Digging For A Perimeter Drain Around An Old Leaking Basement
Digging For A Perimeter Drain Around An Old Leaking Basement

There was so much heavy rainfall recently in MA that many homeowners are dealing with water in basements that otherwise have been dry for decades.

“RIB” read the recent post on what to do with wet basements in Massachusetts and asked for advice on how to diagnose a malfunctioning perimeter drain in his basement.

Perimeter drain not working

RIB’s basement flooded last week and still currently has standing water, despite the presence of a perimeter drain in it.

RIB thinks his perimeter drain’s underground outlet pipe may have been damaged or otherwise obstructed when a neighboring house was built some years ago.

R.I.B says:

“My question is how do I find the drain pipe to check it? The pipes are not on my house plan, my town has no maps on record and the builder moved out of state 12 years ago. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.”

How to find buried pipe?

You commonly see this issue with inspections of septic systems where the homeowner does not know where the septic system components are located and there are no “as built” plans at the local Board of Health.

Contractors in general also must frequently locate pipes and other underground objects before excavating.

How to find metal pipe

If the pipe is metal, your solution seems straightforward:

You (or the person you hire) could use a magnetic locator to track the run of the underground pipe and see where it is discharging, or identify where it was originally supposed to vent.

Does the following method really work?

There is an allegedly easy, inexpensive way to find metal pipe by using a metal coat hanger with magnets.

I have never tried this, and it may be bogus misinformation, but perhaps you could give it a try.

What if the pipe is plastic?

If the pipe is plastic you could employ a magnetic snake in conjunction with the magnetic locator.

Other devices used to find underground objects include ground-penetrating radar.

Does your drain go to a dry well?

RIB says that his perimeter drain pipe was designed to discharge water out onto the surface of the ground.

In my experience, some perimeter drains and sump pumps are constructed to send water into an underground dry well instead.

So other homeowners with problematic drains may have no above-ground pipe outlets to find.

Other possible causes for drain problems

RIB may want to determine if a section of his underground pipe has been crushed. Or perhaps the pipe has been infiltrated and blocked by roots.

RIB might do best to get a professional to service the perimeter drain system and determine what is wrong with it.

RIB: please let everyone know how you make out with this; it is good to share solutions to common problems!

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