Trained Eye


Water in Basement


I enjoy your article in the Winnipeg Free Press. Can you help with a problem in my house please?

I have a 1200 sq ft. bungalow in Thompson, built in 1964. It has a concrete and finished basement. The outside yard is well sloped away from the house. Our outside downspouts also drain about 4 ft. away from the basement wall. Every spring and during heavy rains we get a 1 inch wide trickle of water in our laundry room which has a painted concrete floor. It trickles from the bottom of the finished 2x4 panelled wall. Fortunately the water goes into the drain in the laundry room and doesn't do any damage.

Obviously, it could be trickling from a crack in the wall, or a steel tie in the wall that has rusted, or a crack at the floor/wall level. This is at the side of the house where we have a 6 ft. side yard and fence. This side of the house also has a polyethylene 6 mm "tarp" installed under 2 inches of gravel.  The house also has a 2 ft eave so there is very little rain that falls directly at this side of the house.

So, I question how the water gets into the wall.

Would I have to tear off the wall to find the exact point where the water enters? Then, how exactly can I repair this? Would I have to dig manually outside all the way to the basement floor, because there is no way to get any big equipment into this side-yard?

Is there any way other than one shovel at a time? Once we find the crack, hole, etc. how do we seal it?

If you can help with this, it would be greatly appreciated. It seems like there is no easy way!


Water and dampness in basements is the number one complaint of homeowners in Canada, according to several surveys and articles I have read, over the years. The moisture you are experiencing is quite common and likely due to the reasons you suggest. Our clay soil in Manitoba will absorb moisture only to a certain level, before it becomes saturated. Once saturated, the excess water will force its way through small holes or cracks in the concrete foundations by hydrostatic pressure. Most houses have a weeping tile drainage system installed around the footing, below the foundation wall, that collects this excess water and diverts it to a drain or a sump pit, where it can be drained from the house or re-circulated back outside.

In a home built in 1964, the weeping tile are likely composed of small cylinders made of concrete or clay that are laid close together, with small gaps in between to catch the excess water in the soil. The original tiles were clay, thus the origin of the name, weeping tile. Unfortunately, these older tiles have a tendency to get plugged with clay and silt over time and stop functioning or drain only minimal amounts of water.

This is likely the true cause of your trickle of water in this particular area. There may be a small hole or crack in the foundation wall in the laundry room and the plugged weeping tile are not doing the job they were designed for. Grading the soil away from the home and adding downspout extensions normally helps, but are not sufficient in this case.

Digging down along the exterior of the foundation is usually done manually, due to the disruptive nature of heavy equipment in finished yards. This should be done as a last resort. Firstly the interior wall coverings and insulation in the area around the leak should be removed and the foundation wall inspected for obvious points of entry. It the water is leaking in through a rusted form tie or small crack, patching with hydraulic cement may be enough to stop the flow of water. If the hole or crack is larger, injection with epoxy of other water resistant compounds into the opening may stop the water and help prevent it from increasing in size. These solutions are considerably less expensive than exterior excavation, but require interior destruction and repairs.

If the wall is opened up and moderate to large horizontal or diagonal cracks are found, or the source of the water is not apparent, then excavation is needed. Foundation contractors routinely do this type of work and should be consulted for quotes and advice. It is costly, but will allow replacement of the damaged weeping tile, as well as patching cracks and re-damproofing the outside of the foundation wall. Excavation will also eliminate the need for interior disruption, but may be just as much a nuisance, depending on the nature of your yard. You are correct, when it comes to foundation repairs, there is no easy way, unless the inside of the wall is fully exposed.