Seep­age, buildup caused by wet weather

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES - ARI MARANTZ

QUES­TION: My ac­cess port for my back­wa­ter valve is fill­ing up with wa­ter very slowly and I was won­der­ing if you could tell me why. Thank you, Tom Pa­que­tte, St. James.

AN­SWER: There may be sev­eral rea­sons that wa­ter is seep­ing into the ac­cess area above the back­wa­ter valve in your base­ment floor slab and I will ex­plore these pos­si­bil­i­ties. Only one may be of real con­cern, but the oth­ers may re­quire at­ten­tion of a dif­fer­ent na­ture.

For those who live in older homes or other read­ers who sim­ply don’t know what a back­wa­ter valve is, it’s a sim­ple de­vice in­stalled within the main plumb­ing drain pip­ing un­der­neath your base­ment floor slab. The func­tion of this oneway valve is to al­low waste to exit the home’s plumb­ing sys­tem, but also pre­vent sewage from back­ing up from the mu­nic­i­pal sewer in case of a prob­lem. These valves are typ­i­cally in­stalled in newer homes near the lo­ca­tion where the plumb­ing drains exit the home or near base­ment fix­tures such as a bath­room, laun­dry or floor drain.

While these plumb­ing de­vices may work well with no main­te­nance for many years, some­times they be­come dam­aged and need to be re­paired or re­placed. That’s the func­tion of the ac­cess port you have noted in your ques­tion. This port is nor­mally a short, round sec­tion of ABS pipe with a cap in­stalled be­tween the top of the valve assem­bly and the top of the base­ment floor. To ac­cess the valve, the top cap is re­moved, which ex­poses the top of the valve assem­bly that can be re­moved by reach­ing down through this pipe.

The only real prob­lem that could cause leak­age into the ac­cess area would be dam­age to the valve assem­bly. This could be a crack or hole in the drain­pipe, dam­age to the valve it­self, or a loose or bro­ken cover. Re­pairs may range from a sim­ple re­moval and tight­en­ing of the valve cover to re­moval and re­place­ment of the en­tire valve assem­bly. The lat­ter re­pair may re­quire break­ing up a sec­tion of the con­crete floor around the area to ac­cess the drain­pipes. This re­pair should only be at­tempted by a li­censed plumber af­ter re­moval of the ac­cess cover and proper in­spec­tion to en­sure it is nec­es­sary.

Some of the other pos­si­bil­i­ties all may re­late to the orig­i­nal in­stal­la­tion of the ac­cess port or move­ment that may have caused the prob­lem to de­velop. The most likely sce­nario for the mois­ture in­tru­sion into this area is from sub-slab wa­ter that is seep­ing into a small gap around this pipe. This may be caused by move­ment of the base­ment floor slab or wear­ing out of sealant be­tween this area and the valve assem­bly.

In ei­ther sit­u­a­tion, seal­ing the joint be­tween these two ar­eas at the bot­tom of the ac­cess port, af­ter the wa­ter is re­moved, may stop fur­ther seep­age. Un­less the pipe it­self has bro­ken or cracked from shift­ing, sim­ple caulk­ing with a high-qual­ity sealant may pre­vent fu­ture prob­lems.

The rea­son you are see­ing the wa­ter in this area this sum­mer is likely due to the large amount of rain we have had. In nor­mal weather con­di­tions, the weep­ing tiles sur­round­ing your base­ment foun­da­tion walls may be suf­fi­cient to drain ex­cess soil mois­ture to your catch basin and sewer or sump pit. With the ex­treme amount of rain we have re­cently ex­pe­ri­enced, the soil around your home may have be­come sat­u­rated and the weep­ing tile may be un­able to pre­vent ex­cess mois­ture seep­ing un­der­neath your base­ment floor slab.

If this soil re­mains wet for a pe­riod of time, the mois­ture will try to es­cape and may en­ter the home through small cracks or open­ings in the floor slab by hy­dro­static pres­sure. One of these points may be any gaps around your back­wa­ter valve. Be­cause this area is one of the low­est ac­cess points, it’s likely the wa­ter will seep in there rather than through higher ar­eas near the top of the con­crete floor slab.

The fi­nal place to check is your sump pit, if you have one in­stalled. If the sump pit is the main area into which your weep­ing tiles drain, you should re­move the lid and check the sump pump and ter­mi­nal ends of the weep­ing tiles. If the sump pump has a float switch, it may be dam­aged or mis­aligned, pre­vent­ing proper op­er­a­tion of the pump. Of­ten, these can be­come wedged in be­tween the pump and the pit walls or weep­ingtile ends.

The tell­tale sign of a prob­lem will be too high a wa­ter level in the bot­tom of the pit, which may par­tially or com­pletely fill the weep­ing tiles. If the wa­ter level is above the bot­tom of the weep­ing-tile ter­mi­na­tion ends, re­pairs are needed im­me­di­ately. If wa­ter is al­lowed to re­main in­side the weep­ing tiles for an ex­tended pe­riod of time, it can cause the soil be­neath your base­ment floor slab to be­come soaked. This would eas­ily ex­plain the ex­cess mois­ture leak­ing into the area of con­cern and im­me­di­ate ad­just­ment, re­pairs or re­place­ment of the sump pump would be war­ranted.

While it’s a good idea to reg­u­larly check ar­eas in the base­ment for mois­ture in­tru­sion, es­pe­cially with the weather we have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing, mi­nor seep­age in ar­eas like your back­wa­ter valve ac­cess may or may not be of con­cern. If you fol­low my ad­vice and your sump pit and pump ap­pear fine, and no other is­sues can be seen, you may sim­ply have to wait a few days for dryer weather for the wa­ter to re­cede be­fore you can re­seal the area in ques­tion.

If the sump pit is the main area into which your weep­ing tiles drain, you should re­move the lid and check

the sump pump and ter­mi­nal ends of the weep­ing tiles.

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