Leaks in fieldstone foundation

shelli563October 28, 2009

Hello,

I have an 1880 Victorian with a fieldstone foundation in part of the house. In a small section, there is water leaking thru the foundation when it rains heavily. What is the best way to remedy this?

FYI, the land just outside this section of the foundation slopes away dramatically from the house. It is just dirt with some hostas growing 5 feet away. I just inspected outside the foundation and noticed what appears to be some small animal tunnels, perhaps chipmunks, red squirrel. Could these tunnels be funnelling water down to the foundation?

Thanks for the advice,

Shelli

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mainegrower

A good deal depends on the style of the foundation and ease of access to the outside part. If the stones are relatively tight fitting and you can gain access to the outer part with ease, then tuck pointing the mortar (assuming there is mortar) may be all you need to do. If it is more of a rubble style wall with no mortar, then learning to live with the leaks may be the most sensible thing to do. Many rubble style walls were purposely designed to allow water through where it was then directed to a drain in the cellar by gutters around the outside perimeter of the floor.

The tunnels may be a factor. Not likely made by red squirrels (but if you have them around your house, they will try to gain access to the walls and attic with incredible persistence)as they are arboreal animals not diggers. Chipmunks or voles are far more likely.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2009 at 5:58AM
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shelli563

Thank you for the advice. It is fieldstone with mortar. So you suggest I dig away the earth and add mortar to the foundation on the outside instead of inside the basement?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2009 at 9:11AM
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mainegrower

Adding any sort of waterproofing to the inside traps the water within the foundation. This can lead to serious damage to the foundation itself, especially if the trapped water freezes.

If the area that's leaking is small, then adding waterproofing to the outside is practical as long as you do not have to dig down too deeply. If you find areas where the mortar has failed, you can repair it. You can also add a waterproof membrane to the outside. This can be as simple as 6 mil poly sheeting attached to the foundation and sloped away from it.

One caution: I am not a fan of digging around old foundations unless it's absolutely necessary. Disturbing the soil which has settled over a century or so may make things worse rather than better. If the amount of water entering your cellar is minor, it may be best to let things be. You could also try putting moth balls in the tunnels (to discourage further digging), then fill them in away from the foundation.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2009 at 7:37AM
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silent1pa

My first question would be....how functional are your gutters? Old victorians tend to have large roofs with heavy pitches that are followed by half round gutters that often are mounted too far back or are not big enough.Where do your downspouts dump? More often than not...they dump right at the corner of the house...doesn't make much sense does it? That sloping ground ....does it have a low spot near the house? Is it loose soil....sometimes it is about which way the water goes when it can't go down anymore as opposed to where it goes on the surface.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 7:34AM
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scryn

Our entire basement is built in a similar way and we only had one major leak, when our gutter plugged and all the rainwater bore a hole right next to the foundation. After fixing the gutter we didn't have a problem.

I did walk around the entire house and make sure that all the soil was sloping away from the house. That will help you also. Also DO fill in all those animal holes. The rainwater collects in them. We have noticed that voles and small animals will dig next to the foundation and then enter the house that way. Also, maintain your gutters.

I also don't like to dig away soil at the foundation line. It just bothers me. Not sure if it would really matter in the long run though.

-renee

    Bookmark   November 5, 2009 at 4:10PM
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