Saturday, February 19, 2011

Water, water everywhere

This past week the temperature soared above zero and stayed there for several days, melting the huge piles of snow to a quarter of their size and almost completely clearing the one to two feet of snow on the ground. It was wonderful and felt so good to be out in the sun and warm. Even though lots and lots of snow was melting and water was running everywhere, we didn't stop to think about the effects of all that water on our house.

Normally there's no reason to think about that water. Since the ground tends to be wet here (most of the Waterloo region was a swamp once upon a time) most homes have a weeping tile and sump pump system. Groundwater is collected in the weeping tile and fed into the sump pump vessel; when a certain level is reached, it then pumps the water out into one or another system.

When we had the inspection done on the house, we were told that the cap on a sewer line was off and that it should be closed back up. This cap is located in a cut-out in the concrete floor of the cold room: below the concrete is the gravel bed and the cap is right there. That was an easy fix so we did that as soon as we moved in.

Today we found out why the previous owners had left that cap open: to drain groundwater. With the closed cap the cut-out was full of standing water. Since that cut-out opens to the gravel underneath the concrete foundation, there must be a lot of water there. We wouldn't have discovered the problem except that there was a ton of water in the workroom right beside the cold room. We're now the proud owners of a wet-vac :) Fortunately, nothing important was destroyed and other parts of the house were unaffected.

We thought first that the water had come in from above, near the garage, but nothing supported that theory. However, if there was that much water underneath that part of the foundation, it makes sense that it would come up into the concrete.

It looks like our sump pump was a bit overwhelmed, because somehow the cap got itself full of water. However, we don't think that the water overwhelmed the sump pump and dripped into that cut-out because the wood framing the cut-out was only wet on the bottom half, indicating that the water had been drawn up into the wood. If the water had come into the cut-out from the top, the framing wood would have been completely wet.

We opened the cap in the cut-out and it sounded like there was a river of water draining into that pipe. We have no idea what kind of pipe that is because the main sewer line is black and in a different part of the basement. If it is a sewer then the cap shouldn't be open because of the gases in there, but we can't let that water stay there, either. A more permanent solution is needed, and I have a feeling that this won't come cheap.

We don't even know which professional we call to deal with this problem. Ian's doing some research now to try and figure it out. At least the weather has turned cold again and nothing is melting so we don't need to worry about the water for a while. With any luck we'll be able to get the problem fixed before the next great melt.

UPDATE: Ian disagrees with my conclusion that the water in the cut-out definitely came from the ground. The sump pump lid was full of water (which I don't remember being the case before), which would indicate that the sump pump was overwhelmed. So it's possible that the sump pump was involved somehow. Either way, we still need a professional here to figure out how to fix it.

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