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Posted by billl (My Page) on
Fri, Nov 13, 09 at 10:08

After sitting under tropical storm Ida for the last several days, a "minor" water issue in the basement has turned into a major pain.

First, water is coming through the mortar joint in my brick foundation. I assume it has been happening for years, because there is a substantial amount crumbled/deteriorated mortar. Once I fix the drainage problem from outside, I am going to need to repoint the area. The house was built in 1912, so it is in the transition era in terms of mortar mixes. From what I have read, I am supposed to error on the side of "soft" mortar and use a mix that is just lime and sand. All of the mortar mixes at Home Depot are cement based, so I guess I will need to make my own. Any pointers? Do you just use quicklime (like for the lawn?) and builders sand?

Also, upon inspection, it looks like the home has a drainage system of sorts. The land slopes down as you go towards the back of the house. There are large (maybe 10 inch) clay pipes running parallel to the foundation. They are buried maybe 6" deep and look like they were designed to pick up water from the downspout at the front of the house and funnel it down the hill, past the foundation. It isn't functional right now and I assume they are filled with junk. Does anyone know if these were likely an original feature of the house (worth restoring and preserving)? It will be a TON of work to dig up junk filled clay pipes without damaging them, so I would hate to do it and find out that they were later additions.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Repointing

My parent's home, circa 1930s have the clay pipes running underground and were hooked up to the various downspouts to shoot the water well past the foundation and out into the street. They've been functional since the house was built, but probably remained so because we snake them out with a drain snake occasionally. Yours could have been a French drain, but if they were they'd not have been solid clay, but have some perforations for water to percolate into them to be carried away. If you have had water issues with your basement, part of the reason may have been non-functioning drainage tiles. If they are hooked so water flows into them, if they are clogged, or particularly if they are fractured, you'd get seepage next to the foundation. If they are only buried six inches deep, then if you find areas of wet pools or foundation leakage it shouldn't be too much of a problem exposing that particular area to check for patency. Ten inch sounds very large for that purpose. The ones at my parent's house are perhaps six inches. They were once used to funnel runoff to a huge cistern. Have you found a cistern on your property? You may have one hidden somewhere.

RE: Repointing

I'd be surprised to find a cistern on the property. The lot slopes down at a pretty steady pace. Also, the clay drains seem to end right past the house.

Yes, the drain is clogged. The prior house owners didn't do much upkeep, so I suspect there is quite a bit of sediment in them. However, they are likely a secondary culprit at the moment. It looks like an old retaining wall on the property line altered the grade. The leakiest section was actually sloping towards the house. After a weekend of shoveling/hauling dirt, I think I have that part fixed.

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