Sunday, December 4, 2011

a different kind of hellhole - a trench!

jambaloney here!

our basement (which you don't get the privilege of viewing until later ;-) leaks like a sieve. part of the problem is the fact that the concrete foundation is crap and part of he problem is the ground around the manor slopes TOWARDS the basement. in addition, the ground here is very dense, full of rocks and hard packed. so all of the water that can get into the basement, does. oh yeah, it's a moist climate we have here, and lots of rain!!!

we have a sump pump that does it's job well. last winter the pipe outside froze when the cold weather hit, i woke up one morning and the poor pump was grinding away, but not moving any water, so i bought a flexible hose to replace it and would go down to the basement every night, unattach the hose from the pump, blow the water out of the hose and unplug the sump pump...i know, i know... not a great use of time or nerves.

when my step-dad ted was here in june, i was relaying my woes to him and telling him that i hated relying on the sump pump because when the power goes out, it's usually crap weather so the basement fills with water, up to a foot + at times. i hate power outages, i am constantly checking the basement. our generator is hooked up now so i am not so worried, but is is a pain all round.

he suggested that i could dig down below the footing of the foundation and run a 3" pvc drain pipe out to drop off at the front where our driveway is. this would provide permanent, passive drainage.

unsupervised one morning, ted started the task at hand. we had a busy summer/fall so i never got back to it... now i am getting back to it. a couple of weeks ago i went out to start again, you can see the beginnings in the pic below.

ted dug down about 2 1/2 feet. my plan is to get a drainage trench dug to his level before the ground freezes for good, i should have until Jan 01. here are the tools: rock rake from my grandmother's, trenching tool that ted brought the head for with him in his visit, small shovel, pick, large shovel

i first ran a line about halfway and then began to go further, about 3 " deep:

here is another view. the hose on the left is the sump pump hose that i lengthened for the summer (previous owner left TONS of flexible pvc behind), the one on the right is our gray water outflow (which i also lengthened, it used to spill into the front yard and smelled terrific after several days of dishes, now it goes to the ditch on the road)

here they are going downhill past my first pass:

and finally down the slope of the hill at the front:

this is our driveway, you can see that the hill is pretty steep:

i went out one more day to make another pass, then it snowed 10 inches. after a couple of warm days a melting, i went back at 'er last week.

the drag about this project is the trench will be over 50' long - here is a better view:

looking down our driveway, the end of the trench will be the red circle:

back to work, fist step, pickaxe about a 10 foot swath, 3" deep:

next, use the trenching tool to gather it all up in a pile:

this tool is awesome, like an indestructible ice cream scoop with a handle. ted got it at Lee Vally Tools :

i dig the loose dirt out with the big shovel and move on down the line:

by now i have realized that the trench needs to be a bit wider than the large shovel for this to work properly, so the trench needs to be wider, it's nice and straight though!!

back at the ranch, the hoses come out of the foundation in one hot mess (that blanket is insulation, when i get this all working properly, i am going to build up the soil around the foundation, for now, it's ghetto):

i at LEAST, diverted the sump hose into the trench to get it running downhill, no more blowing out the hose this year!!!

i disconnected some of the gray water hose and put it into the trench too, when i am not working on the trench, running water will help me along:

here is a different view of the diverted hoses:

and here is a view of the overall progress so far:

not bad, but a long way to go, both out and down. this is heavy work! at least by the time the ground is frozen, all water will run downhill and no more freezing. next year i will complete the trench and install a permanent pipe that will drain the basement without a sump pump forever. stay tuned for updates!!!



  1. Isn't amazing how projects are a bit work on them, wait, then start again? I think that the passive way to empty the water is brilliant and think you are doing wonderful with your sweatequity that you are investing!

    btw- the views at your place are majestic!!!


  2. Oh man... we share your pain, literally. We are tackling the same issue at all 3 properties.

  3. Been there before. What a blistering good time. ;)

  4. I broke out in a sweat just looking at the pictures. Take a break, grab a cold one and relax. I'll send Duke up to help.

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  6. I hate it when my spell check doesn't work... but I was saying I'm glad you have all that energy! Nice straight trenches though. Great job!

  7. That's a lot of work! Amazing! That must be tiring, but you can think of it as an exercise regimen. At least you won't have to worry about freezing pipes. Now, I understand what you were talking about when you spoke of freezing pipes, basement, and pump. Water in the basement just makes the house feel damp. Good job!

  8. clap clap clap good job. very hard work. what did kymber do during all this man's work?

  9. Your step-dad is a wise man. It sure gives you a "hobby" for a while, though!

  10. Mote digging is no fun. You do it well though.

  11. Looking good, Hope that this fixes your problem for good.

  12. As soon as you said leaking basement, I thought of subsurface drainage patterns.

    People blame the walls, but water is going to get through just about anything masonry it rests against if it is there long enough.

  13. We have the the same issue with our basement.The water drains from the up the road down to our yard. We actually have a litte water in their now. Hopefully next year we can put in drainage as you have...we've been talking about it for a few years! ;)

  14. Jennifer:
    some projects do start and stop ;-) the passive drainage is the only permanent solution. it will be a lot of work, but the payoff will be worth it! i have never heard of “sweatequity” - i will be using that in the future.

    glad you love the views, the sun was awesome that second day!


    i feel your pain right back, i hope you can get some drainage going on your properties, thanks!


    i suspect you are referring to the blisters on the hands ;-)


    glad to provide you with a virtual workout, tell Duke i will have plenty of suds for him and kymber will keep him well fed!


    thanks for the shout-out, i tried really hard to it is straight as can be at first, not the kind of thing you can bend ;-)


    i try to kid myself with the exercise regimen thing, it works for a while ;-) freezing pipes suck, i will be super glad to fix that problem. thanks!


    thanks buddy! kymber was busy prepping some gardens and transplanting herb to come inside for the winter – she was a sore as i was!


    no doubt ted is wise – his solution hit me like a ton of bricks, now all i have to do is move a few tons of rocks! i’m not sure what kind of hobby that is, but i’ll go with it!


    not fun, but i am being encouraged to call it a “workout” and “hobby”, so hopefully the self-deception will ease the pain ;-) thanks!


    thanks - i am positive when all is said and done, the problem will be solved!


    i was talking about the walls a bit tongue in cheek, i do know that no matter what, unless there is a drain from the lowest point in the floor, there will be water no matter what. you are right, people do think that they can make masonry waterproof on it’s own, but it is porous in nature, there will always be some leakage - that being said, our walls are cracked to heck ;-)

    thanks for stopping by everyone!!

  15. Looks like a good job for mechanized digging.

  16. The good and bad about home ownership, but you know what id still rather own my home than rent a place. You have some really beautiful surroundings and i wish that i now had a septic system and well like i had in Florida. The water bills now that I'm living in Pennsylvania are fairly expensive, so i try and watch my water usage now big time! Richard

  17. Duke:

    you bring up a good point, but the trench is close to the septic tank and i am almost done the first phase... maybe i'll break down and get a backhoe to finish the job in the spring!


    all in a day's work i guess. we bought the place for the surroundings and will do our bast on the cottage. water is cheap when you don't pay for it, no shortage here ;-)

    thanks for stopping by!

  18. Wow...I never knew that rock collecting was such a hard hobby. All jokes aside...nice job!!

  19. tango:

    thanks - i COULD get the rocks that are laying around, but it's more challenging to dig them up ;-)

  20. I do believe I feel myself falling inward just THINKING about doing all this. Congrats(really & truly)to you. ~Mary