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?

  • Do you know if drainage on the outside of the foundation has been addressed (drain tiles, etc...)? – slambeth Mar 11 '19 at 19:21
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

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...


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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