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Drying a Wet Basement

How do you keep water out of the basement? First, try easy fixes likes gutters and landscaping. The next step is interior drain tile and a sump pump.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Solving a persistent water problem

First, make sure that rainwater runs away from the house foundation. To pinpoint problem areas, go outside while it's raining and observe how the water flows off the roof and onto the ground around the house. Pay particular attention to areas below roof valleys where lots of water runs off.

Add soil to slope the ground away from the foundation. The grade should slope a minimum of 1 in. per foot for the first 4 to 6 ft. If necessary, direct roof water away with gutters and downspouts.

If these measures fail, you may have to install an interior drain tile and sump basin. The corrugated floor edging catches water running down the inside of the foundation wall and seeping under it and then directs it to the drain tile. The drain tile carries the water to the sump basin, where an electric pump automatically discharges it.

The materials are relatively inexpensive, but the labor is huge. You'll need to jackhammer out a strip of concrete around the perimeter, haul out concrete rubble and dirt, carry in gravel, and then patch the concrete floor. This is dusty, sweaty labor. Pros charge several thousand dollars for this job.

To install this system, follow these steps:

  1. Break out and remove an 18-in. strip of concrete around the walls to expose the footing and underlying dirt. Rent an electric jackhammer for this task.
  2. Dig a 12-in. wide by 8-in. deep trench alongside the footing.
  3. Find a location for the sump basin (an unfinished room is best). You'll need an electrical outlet for the sump pump and a way to run the discharge pipe outside. Break out additional floor, dig a hole and set the basin in place so the top is flush with the concrete floor.
  4. Lay about 2 in. of gravel in the bottom of the trench (use crushed stone or river rock). Run the perforated drain tile in the trench and push its end through the knockout of the sump basin. Try to make a complete loop of the basement with the drain tile and run both ends into the basin. Fill the trench and around the basin with more gravel, leaving room for 3 to 4 in. of concrete.
  5. Hang 6-mil polyethylene sheeting from the top of the foundation wall. Leave the bottom edge hanging just above the footing.
  6. Lay the floor edging on the footing. Make sure the polyethylene runs behind it.
  7. Lay a strip of polyethylene on top of the gravel and pour concrete to patch in the floor.
  8. Install the sump pump in the basin and run the discharge pipe outside. Make sure the pipe runs at least 6 ft. away from the foundation so you aren't just dumping the water back against the foundation wall.

If you have a concrete block foundation, you'll have to drain the block cores by drilling 1-in. holes through the face of the block. Rent a rotary hammer with a 1-in. masonry bit; it's worth the cost.

Drain tile

Drain tile

Drain Tile Details

Water is channeled down the wall to the drain tile, which feeds it into the sump basket and is then pumped outdoors.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Hammer
    • Bucket
    • Level
    • Dust mask
    • Hammer drill
    • Wheelbarrow
    • Safety glasses
    • Spade
    • Shop vacuum
    • Utility knife
    • Trowel
    • Wrecking bar

You'll also need a jackhammer and leather gloves.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • 6 mil poly
    • Floor edging
    • Drain tile
    • Sump basket
    • Sump pump
    • Crushed stone
    • Concrete

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 7 of 7 comments
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June 29, 7:55 AM [GMT -5]

We had our drain tile system "repaired" several years ago. We still see evidence of some damp blocks at the floor level. Looking at the cutaway picture and reading this article, I now know the repair was not done correctly. There are only two holes per block, and none of them are in the mortar joints to relieve that cavity.

We do have the plastic wall edging and it sticks up above the floor a few inches. If I bend it down to get a hammer drill into the joints, and into main cavities also, will that allow water to make it into the drain field and stay off the floor?

I don't have wet floor issues, I can just tell the blocks are not fully drained into the system. I would drill the blocks at floor level and then bend the edging back up to contain and direct any seepage into the drain field. Looking at your cutaway picture it seems like it might work.

I prefer to not bust up the floor again.

Thank you.

June 02, 12:23 AM [GMT -5]

One big IMPORTANT detail was left out. The weep holes in the blocks need to be in every cell of the block and into the MORTAR JOINTS as well. The joint between two blocks creates a cell and needs a weep hole. Most blocks have 2 or 3 internal cells and the ends create cells at the joint. This gets over looked very often in these systems causing them to not work properly. 5/8" is more than acceptable for a hole size.

April 11, 5:45 PM [GMT -5]

You can find some tips from this site and if they do not have a dealer in your area....they will sell you what you need. www.dryupbasement.com

Good Luck


February 24, 10:52 AM [GMT -5]

Where can I buy the floor edging?? I cant find it anywhere.

February 07, 11:06 AM [GMT -5]

can any tell me where to find the floor edging

February 06, 11:50 AM [GMT -5]

can I just put a sumpump and it will take care of the problem ? I can see the water coming through between the bolckes when it rain ?

May 10, 8:32 PM [GMT -5]

You can also use an above the floor baseboard waterproofing system and not have to break up the basement floor. http://waterproof.com

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