figure out what's going on there for you, have him fix it, document the heck out of it and then, if you want him to pay for it, get a lawyer and haul his butt into court. The longer you leave that mess like that, the more chance there is that you're going to end up with some serious moisture issues elsewhere in the house. Stop telling us about it, get a contractor and get it fixed.

Sorry to be so blunt, but you're wasting precious time.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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