Lessons from a Three-Year Waterproofing Veteran in Papillion

Friday, March 12th, 2021 by Ren Flickinger

Wet basement

After working at Thrasher Foundation Repair for 3 years and having been in thousands of customer's homes, I have learned a great deal about how to prevent basement water problems. I also have seen the devastation that wet basements can cause. Over these 3 years, I have seen about every degree of issue that a foundation can experience. One of the more emotional situations that I walk into daily are those with customers that have water entering their basement. Nothing prepares you for the panic that sets in when you realize that your stored items or finished basement are ruined.

Unfortunately, I didn't put my education to use in my own home, and recently I paid the price. Like most of you reading this, I am a homeowner, and I have put time and money into making my home a safe place to live. I took possession of my home in October of 2017; it was a new build and came with a one-year warranty on everything in our home, including a dry basement. At the time I wasn't all that concerned about basement waterproofing or what sump pump the builder installed. I was focused on the things I could see like countertops, tile, and flooring.

I was extremely excited to be a first-time homeowner and immediately started making the basement exactly what I wanted. My wife and I created a nice living space and a bedroom in the basement in preparation for our growing family. In March of 2019, I came home for lunch and the alarm on my sump pump was going off. I ran downstairs and had to break through a layer of plexiglass, which my contractor had used as a cover for my radon system and was fastened to the concrete basement floor, and was shocked to find my sump pit full of water.

By this point, I had been in many homes and educated many customers on how they could have prevented this experience. My situation immediately taught me empathy for my customers. I panicked. My drainage system had failed, and I was bailing water out for hours to try to keep all of our belongings and finishings safe and dry. Had I taken preventative measures on my system and applied in my own home what I had been taught at Thrasher, I would not have had to worry.

When I was hired by Thrasher Foundation Repair in 2018, I was educated at length about waterproofing systems and how to keep a basement dry. Previously I had heard some of the basics of home maintenance, but this was much more detailed. I wish I had taken the lessons more seriously for myself rather than assuming it wouldn't happen to me. I made the mistake of assuming that it couldn't happen in a new home, but what I learned is that not all new construction waterproofing methods are created equal.

Most contractors are using an external drainage system. This is often a black corrugated pipe that sits on the outside of your home below the soil next to your footing. Its job is to catch all of the water saturating the backfill soil around your home, collect the water, and drain it to a sump location on the inside of the home. That pump is responsible for taking all of that water and pumping it out and away from the home.

In theory, it is a good solution, however there are some risks involved with this type of system. The drainage pipe is sitting below several feet of soil and is susceptible to clogging or becoming uneven under the pressure of the soil surrounding it. A partially uneven or clogged drainage system will not lead water to the sump pump, and can instead find its way into your basement.

Most new homes also receive low-grade, plastic sump pumps to pump the water out and away from the home. If I am going to invite all of the water from around my foundation to a sump pump, I sure ought to ensure that the pump is a good one. In my case, the pump had gotten too hot and burned itself out. Now I know that plastic pumps don't disperse heat as well as cast iron pumps, and are prone to burning out.

A failed pump almost always results in a flooded basement. The sump pump is the heart of a waterproofing system and without it, the water in the pit will rise to a level that can fill your entire drainage system with water. As the system fills it creates thousands of pounds of hydrostatic pressure around your home. This pressure pushes water into the joints of your foundation or through the walls in your basement.

The sump pit that the pump is in can also be improved. In my case, I had a black sump pit with a plexiglass lid. The lid was glued to the floor to help prevent radon gas from entering. While I appreciate that the radon wasn't getting in, I now know that I prefer an airtight lid that can be removed and replaced easily. This allows me to have my sump pump maintained over time. I also want the lid to be secured with something so that my young child can't get into it.

I never thought that I would deal with a major basement flooding issue when buying a new home. Like many homeowners I meet, I assumed that a new home would be built to avoid this situation. While I wish I had never experienced a flooded basement, I do have a greater appreciation for what my customers are going through; I feel I can help them better by knowing where they are coming from. I also can better help homeowners prevent a bigger problem from happening; I can help them understand the different systems that are available and educate them on the pros and cons of each one. Ultimately it is the customer's decision to make, but I feel good knowing that I have given them all of the information they need to make an educated decision.

I learned the hard way that water can and most likely will happen to everyone's basement at some point. It is important to take proactive measures to protect your home. This includes maintenance on your sump pump yearly, checking for a clogged drainage system, and having a plan in place for when the power goes out during a storm. Serving the Omaha area for over 46 years has made Thrasher Foundation Repair the professionals in waterproofing, and we have a solution to ensure that your home will be safe and dry for many years to come. Don't wait until it's too late.