Several times in this blog it’s been suggested that homeowners go outside during a rainstorm to observe why their basement leaks: overflowing gutters, poorly placed downspouts and other water management issues. It’s difficult to spot problems like these without the help of Mother Nature. Unfortunately, waiting for the rain to detect leaks or seepage in your basement may not only be a long wait but you may find yourself ankle-deep in water when the rains do come.
There is a better way to determine the source and nature of basement seepage and it requires a highly technical replication of the effects of rain and makes use of a sophisticated tool – that’s probably laying around in your back yard. OK, I was making a lame attempt to be funny. It’s the garden hose.
A well-trained basement waterproofing professional knows exactly how to use a common garden hose to find the sources of seepage in your basement. Running a stream of water to saturate the soil, the pro waterproofer will try different places around the house to find leaks and determine the best way to repair them. In our business we call it the “hose test,” and it’s a tried-and-true way to solve the mystery of “where the @#$%^& is that water coming from?”
How Long does it Take to Find Basement Seepage with the Hose Test?
Depending on the source of the seepage, the hose test can be done in a matter of minutes or take more than an hour. Here are a few examples:
Leaks over the Top of the Foundation – If you’ve seen evidence that water has been running down your basement walls during a heavy rain, there’s a good chance that the water is entering your basement over the top of your foundation. Typically, this problem is caused by grading that is higher than the top of the foundation and forces water to run toward the house instead of away from it. It can also be caused by an exterior structure, such a deck, sidewalk or patio that sits higher than the top of the foundation and was improperly installed.
If this type of leak is suspected, the waterproofing professional will direct the hose on the ground outside the suspected leak, or on the patio or deck that is the likely culprit. It should take only 10 or 15 minutes for water to begin seeping in, confirming the source of the leak and giving the pro a basis to recommend a solution.
Seepage through Foundation Wall Cracks – In an unfinished basement, you may be able to spot a crack in your foundation wall that is allowing water to seep in. However, not all cracks are that easy to see and, if your foundation walls are covered with drywall or paneling, it’ll be next to impossible to find them from inside. Cracks in poured concrete walls are caused by settling of soil outside the foundation, shrinkage of the concrete or by stress points near windows or pipes.
To find a seeping crack, the waterproofing advisor will really have to saturate the soil outside the wall in the general area where the seepage is occurring. It will likely take 15 to 30+ minutes for seepage to be noticeable, as the water not only must saturate the soil but also make its way through the crack in a wall that is typically 8 – 10 inches thick.
Cove Seepage – One very common source of water in your basement is seepage through the cove joint, the place where the basement wall meets the floor. This is generally caused by hydrostatic pressure in ground water below the level of the foundation footings. Water is forced up through this joint, either under the basement floor or through the “keyway” where the foundation wall sits on the footing.
This type of leak is more difficult to find and the soil outside the foundation where cove seepage is suspected must be thoroughly saturated. In this case, water must penetrate the soil all the way down to the foundation’s footings, which may be buried eight or more feet underground. Not surprisingly, this hose test will take a while, maybe an hour or longer, to determine the source of the seepage.
The waterproofing pro can also use the hose test to find above-grade sources of water penetration. If saturating the soil around the house doesn’t produce a leak, running the stream of water over windows, doors or places where utilities such as TV cable pass through the exterior wall may quickly turn up the source of seepage.
Regardless of the source of the problem, the hose test is a reliable way to find it and has been used successfully for years by basement waterproofing professionals. We’ve run a lot of garden hoses at U.S. Waterproofing since we our founding in 1957 and our basement advisors have the technical expertise to recommend permanent, cost-effective solutions. So, why not ask for a free consultation?