Home inspectors in NJ Should Understand Water Control Systems

Home Inspector with lookSmart Home Inspections, LLC 24GI00058700

New Jersey home inspectors should be familiar with basement water control systems and what makes for a well-designed system. By installing a drainage system on the interior of the perimeter of the basement along the walls, you can capture and direct water at the most vulnerable entry point which is the floor to wall joint. You can also capture and direct water entering from the basement walls, and you can prevent the basement floor from weeping by directing the water from the walls and floor joint before it can migrate to the center under the basement floor.

NJ home inspectors should understand what a well installed and designed basement water control system looks like. It is advantageous to correct a water infiltration problem from the basement rather than from the exterior. Some of the advantages are the accessibility of the basement to do the work. It is more affordable generally to install a basement water control system on the interior rather than excavate the exterior of home. A reputable company can generally install such a system in a few days rather than many days. The system is accessible to be serviced if repairs need to be made. Interior basement water control systems also have a track record of success.

Basement water control systems have come a long way since the early days. Before the 1950 clay pipe sections roughly about 18 inches long were used in this application. However, there were no holes in the piping but rather the sections were installed with gaps between them to allow water to flow in. Because the clay pipe was the color of brick it was referred to as the drain tile system. Sometimes this term is still used today to describe a basement water control system. Some water control systems are installed next to the footing and other water control systems are designed to be installed above the footing. The above the footing installation is preferable because it is less vulnerable to obstruction caused by dirt, mud, and sediment. It remains to a great extent out of harm’s way in this location. There is a lot of debate about this, but I tend to believe that if the water control piping can remain free-flowing and unobstructed that is certainly a great benefit over the years.

If a drainage system is installed to deeply, it not only has a greater risk of obstruction and clogging but soil from under the foundation can wash into it and leave voids which can cause settlement of your foundation. Another issue is also that the sump pump will be turning on more often trying to keep up with the water level which is lower with the next to the footing installation. The below the slab piping is something that a home inspector in New Jersey would not be able to view during a home inspection.

One very important aspect to a basement water control system is that it must have an opening to accept water from the foundation wall. Wall leaks can occur at cracks, pipe penetrations window wells and other sources. Also new leaks can be developing as the home ages. A gap at the wall floor intersection will catch any leaks and hopefully prevent the floor from getting wet. This gap is sometimes referred to a French drain. Typically, this is a gap in between the foundation wall and the wall. Yes, it will catch water, but that water will not be directed anywhere.

Doorways and steps to the exterior require special water control treatment. If you have a doorway or stairwell that leads to the outside like a basement walkout a trench drain installed in front of it is recommended. A trench drain is ½ round pipe with a grate style cover that is installed on top of it. The grate is installed flush with the floor and this catches any water that may enter from the outside. Using a trench drain is a desirable method to protect against leakage from the basement walkout door, a sliding door or even a garage door. Even if there is no leakage present now is always a beneficial idea to have a water control system installed across these basement walkout access points.

Once a perimeter drain is installed to channel the groundwater this groundwater needs to be directed to one area and have some way of being piped out of the basement. In most cases a sump pump is used to direct this water out. Sometimes gravity drains are installed but these drains require that you have a substantial slope on the property so you can dig a trench from underneath the foundation to daylight. Most homes don’t have this type of slope on the property and to get a trench that deep that can be daylighted it is challenging. In most cases a sump pump is used to pipe water out of the basement. The word sump refers to the hole in the floor the word pump is the pump machine that sits in the hole in the floor. Beside the pump there are other elements that make up a good sump pump system. A sump liner is used to prevent clogs and obstruction. The sump liner keeps the mud in the basement floor, so it doesn’t foul the pump. The sump liner should have holes in it to accept water directly from the ground as well is a larger inlet hole to allow for your perimeter drainage system to empty into it. Good sump liners are about 2 feet deep and 18 inches wide to accept a large volume of water.

Sump pump should have a tight lid to prevent water from evaporating out of the sump and back into the basement. The lid also helps prevent injury from a person inadvertently walking into the sump liner hole. A sump lid also prevents debris from falling into the sump liner fouling the sump pump.

A sump pump should also be installed on a stand. This will elevate the sump pump off the floor allowing for any sediment, or mud to settle at the bottom under the pump rather than obstructing it or being drawn into the pump motor.

NJ home inspectors should make sure the sump pump drain line has a proper check valve. A check valve is necessary also which is a one-way valve.  The check valve should also be installed on the sump pump discharge lines so when the pump shuts off the water in the pipe doesn’t flow back into the sump pit which would keep sump pump short cycling and possibly burn out and having a shorter life expectancy.

Good basement water control systems have a pump alarm. Pump alarms alerts you that the pump has failed, and your home is in danger of being flooded. A battery-powered alarm that sounds automatically when the water level reaches a level above the point where the pump should normally engage is the preferred method.

It is important to note that sump pumps should be backed up in the event of a power failure. When the sump pump is needed most is typically when conditions are severe, and you have a higher probability of a power outage. Typically, these backup pumps are powered by automobile batteries which are not made for this particular application. Automobile batteries loose their amps per hour capacity after the first year and do not work effectively for long periods of time. A generator can also be used to power the pump when the weather is bad, and the power fails however you have to be home to set up generator. The best battery backup systems use dual battery switching which allows two batteries to be hooked up doubling the number of gallons the backup pump can pump out of the home. It is difficult to know how long a pump battery will last when called upon. There are many factors including how long the power will remain off and how bad the storm is and how much water it actually has to pump out of the house.

A New Jersey home inspector should recommend a freeze proof exterior sump discharge fitting.  A sump pump is designed to get the water out of a basement away from home and discharge it usually in a pipe that is about 1 ½ inches in diameter. What happens though in the winter when the outlet discharge pipe gets blocked by snow and ice. If the pump runs and the discharge pipe is obstructed with snow and ice water can’t get out. The best water control system installations have a fitting that is specifically engineered to go outside the home and ejects the water away from the exterior walls in the event that the pipe freezes.

New Jersey home inspectors should understand what makes for a good basement water control system and the components that make up such a system. Most of the components of the system other than the below slab piping system will be accessible for inspection. NJ Home inspectors should also test the sump pump for operation if it is not sealed in the sump pit.


Comments (3)

Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

John Martino - although we don't have basements or crawl spaces here in Texas where I live (that I know of), I do remember a family that lived in Illinois who owned a home with a crawl space. At that time, there were no Seller Disclosures and no one told told them about maintenance checks for the sump pump. 

Because it was a crawl space and nobody went down there, expect if there was a Torndo Warning to take immediate shelter, there was no reason to go down there to inspect, expect the time when the worst odor came rising and permating into the dwelling of the home and everyone in the household got sick to their stomachs and with allergies. 

When the lid to the crawl space was opened, water was up to the top of the crawl space beneath the flooring. It turned out the check valve failed. The expense of getting it fixed was more than the family could afford. 

Mar 19, 2023 11:57 AM
Richard Weeks
Dallas, TX
REALTOR®, Broker

Great information, thanks for sharing.  I hope you have a great day.

Mar 20, 2023 03:00 AM
Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®
RE/MAX Platinum - Waukesha, WI
Giving Back With Each Home Sold!

Great post!  Thanks for sharing and enjoy your day!

May 01, 2023 06:32 AM