There Was a French Drain: A Case Study

There once was a Marple Newtown homeowner who had a meticulously cared-for home. Every shrub was pruned and fertilized to perfection. Trees were planted selectively through the yard, to create shade. Over 30 years, the property had been upgraded with functioning gutters and exterior grading, and every fall, the house perimeter was raked out. But this homeowner believed he did not want or need to install a french drain. His floor drain and sump pit did a good job for the back door. And like many of his neighbors, he ran several dehumidifiers, which created a very hot basement.

One day in August 2020, 8″ of rain fell, and the total rain that month was over 14″, causing moisture problems for his basement’s cedar paneling and custom carpet with built-in bookshelves. Instead of cutting the walls 2½ feet off the floor to do mold treatment and install a french drain, the baseboard trim was removed, and a jackhammer and pick were used to tunnel under the wall studs. A french drain was installed without damaging the walls and at no additional cost. (This is one of many cost-saving waterproofing solutions that typically take decades to learn and perfect.) The cedar wall panels still looked great after they were wiped clean of the mold. The property was listed and sold with a fully warranted french drain system transferred to the new owner.
Another similar case occurred for a couple who traveled extensively for business for weeks at a time. Their basement had a few leaks, but they were more concerned that stagnant water on the basement floor would create mold and bad smells. An emergency sump pump that would discharge outside was installed. During their first trip away, the hot water heater ruptured and continuously spilled steaming hot water on the floor. Though the basement didn’t flood due to rain water, without this emergency provision there would have been no stopping the basement filling up like a bathtub. Though the basement was like a sauna, the emergency sump pump worked as designed, and it prevented total destruction.
Another homeowner had three dehumidifiers. After a cross-vented windows solution was offered that would do a far better job and would use no electricity, the dehumidifiers were eliminated. The basement is now much drier, less noisy, has no mildew and no electric bill.
Sometimes an ounce of prevention is the cure when the big rain comes! The new normal in weather is to have extremes in dryness, rain, wind and even hurricanes and spot tornadoes. What used to be a “once every 50 years” storm is now just a normal weather event. Keep venting the basement for humidity, mold control, Radon removal and breathable clean dry air.