We've been having heavy rains in Madison, Wisconsin, lately, and on two occasions I've found water seeping into my basement in this location:

enter image description here

  • The red x's mark pipes that seem to have no function. When I moved in two of them had crude wooden plugs, which I improved upon with a steel cap and a rubber stopper. One appears to be a lead pipe that was bent over with a hammer.
  • The large cast iron pipe is the main drain for the house.
  • The pipe in back drains a utility sink and a bathroom sink.

The water is clear and doesn't smell, and we weren't using much water the two times I discovered the leak (so I don't believe it's coming back up from the house drains).

It seems like water pressure from the drenched soil is forcing rain water through the penetrations where these drain lines go through the basement floor.

The house is 100 years old. The basement is poured concrete (including walls) and there is no sump pit or drain. It's a shallow basement (about 4' deep).

Is there a reliable way to seal around these drain lines to keep this from happening in the future?

  • How old is the house?
    – J Crosby
    Jul 4, 2019 at 16:12
  • @JCrosby the house is 100 years old. The basement is poured concrete.
    – LShaver
    Jul 4, 2019 at 16:22
  • 1
    That is all kinds of mess. I would gather your guess is right. But I would also suggest sealing it isnt the right course of action. Water will go, wherever it can. Block it, and it will find somewhere else, and somewhere else may be .... bad (not immediately, but eventually). Given the precarious points of entry along the lines that exist, and the age, and other factors, you may be well suited to have a sump well installed. I'd call a few reputable contractors in and get their suggestions for sure. I'd advise this is not a diy thing to solve and you should aim to address the problem
    – noybman
    Jul 4, 2019 at 16:47

1 Answer 1


1. Some water might be tolerable in a minimally finished old basement.

In St Louis, a lot of houses would sometimes get some water in the basement. Some of them a fair bit. If this is going to destroy the berber rug in your man cave that is one thing. If it is going to make a small puddle that is another.

If a little water entering the basement of your old house is not going to cause trouble, you could watch for it and mop it up. You could seal the concrete floor of your basement. You could set up a dehumidifier over a drain.

2. You might be able to figure out why the water is coming in.

In the St Louis house there was part of the stone foundation fall that let a trickle of water thru. I worked and worked on that wall. It turned out that the reason it was letting water thru is that the gutter above was letting water fall down against the house, which then pooled against the house. Fix the gutter, no more water thru the wall.

When it is raining hard, go out and walk around (like the manly Midwestern homeowner you are) and see how the drainage is. Is it pouring past a loose gutter? Have misguided yard rehab efforts caused a change in drainage? If you can see where water is getting up against the house, that might be where the water is tracking down, under, and then up thru the weak point by the pipe. I actually figured out about the St Louis house gutter because of a spot by the house that was all sandy with no vegetation. It had been scoured clean by the water coming past the gutter during hard rain. I was suspicious and then confirmed it with a walk in the rain.

I like the pipe photo and pipe stories, by the way. Old houses are cool.

  • 1
    I agree that if it isn't much water,ever, its not the end of the world for sure... but also be mindful that the water that is eroding the dirt and vegititation is doing the same thing to the pipes below the concrete. +1 for gutter comment, this is often a huge helper to redistribute downspouts a few inches makes all the difference too.
    – noybman
    Jul 4, 2019 at 21:11
  • Also +1 for the gutter comment. Check your gutters, downspouts, and grade of the land. Everything should drain at least 4 ft from the house, preferably more. If this is infrequent, and only a little surface dampness, you may simply raise anything near the wet spots off the floor and live with it. Sealing the floor won't stop the water, it'll only find somewhere else to come through. The only way to completely stop it is a drainage system and discharge (or sump pump) away from the house. Jul 5, 2019 at 4:54

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