I am hesitant to write and publish this blog. Someone far more knowledgeable than me on this sort of thing is likely to post a comment about how this is the stupidest thing they’ve ever seen, that it will never work and that I am a blithering idiot to have undertaken such a project. Until next spring this will remain to be seen.
I have an endless “To Do” list, and one of the items that has been on it since last spring is to deal with the flooding in our basement. Our basement floods each spring with wonderful clean snow melt water. After last winter’s “polar vortex” we got lots of snow along with epic spring rains, and the floodwater rose to epic new levels. Eventually even our freezer began to float even though it was up on 2 layers of concrete blocks. You might remember this blog post in which I share the joys of working in freezing cold water to add another layer of blocks under our freezer.
As far as I can understand the flooding is caused by what is referred to as “hydrostatic pressure.” As the ground thaws in the spring there is a tremendous weight of water pushing down through our sandy soil, which filters the water wonderfully. When it gets near our house it encounters our sump well, which it sees as a big a hole without a plug, and that pressure pushes the water up into our basement.
I have been unable to ascertain if flooding was a problem after the basement was put in 80 years ago. But I do know that the sump well was chiseled in by a plumber who had no experience with off grid power systems and who probably shouldn’t have put it in. I have enough power to run a sump pump in July or August, but alas, we are usually in a drought during those months. In March and April when my basement floods I simply don’t have enough electricity to run a sump pump, because a sump pump requires an enormous amount of energy to run 24 hours a day for 3 or 4 weeks.
So on my summer “To Do” list I decided to fill in the sump well. I chose the summer because the basement is cool, so I thought what a great time to spend time in the basement. And I have a son-in-law who likes to get exercise when he visits here because he works all day in an office engineering big wind turbine blades. So it worked perfectly to have Dhruva help with the concrete. And when I say, “help” I mean, it worked great to have Dhruva carry the concrete bags and mix the concrete and dump the concrete … while I supervised.
I like to have a “Plan B” so I put a 3” pipe with a clean out plug on it, so that in a worst-case scenario, if the whole thing goes terribly wrong, I can hopefully get it to drain once the hydrostatic pressure outside has subsided. I, of course, have no way to verify this. I could call a plumber, but they got me into this mess.
So I have ticked one more item off of my “To Do” List for the year. Come next spring I will be waiting in the basement with bated breath to see whether or not the whole concept was misguided. But even if it is a horrible failure, as I see it, it couldn’t be any worse than having a big 20 inch whole in my floor, just calling out to all the wandering water to come on up and have a party in Cam’s cellar. The bags of concrete seem to have plugged it up fairly well. Water will seep in. There will be some water. How bad could it get?
Stay tuned. There will be updates next spring. Of course I could always keep the area all around the house cleared of snow all winter in order to reduce the hydrostatic pressure around the cellar. But that’s not gonna happen. I think I’ll see how the plug holds first.
Thanks to our wonderful son-in-law Dhruva for all of his help with this project!