We bought an older house, built in ~1950s, in NY (NYC Metro-ish area) in April 2022. Since then we've had frequent issues with decent amounts of water getting into our 95% finished basement. Between 1-3 inches of water throughout 80% of the 1000sqft is typical. The basement is mostly below grade with a door out to a concrete path that wraps around the left side when facing the front of the house. This concrete path has a 4 inch pvc drain pipe at the bottom next to the door that goes out to daylight. Heavy rain turned this into a river and filled up the bottom stairwell with 2-3 ft deep of water overwhelming the 4 in pipe and breaking through under the door. We had 5-6 in of rain in the basement at the worst. The house also sits pretty low on the plot -- the street is at a higher elevation than the house and the pitch from my neighbors points to the house. The hill continues down behind my house to another street.

Here's a survey with hopefully all of my info scrubbed out -- https://i.imgur.com/ELS5zkK.png

Actions so far

  • Installed a channel drain along the bottom of the driveway that drains to the right into the lawn.

  • Installed a belgian block wall directly in front of the concrete path to obstruct water run off from going down the path

  • In front of the wall, we put a perforated pipe with fabric and gravel about 1 ft deep intended to capture surface water. The pipe wraps around our plot, into the neighbor's plot and then back into my plot all the way at the back and is open to daylight. I worked with my neighbor on this. If it rains for a while the pipe can't drain fast enough and we get a nice pond in front of the wall that eventually builds up and gets over the wall. https://i.imgur.com/6COBADx.jpeg Planning to add a catch basin in the lowest corner and tye it into the pipe.

After all this we don't have a river anymore but now have what I expect is a groundwater issue due to a high water table during heavy rains. I see water coming in under the baseboards in a few areas within the basement. We do have a sump pump connected to a trench drain along the front side of the house. The pump works and is moving water, but some water still seeps through the baseboards. Trench drain is not a modern french drain in this case, it's simply a trench filled with gravel in between the drywall and the foundation wall that water falls/seeps into and is somehow connected to the sump pit.

I've had 4 contractors come to look at it

  • Local rep for american basement systems - $22,000 to install a interior french drain around the front wall and side where the concrete path is; will replace our pump with their triple pump system with battery backup and 'lifetime' guarantee. Repairs where drywall and studs were cut with metal studs and cement-like board that is removable. Add in new discharge line to be dug outside.
  • Landscaping/excavation company - $22,000 for exterior waterproofing - dig down below the footer along the front of house and along the concrete path side. Plastic membrane and rubber waterproofing paint on the foundation wall and adds in footer drains that will drain to a sump pump that gets pumped up and into the back lawn above the bottom of the door landing. Lots of hand digging and will have to break up substantial amounts of concrete that are up against the foundation. Concrete path remains intact. 1 year workmanship guarantee
  • 2nd landscaping / excavation company. Did not recommend any work due to difficult access to problem area with machinery. Hand digging not an option for them. Recommended interior french drain
  • Exterior/interior water proofing company. $11,500 to install an interior french drain around perimeter of basement. If went exterior route, they estimated ~40,000. Replaces pump. Does not repair drywall or studs. I can do drywall and sister some studs, but it won't look pretty lol

If you made it this far please let me know what you think! Being a first time home owner I've definitely learned a lot from being in this subreddit the past 2 years, so any help / opinions is greatly appreciated. Personally I'm leaning on doing the exterior route as everything I've read indicates preventing water from penetrating in the first place is the way to go.

Here's a parting gift, you can't see everything but you get the gist - https://streamable.com/ln274l

  • Installing drains is basically just digging, you can do it and save lots of money, and there are handheld machines for that
    – Traveler
    Mar 29 at 2:25
  • You can see where the water is coming from. Your task is how to get it to go somewhere else. You don't really give us enough context of your home and yard for us to give better suggestions.
    – Huesmann
    Mar 29 at 16:39

3 Answers 3


Wow. What a mess. The water is a mess and the advice (from contractors) is a mess.

#1 - If you pay for services that you are paying more than 5k for, there should be actionable results. Meaning if you install drains, then I should have no water in my basement. If I do then you pay for damages in the first 5 years. If you waterproof then no water should enter or you pay for damages for 5 years.

#2 - You need to move water in two places. The first place is at house level. This is above the last set of stairs down. This water needs to go to the right (video direction).

#3 - You need to move the water at the bottom of the stairs out the back further. I don't see how you do this without a huge grate cut out in the concrete. This is your industrial level metal grate. Cutting this out is DIY. The hard part is digging out to the left of your video to drain the grate.


Consider digging trenches on the outside yourself, next to foundation, while making sure there are no pipes or cables there.

You can rent a trenchh diger for about $500 per week.

Those can dig 18 inches deep and 3 inches wide per pass, so you need 6 inches for drain pipe.


You have to get the water away from the house. If current methods aren't enough add more. There is always a bigger pipe, a bigger trench, a bigger pump.

Or fill in the basement.

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