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I bought a house this year and discovered that the basement floods in the winter. Specifically, one room of the basement floods, it is part of an extension that was built sometime after the original house was built (1952). The original house has a functioning internal French drain system going into a sump pit, but surprisingly, the extension does not.

The flooding only happens in the winter (I live in New England), about once every 2 weeks or so when there is a large rain or snow fall (that then melts). In the summer it is bone dry. I assume this is because in the winter, the city helpfully floods a large neighboring field (at least the size of a football field) to make it into an ice rink, and the hydrostatic pressure from this pond must raise the water table such that my basement floods.

A local company will be installing an internal drain and sump pump system which should solve this issue, but they are booked out until late March. In the meantime, I am stuck pumping water out of the basement for days (it reaccumulates whenever I pump it out) after any significant amount of precipitation.

It is extremely inconvenient, but perhaps more importantly, is it damaging to my house foundation to have this kind of flooding ongoing in the upcoming months? If so, could I improvise a temporary external drain system that would not require much work but drop the water table enough to prevent flooding for this year?

The water only gets in on the side of the house facing the flooded field. I was considering making an external sump pit in my yard on the side facing the flooded field where the water gets in. I could dig a hole deeper than the foundation, place landscape cloth over it, and put a sump basin with a sump pump at the bottom of the hole.

Without a full trench surrounding the house (i.e. just a sump pit), would this help at all? Are there other DIY solutions that can get me until March without having to live with a flooded basement whenever it rains?

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  • "dig a hole ... place landscape cloth over it" Sounds like a bear trap and grounds for a good lawsuit when a kid falls in on his way to the skating rink. (The US legal system will find you at fault even if the kid's trespassing - nobody's responsible for the consequences of their own actions anymore.)
    – FreeMan
    Jan 12 at 17:23
  • Fair point. I meant that I would line the pit with a landscape cloth and then place the sump basin within. Presumably I could replace the overlying soil. And this would be in my back yard. Jan 12 at 17:54
  • Is the original house's slab at the same elevation as the extension? How deep is the sump pit? "A local company will be installing an internal drain and sump pump system which should solve this issue" ... problem is, there's an original foundation wall keeping that water from reaching your existing drain system. Do you own a sledgehammer and a shovel? (not fun) - But first, the extension needs its foundation sealed just as well as the original house's is. If you don't, you're paying to pump that entire field out every time it rains.
    – Mazura
    Jan 12 at 21:40
  • A pit at a single location is unlikely to solve your problem. What is the grading like around your house—is it graded to drain away from the house?
    – Huesmann
    Jan 13 at 13:11

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The fundamental problem is water percolating through the soil next to the addition. There are two relatively cheap and easy steps you can take while you wait for the fix:

  1. Make sure the gutters on the addition are draining properly, as water overflowing them will saturate the ground quickly.

  2. Divert ground water from rain and snowmelt from the surface near the addition. You can lay 6 foot wide tarps on the ground along the outside of the walls to minimize saturation. If the ground doesn't slope away from the house, you will have to run the tarps up the side of the wall. You may need to tape the tarps together to keep water from flowing from one under the next one.

I'm don't know whether the field flooding is a factor, but regardless, your best (and maybe only) option would be to minimize water from the sources you can control.

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