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I'm in Minneapolis, in a house built in 1886, fully renovated a few years ago. The basement is finished. This has been an extremely wet winter, with lots of snow and ice that is now melting.

Some guests pointed out a damp patch of carpet in the basement. When I pulled it up, it looks like water is leaking in through an exterior wall. I can't see more without taking off the drywall.

The basement has leaked only once previously, but that was due to a blocked sewer clean-out pipe, and that is not the cause this time.

The house is surrounded an all sides by sidewalk. It is graded/angled to allow for drainage. The house has gutters, but they are completely blocked with ice. I suspect that the leak is related to the build-up of ice on the sidewalk.

I am deciding between these options:

  1. Pay a contractor to come in and investigate. Because there is sidewalk on the exterior, I expect any repairs will be very expensive.

  2. Just fix the damage, and in the future try to be more diligent about keeping the sidewalk clear of ice.

What are your thoughts?

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    Do you know if drainage on the outside of the foundation has been addressed (drain tiles, etc...)? – slambeth Mar 11 '19 at 19:21
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    How wide is this sidewalk that goes all the way around? Does it butt up against the outside of the basement wall? Or are there narrow flower beds and bush spaces between? – Michael Karas Mar 11 '19 at 19:24
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    The sidewalk is 3 - 4 feet wide. There are no gaps anywhere between the sidewalk and the house. – RobertAKARobin Mar 11 '19 at 19:36
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    Does the walkway slope towards or away from the house? If towards then that is adding water to the weeping system that it might not be able to handle. – user68386 Mar 12 '19 at 19:38
  • Make certain you have your downspouts and gutters in order. – Wayfaring Stranger Apr 11 '19 at 0:09
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I would get the ice away from the walls by a yard or so to try and minimize the incoming.

Drying out the damage is next - perhaps a dehumidifier...

Could you consider a drastic (and expensive probably) solution - by excavating down each outside wall and putting a treatment to seal the wall, also uses a plastic membrane (the one we had to use has "hats or thimbles" molded into it to make it 1/2" thick to allow the water to drain.

You could also consider adding a layer of insulation to the wall at the same time if appropriate...

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I would clear the ice and dry the area out fans circulating air work quite well in the winter because humidity levels are low. A dehumidifier could further speed the drying. Since it has not been a problem in the past I would probably just do as you said and keep the sidewalks clear, but probably would not invest a lot unless this becomes a regular problem.

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The issue likely is hydrostatic water pressure on the outside of your foundation, basically the water level in the soil is higher than your footing and pushing in through the wall or even under the slab. This is normally prevented by a footing drain just above the footing that has holes in it to gather the water and then drains somewhere away from the house. Being that your house is so old, it's likely that it does not have this drain or it has been clogged or otherwise compromised.

I doubt that it has anything to do with the ice but rather just the normal melting of snow and ice turning into water that goes into the soil and flows like a wet sponge.

Yes, it's expensive to fix especially since you have the sidewalk. Thinking outside the box here, you might be able to do a drain a bit away from your footing to intercept the water before it gets to your home, and this would just be a ditch and would not require replacing your sidewalk. I would talk to an civil engineer first though to see what they think of the idea.

Otherwise, it will happen each time you have similar winters. You can just live with it and dry things out. Perhaps set up your flooring so that it is not damaged by being wet.

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