Welcome to another round of Saturday Morning Home Repair Blogging, where experts and amateurs gather to share advice, war stories, and encouragement. Every so often, there's a little mockery, but only of homeowners long past as we fix up their stupid messes and upgrade things that should have been done long ago.
Today I offer to espouse the value of the oft-overlooked sump pump. Buying an old house for the original hardwood floors, sturdiness and overall craftsmanship led me to overlook the impact of one detail: a fieldstone foundation. For those not familiar, this is a foundation made from large rocks found in a field mortared together, while the rest of the basement is typically a dirt floor. At some point a concrete floor was poured in mine, with a french channel 4" wide left at the perimeter. Read after the Orange Helix of Life for the downside.
The first spring we owned the house (2009), there were frequent heavy rains I didn't think too much of. The roof had been patched, there were no leaks I was aware of, and the grass needed watering anyway. My wife and I contently continued to unpack and set up our first house; all was well until we decided to hang some art and I had to get the hammer from my toolbox downstairs.
The flaw of a fieldstone foundation abruptly hit home when I stepped in 6 inches of water. No matter how well mortared, the foundation seeps, and the bottom of the french channel is dirt, which just allows water to flow upwards. To my horror, the water had nearly reached the electrics of the furnace units (I suspect this is why the systems were installed only four years before I bought the house). Cue adrenaline rush, run to hardware store for an emergency submersible sump pump. The drawback to this type of pump is you can't let it run dry, or it will burn out; as such I spent the next three days running the pump every hour, day and night.
After catching up on sleep, I determined this had to be permanently rectified (and should have been long ago). In one corner of the house, the poured concrete abruptly stopped where the cold water came into the house; because the pipe was at the level of the original dirt floor, they opted to leave a space instead of altering the pipe; this saved me from the joys of a jackhammer.
It's odd to suddenly hear the pump come on in the corner of my dining room (which is right above the pump), but it's far better than the alternative. This leaves me with one nagging question: what had the previous occupants done about it over the past century? The floor is open for rampant speculation....