How to get rid of standing water under a house foundation

Answered by Jeffrey ~ January 19, 2012 ~ 1 Comments » | Respond to this question

There is a horrible smell in my home because of an ongoing plumbing issue (leaky toilet). Although the leak has been fixed, the smell won't leave. I'm pretty sure that there is standing water under the floor slab, but do not how to drain the water? Any ideas?

Hollie ~ Peabody, MA

Jeffrey Anderson

Hi Hollie. I'm not sure when your home was built, but unless it is very old, the house should have gravel and an under-slab drainage system to remove any water that happens to collect under the slab. Even without the plumbing leak, it is very common for ground water to exist under slabs.

Most builders install a method for it to dissipate as it can eventually work its way through the concrete and into the home. This can cause a warranty problem that is much less expensive to prevent than cure so the under-slab drainage systems are usually designed pretty well. However, they can occasionally become clogged or get damaged during construction. If you haven't had a problem with moisture in your basement prior to the plumbing leak, I would think that your drainage system is working okay.

My thought is that there could be two possible issues causing the odor to remain. The first is that the leak may not be completely repaired and there is still waste escaping your drain line below the slab. The only way to tell is to have a plumbing contractor use a small camera to look inside the drain line for any possible cracks or breaks that might still exist. If they locate any, the plumbing repairs can be done by cutting up the section of concrete around the damaged area and replacing that part of the pipe.

The other possibility, and one that you could check yourself, is whether you have a sump pump and if so, is it working correctly? Depending on the grade of your home and the soil conditions, you may have a sump pump in your basement that helps remove water from the under-slab drains. If the pump is unplugged or isn't working, water can gather in the sump pit and back up into the drainage piping under the slab.

The top of the pit can normally be easily removed for maintenance and inspection. If you see a lot of water in the pit, that's a bad sign. You should also be able to start the pump by lifting the float that extends out from the pump. If it doesn't come on or there is a lot of standing water, I suggest asking a plumbing contractor from around Peabody to make a visit.

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