Readers advice request – cellar keeps filling up with water

Readers advice request – cellar keeps filling up with water

14:35 PM, 17th September 2012, About 12 years ago 14

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Sallie has written in to request advice from Property118 readers as she owns a property in which the cellar keeps filling up with water. Have any readers of Property118 had a similar problem or can you offer solutions please? Do we have any surveyors reading Property118 who can provide advice on “tanking” the cellar or similar solutions?  Does anybody know whether insurance might cover this?

Sallies email is below:-


Just wondered if any of your readers are familiar with a situation we have found ourselves in. We have owned a property for nearly 25 years and at the beginning of the summer the cellars became flooded – ( we did have lots of rain). I emptied it out twice (with buckets!!!) but it kept filling up. Last week I went up as it had risen up to 18″ again so I hired a puddle pump and emptied the cellar out again – next morning it was 18″ again – we then discovered the water was trickling in – in about 5 places between the floor and the wall and it was clean water. We called Yorkshire Water and they came and pumped it out but said in their opinion it was either a natural spring that had popped up through the ground with all the rain or it is all the rain we had earlier on in the year that is still coming down from the hill at the back of the house!!!

We have no idea what to do about it and have spoken to our various contacts builders etc and they are all at a loss at to what to do about it?? I dont want o lose the tenants as they are very good but they have two children and I ma sure they do not want to live in a house with 18″ of water int he cel;ar all the time Any ideas gratefully looked at!!!



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Sam Addison

23:42 PM, 17th September 2012, About 12 years ago

You basically have three options, none of them cheap I am afraid.
1. try to seal the wall where the water is coming in - not easy as pressure will probably find ways round it
2. excavate down the outside of the cellar and install a drain to remove water. If there is no easy way to run the water away you may have to install a sump with a submersible pump and float switch. This option would be in addition to 1.
3. line the floor and walls with waterproofing material and hold in place against the pressure by new concrete floor over the existing and new brick walls tied into the floor and ceiling joists. This may not be possible if it reduces ceiling height by too much.
Sorry but no simple solution that I know of.

Steve Masters

0:43 AM, 18th September 2012, About 12 years ago

You might like to check all your drains and waste pipework, either get a complete cctv drain survey done for about £250 as I recall or quick and dirty test it your self by dripping a few drops of cochineal or other cooking dye down every drain hole you can find (I'm told a pint of milk also works!) and see if shows up in your cellar.

We had a similar problem about three years ago and ended up building a second wall all around the perimeter of the cellar with a gully behind it that drained any seepage into a sump dug below floor level with a pump in it. New walls and existing floor where then waterproofed.

This solution was cheaper than specialist "tanking" solutions as it was done by my regular builder but it does take up room space. This has worked so far.

(our basement was tenanted, they refused us access to carry out the works and refused to be re housed. After they left they took legal action against us and we ended up making a huge out of court settlement, I can't believe they got away with it. What a nightmare but that's another story.)


1:43 AM, 18th September 2012, About 12 years ago

Where I live there are a lot of basements converted from old cellars and we are in a fairly wet area. Tanking is the usual route which involves lining with waterproofing and concrete (ask a reputable builder for details). It is probably the only way. Sounds like the water table has risen in your area at least for the time being. Maybe you can get some help from your council, varies between authorities how much. Ours will do loans under the right circumstances.

2:46 AM, 18th September 2012, About 12 years ago

Not such a big problem but first the walls and floor must be stripped back to bare brick, block or whatever, fill in any gaps and then apply Hey`di. This is a Sovereign Chemical product and if applied according to the instructions your problem will be solved as you will have `tanked` the basement. It is 4 products, SBR for adhesion, the main slurry mix, this comes in white and grey. Use white first then grey over, floor as well. for belt and braces I think I would paint a third coat of white.You may have guessed why the different colours, this makes sure there is complete coverage. If you do have gushing water there is a plug mix that will stop the water flow in about 30 seconds. There is also a mix for joining the surfaces at corners and floor to wall.After it can be plastered but never drill holes in the wall if at all possible if you do first inject the drill hole with polyeruerthane glue before putting plug in.

4:12 AM, 18th September 2012, About 12 years ago

This can be cured. First you must clean the walls back to their raw state and then apply Hey`di this is a Sovereign Chemical product you can buy on line. If you follow the instructions to the letter you problems are solved. If you have water coming in under pressure no matter how light then Hey`di have a plug material that is set fast in 30 seconds. you must use SBER as a primer. The slurry mix comes in white and grey. I would paint white first then over paint with grey and then white again. Flaunch corners with the trowel mix to ensure proper seal. This can be plastered over but do not drill fixing holes in the wall unless polyeurothane glue is first injected into hole then plug and screw.

The whole process is called `tanking`, reservoirs are often repaired with this product.

Roger Edwards Dip HI MRPSA

7:23 AM, 18th September 2012, About 12 years ago

Just a couple of quick observations on the comments already left. Many years ago we bought an old (decommissioned) pub - this had a small sump and pump in the cellar - this worked well and kept it dry (it did leak in a bit round the hatch for loading out the barrels). Also I Used to do a lot of engineering work for London Underground, and many of the underground stations had internal walls with drains behind (leading to a sump and pump) this is Steve's comment below (they knew that they couldn't keep the water out and new stations are built this way too!) - You will loose 8 - 10 ins from all walls (and a bit for a sump and pump in the corner) this can be cheaper than tanking which seems to be a bit specialised (and therefore more expensive) just leave a small removable inspection hatch in each wall, so that you can check the drains now and again.
Its gonna cost you whatever you do - but do check for leaks first (saw a Grand Designs programme from OZ, where the couple spent a fortune to stop water ingress (from a supposed underground spring) and it was a BWM (Burst Water Main) causing the flooding all along!
Best of luck whichever route you take

8:23 AM, 18th September 2012, About 12 years ago

Something has changed…. (And you have not just removed tanking without knowing about it)

If you are above part of a hill, or the drains in the roads are low the basement may have been built with a parameter drain round it below loor level, this drain may be blocked.

I assume that Yorkshire Water tested the water for chlorine to show that a water pipe was not leaking.

There may be some sort of ground drainage between you and the hill that is blocked.

Are other people near by having problems?

Personally if your garden has also got issues with being water logged, I would see if there was somewhere to connect a ground drain to, and then consider installing a French drain between the property and the hill that is above it, as well as maybe other land drainage. This may or may not work, but is a lot cheaper then tanking and will help with draining your garden so will not be wasted
money if it does not sort out the basement.

I found the “damp house” book by Jonathan Hetreed very helpful when I had a damp problem to understand.

9:28 AM, 18th September 2012, About 12 years ago

I am assuming that your property is on an incline, hence the comment by Yorkshire Water re new stream, and I am assuming its to the back of the property. Consider incorporating the trench into an oppotunity to incorporate a window or two and -a door oppening into a small piatza, You have a studio flat to rent out of a Cellar. ( perhaps with a water feature in the piaza ).
Naturally the remedies of excavation are the way to go with a sump pump to move it away.
German Technique is to excavate to foundations, tank wall on outside with coatings incorporating fibre glass matting, sink 60 cm concrete pipe sumps on each corner and fill in with sand between wall and sumps. Needless to say thats all external walls. Bonus is no need to expensively tank on inside... though walls may need a year to dry out . Naturally You need a dry floor so you might have to seal this as well, Sieze the oppotunity to install insulation and a new floor over if at all possible, ceiling hieght permitting. 28 Fhead

Joe Bloggs

10:08 AM, 18th September 2012, About 12 years ago

ok some free advice. if the cellar has been dry for 25 years then its either a leaking gulley, drain or water main. a cctv survey will not show a cracked leaking gulley trap. shame on those posting/promoting unnecessary tanking services. suggest inspect cellar when raining to rule in/out water main. if the main is leaking underground then water will be entering at the point of entry of the main through the retaining wall.

15:15 PM, 18th September 2012, About 12 years ago

All below are very good ideas and of course the source of the ingress of water should be found and irradicated if possible. My point is that moisture in walls in normal times is always harmful whether or not the basement is habitable or not as the humidity could lead to dry rot in the floor timbers above. Clearly this basement is not tanked or damp proofed.

Tanking is the most inexpensive way to ensure that dampness is kept at bay and can be a DIY job as it is simple to do and as I pointed out the materials and application advice are all available from Sovereign Chemicals. As a surveyor and I was reporting on this basement and found dampness at any degree this would have to be reported and the possible effects to the property and health, this could kill a sale if it were to be sold.

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