Didn’t know our house came with a free pool.

As you all know I live in Seattle. Yes, what you are thinking is true. It literally rains here 400 days a year 😉

seattle seasons rain

Since rains is the norm here, not many people have pools installed on their properties. Girl Ninja and I, however, discovered two weeks ago we were bucking that trend and are now the proud owners of a sweet pool…

…in our basement.

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Maybe we can call it a wading pool? A kiddy pool? How much you think I could charge families for swimming lessons/practice?

The good news is, the water issue seems to be isolated to the unfinished section of our basement, as it sits about six inches lower than the finished area. 

Now I’m no handyman, but as far as my investigative skills can tell, the water is coming up through the pores of our concrete floor right where it meets the cinderblock wall going to the crawl space.

When I peeked in to our crawl space I was expecting to see a lot of wet dirt, but the opposite was true. At least the top layer of dirt is dry as a bone (I’f I dug down about 4 feet in the crawl space to reach the depth of the basement floor I’m sure there would be a different story).

After a bit of online reading, I’ve learned that as heavy rains come, the water table rises.

What’s the water table?

Basically, if you dig down deep enough (no matter where you live), eventually you will hit water. That point is the water table. When it rains heavily, the water table level rises. 


water table

It’s rained enough lately that the water table level is now at (or above) the level of our basement. As a result, water is being pushed up through our porous concrete floors/foundation.

Moral of the story

I’m pretty sure we are screwed. 

As far as I can gather, the only way to keep the water table level below our basement during heavy rains is to have a french drain installed in our basement.

frenchdrain

And after getting my first bid, the numbers aren’t pretty. Looking like it will cost me upwards of $6,000 after all is said and done. (I have another estimator coming out Tuesday).

This makes me depressed for a few reasons: 

  • I feel like this is a sunk cost. Meaning, we aren’t adding value to the property, simply trying to maintain value. Buyers expect their basement not to leak and aren’t going to pay for a problem that isn’t theirs.
  • It’s really tough getting bids right now. I called one company and the secretary tried to book me for a March 24th appointment. Ummm, Lady, there is water gathering in my basement, I don’t necessarily have the luxury of letting it continue to accumulate for another month or two.
  • This is the first “not fun” money we’ve put in to the house. We’ve dropped $8,000 on our house so far, but it’s all been for beautification purposes. Installing a french drain is probably the least sexy way possible to spend $6,000. Guess those quartz countertops will be put on indefinite pause.

At the end of the day, we don’t have much of a choice but to have the work done. It’s pretty annoying, and YES it totally makes me rethink this whole homeownership thing. When I was renting, the biggest headache I had was the time my landlord didn’t cash my rent check.

Those were the days.

Homeowners: Have you had any unexpected or totally annoying repairs spring up on you?

Renters: Point your finger at me, laugh, and say “Told you so!”

 

33 thoughts on “Didn’t know our house came with a free pool.

  1. For our investment property in an apartment block, our management company has taken it upon themselves to flood-proof the shared basement. Whilst this might seem like a good idea, its going to cost nearly £200k, which is to be split between the residents.

    Oh, and the management company didn’t see it necessary to inform the residents that this was happening.

    Oh, and they are charging a 15% “management charge” for organizing this work!!!

    Time for a day in court, me thinks…

  2. Learning the hard way happens. This problem of yours is quite unexpected and unknown to me because we do not have basements in Las Vegas. I wonder how long the problem has existed and what are the consquences of not installing a french drain since the previous owners did not.

    In regards to sunk costs, my cars have been the biggest money pits for me. Maybe I should start leasing cars instead of repairing them…hmm…

    • You don’t have basements in Vegas???? Why??? (sorry, I’m Canadian, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a house without a basement lol). Just curious

      • Not too common to have them in the Southwest. We don’t have one (and don’t know anyone who does) in Arizona. The houses are built slab post-tension foundations.

      • One reason is that as water freezes in the soil it can move the soil underneath a building enough to split the foundation slab in a single year. One way to prevent this is to excavate to a depth where the water won’t freeze underneath the foudation. As you get further south on the North American continent the depth required to excavate decreases so in the south it cost less to pour the foundation near ground level rather than excavate deep enough to have a basement while in the north it is less expensive put a basement in rather that fill the cavity with material that is less likely to shift when frozen.

      • The soil in Las Vegas consists mainly of caliche, so the cost of constructing a basement is very high.

  3. As a houseowner you will always have costs like that coming up. I never believed that until I moved in with my husband who owns a house.
    Blinds broken (to be fixed for 2 years now, because we rather want to beautify the whole window/terrace area and do it all in one sitting and still save for this), electricity needs to be checked/fixed, faucets breaking etc. Some costs are higher, some are lower…

  4. Should this have been caught on your structural inspection before buying the house? If not, do you have a cause of action against either the inspector or the previous owner?

    • Unless the water table was that high during the inspection, I don’t think the inspector could be held liable. There might be cause for action against the prior owners though, if you could prove that they knew about this and failed to disclose it. I’d call your realtor for advice.

      • Yes, but presumably the inspector knows the climate and should be able to detect signs of previous water damage in the basement.

        • Since the basement is unfinished there is no real way to detect previous water that was let in. Once the water dries up there is not a trace it was ever there.

          I did, however, send my realtor an email last night asking why the previous sellers didn’t disclose this when selling as I would find it hard to believe they didn’t have this same issue.

  5. Yep, I would press the seller on the potential for an incorrect form 17 disclosure. Those houses have been there a long time and this has happened before. I would push them to pay for 1/2 or threaten a suit. You have 3 years, I believe, to file.

    • Followed up with my realtor and he is going to reach out to them and try and see if they’ll go 50/50.

      Realtor said it’s going to be really tough to prove with certainty that the previous sellers were aware of the issue.

      They owned for 12 years and it’s obviously rained during that time, but common sense doesn’t always prevail and evidence is going to be tough to conjure up.

  6. We are very familiar with the water table down in here in Florida. I can go outside and dig down 2 feet and hit water. 🙂

    Weeping stones and sump pumps are in your future. I would get 3 independent estimates and have those in hand when talking to realtor/inspector/lawyer.

    $6000 is worth a little hassle to see if you the previous owner will pay or at least split the cost.

  7. Last July, we went through a torrential downpour that led to a leak in our finished basement that came in through the baseboards. Hubby noticed the carpet in the area was wet and he called our Condo Board. Turns out there was a leak in our foundation, and given that our condo fees cover the exterior maintenance of our townhouse, they ponied up the $5000 it cost to repair. We’d only been in our townhouse 10 months at the time, AND they fast-tracked our requistion… pays to be good friends with the Condo Board President, I guess 🙂

    No damage to our carpeting or the walls, except for minor repair work to the baseboards.

  8. This is gonna be long. Okay so we live on Whidbey island, water is a problem. Most of our water problems are subsurface and follow clay levels, i.e. think under ground rivers. Your house should have footing drains. Also the gutter drains should be tight lined out to the county ditch or a lower part of your property. There is no way to tell if the footing drains or gutter drains are installed properly unless someone digs down to them to check. I don’t know about your home inspector but I don’t think he dug down to the bottom of the footings to check to see if they were installed right. It turns out in our last home they were installed on top of the footing not below, something that sounds so little makes a huge difference. Hence we had water coming in on the seam where the footing meets the foundation wall. Also are gutter drain pipes went into a another pipe we didn’t know where it went. Turns out those pipes ended at the bottom of the foundation. So we were basically running water to the bottom of our foundation. Believe me there were some choice words said about the contractor.

    In our last house we ended up installing the a drainage system on the outside for a couple different reasons. 1. The power goes out all the time, usually in the winter when it is raining. So I was having nightmares of me outside in a full blown wind storm trying to hook up a generator so that we could run a sub pump to pump water from inside our house to outside our house. 2. I didn’t want the extra moisture inside the house. 3. We thought we might finish the basement.

    We ended up digging down the side of the house (roughly 6 feet), installing a dimpled foundation membrane (I can not remember the brand we bought it at H.D. Fowler), installed perforated ADS pipe that was connected to line that ran out to the county ditch and back filled the whole thing with drain rock. Think curtain drain along the side of your house. Also we ran the gutter water in a solid pipe out to the county ditch. We were quoted different prices it was from $6,000 to $8,000. The other problem was time, the companies were all out at least 1 month but most were out 3 months. However, my dad is retired but use to run a construction company he came over and helped us install it. It cost us about $2,000 in materials. BUT he had a bobcat to move the drain rock, I can not imagine having to wheelbarrow it, and a small excavator to dig it. The whole project took us 4 days.

    Lesson learned on current house purchase, we dug down to footings to make sure footing drains were installed correctly and gutter drains went somewhere, I swear the homeowner thought I was crazy but I refused to have to do that again.

  9. Dude that sucks – But rest assured you’re not alone. While our basement hasnt flooded since WE lived in the house, it has before and i’ve found mold on the inside of the drywall on every. single. wall. in the basement.

    Right now, I’m in the process of tearing ALL the old stuff out, so we can re do it.

    Unfortunately, I dont know if the water issue was something that happened and has since been fixed, or just hasnt happened again.

  10. Ninja,
    I am sorry man, it seems like I’ve dealt with the same thing everywhere I have lived (minus the 5th floor apartment). Be happy that this is only in your unfinished basement. It is a sucky thing to have to pay for, but it will protect your investment, and will prevent the things in your finished part of the basement from rotting or floating away. There is no worse feeling than seeing your stuff sunk in water that came from nowhere; I lost a computer and guitar equipment from one flood.

    The house my wife and I just bought has 2 sump pumps in an unfinished basement. The previous owner had it finished, but it flooded and had to be ripped out. We started noticing some damp spots after a big rain; the power was out so sump pumps were not running. IT SUCKS! I’m pretty sure I won’t ever bother finishing the basement knowing that it could be ruined. It makes you feel like it is better to have a house on stilts.

    I know this kind of thing makes you second guess owning a home, it made me feel that way too. It IS expensive, but it isn’t the end of the world. I still think owning a house puts you in a better spot than renting. An ‘investment’ probably isn’t the right word for it for our generation, but it is still a wealth building thing.

    Hope you get some fair quotes. Good luck!

  11. I am not going to point my finger and laugh, but this is exactly why I am a renter. I cannot figure out why it seems like every person I witness buy a house ends up with a major repair in the first year of owning it.

    One friend had a leaky roof – $10-15K, another had the sewage system give out, $5K.

    What I want to know is, did the previous homeowners disclose the water in the basement thing when you bought the house? How could they have sold it without you knowing about it?

  12. Regarding your comment that you wouldn’t be able to see water after it dried off, that’s not true. It might be if it were a one time thing, but if this has happened regularly, you will see discoloration in the concrete and especially around what looks like your painted walls. Now that you know where the water is, take a look once it dries and see if you can spot any differences in the appearance of the concrete. Chances are you will. Which goes to my original thought that the inspector should have noticed the existence of water assuming that this is something that’s happened on occasion over time.

    • The inspector is not worth going after. In the state of Washington they can only be sued for their fees, nothing more.

  13. hhahahahahehhehehheehhehe, told you so. That $6k will almost double in ten years at a 7% return. (ok I’ll stop now).

  14. Oh no! That really stinks 🙁

    We have a bunch of water that builds up on the side of our house when it rains hard. We have been lazy and haven’t really fixed it yet, but I know that we need to fix it soon. It doesn’t help that our neighbors built a concrete slab on that side of the house because they wanted the water to go on our side instead of theirs 🙁 Hard to explain but our neighbors pretty much suck for what they did…

  15. Did you ask the neighbours if this happens to them? Do they have a “French pump”. Go ask the neighbour who judged you for only having one bedroom (or was it one bathroom?)…..Say to her “Oh, you don’t have an indoor pool? Hmmmm”

    I’ve never heard it called a French pump before. We call it a sump pump. We have one in our basement. Every house in our neighbourhood has one. Luckily it came with the place 😉

    • It’s a french drain system that runs to a sump pump. The french drain runs all along the inside perimeter of the basement foundation and discharges in to a sump pump pit. The pump then obviously shoots the water out of our house. But with the way our lot is situated, we might be able to avoid the sump all together and just direct the water outside away from the house.

  16. Avoid getting a sump pump if you can and get proper drainage around the house. Especially if you are going to finish the basement. Having a pump go out and then flooding the finished basement in a downpour will not be fun.

    Of course if you were renting and had stored stuff on that spot and this happened you’d also be on the hook for your lost possessions as renters’ insurance usually doesn’t cover flooding (which is defined as external water coming inside, exactly what you have). You just wouldn’t have to pay directly for the repair.

    Best of luck getting those estimates and I am hoping the weather will clear up around here soon.

  17. My wife and I have been in our house two years. We knew some landscaping work needed to be done, but because we bought in winter, we didn’t know the extent to which we would have to go. I think we ended up spending ~$5k on fixing the landscaping, doing most of the work ourselves. Then last year we lost both an oven and a dishwasher, and we used the opportunity to upgrade to some nicer models. That set us back ~$2200 total because the oven was a wall oven, and they’re expensive.

    Right now we have four 5×8 concrete slabs in front of our garage and another larger one off to the side for the entry way. There’s cracks between the slabs (obviously) and water has gotten between them, frozen, and now is pushing up the larger slab. The slab itself is crumbling in the corner because it’s been pushed against the bottom of the garage slab. I imagine this spring once everything has melted we’re probably going to be looking at a couple thousand in concrete removal and/or repairs.

  18. I don’t think anyone has pointed out that your internal weeping tile system might not fix your problem. It can, but may not. Simply because if you have ground water on the outside of the house sitting higher than inside, the water can still press in between the footing and the cinder block.
    Think about it this way. Your foundation wall is like a dam. The water presses against the wall and eventually through into your house. Yes, the weeping tile will absorb smaller amounts of water, but if you have unusually much water, sitting high around your foundation, the tile will not help as it is on the wrong side of the dam.

    Dig up your foundation from the outside. Rent an excavator for that and then run a proper weeping tile around your footing. Also treat your foundation top to bottom with water protection and membranes. Do it right once and avoid a sump pump at all cost.

    And welcome to home-ownership, you just experienced why I say a house is not an investment, it is a luxury. Plus these things happen to every homeowner in various ways…leaky roofs, plumbing issues, window sills leak…

  19. Your situation stinks! But at least it was just water. I rented a house where something terrible happened with the city’s sewer pipe that resulted with sewage backing up into our unfinished basement… talk about nasty.

    I giggled at someone’s previous comment about houses needing to be on stilts… my house kind of is! We live in Louisiana and since we’re essentially either at or below sea level, you can imagine that the water table is quite close to the ground (I don’t know of ANYONE who has a basement here- it really would be like your own indoor swimming pool!). We don’t have issues with water getting into our house (since our house is raised), but we do get lots of water pooling in our yard, especially in the low spots. We’re in the process of putting in French drains now to help “spread the wealth” of water coming into our yard. Since we just have to put them in the ground (and not through concrete or in a home), our price estimate for an entire French drain system is much less expensive (around $800 for parts, we’re doing the work ourselves)- but still one of those expenses where you just have to go, “UGH!”

  20. It’s amazing what you can do yourself if you take the time to look up the information. If you can’t get a contractor out to get a bid, you can probably do it yourself if you are willing to put the work in. Not an ideal situation, but better than water sitting for a month or more.

  21. Before you spend the money, invest in a few other things.

    make sure your landscape is draining away from the house. Build up a small incline towards the house.

    Install rain gutters. Get the roof runoff away from the foundation.

    Do those two things you will not only add value, but save money and accomplish the same thing.

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