Pipe and Stone: Old Technology and why it shouldn't be used for Interior Basement Waterproofing Drainage

As I’ve addressed in other posts there are many ways that basement-waterproofing systems can fail.

The General Problem with Pipe and Stone:
Pipe and Stone drainage systems fail because the technology doesn’t allow for specific things to happen. Pipe, PVC, iron or steel, copper or some other material tends to work best for plumbing. Plumbing requires a unidirectional liquid flow with rigid containment. This is so you get water coming out your sink tap and not onto your floor.

What were the advantages:
A Pipe allows for a great deal of liquid volume to rush through. The larger the pipe diameter, the larger the volume of water you can move. This is the theory in using it for basement waterproofing, transitioning from the original French drain tile or Roman stone channel. Companies would then bore holes into the sides of the pipes, typically ¼-1/2 inch in diameter. The pipe was then installed near the footer, seldom pitched to maintain directional flow, and surrounded with stones of various sizes to keep the pipe in place. Early designs left the stone open to the basement interior, to allow surface or wall water and leaks to seep through the stone to the pipe.

The original use of pipe and stone systems left gaps between the pipes in hopes of “generally” get the water flowing in the right direction. However, because water can’t think logically and “follow dotted lines” it jumps the gaps and finds its way back into the basement.

The next incarnation of pipe and stone connected the pipes, but because iron pipe elbows were awkward, seldom fit, and could shift easily, pipe were laid end to end in hopes, again, that the water would find the other drain.

1970 was upon us and other systems came around to bump the pipe and stone system slowly out of popularity.

The Problems with Pipe and Stone:

Back fill: With pipe and stone’s entry holes into the pipe you don’t have many options of backfill. Stone is typically it. However, with today’s companies, some are installing pipe and stone and using sand and dirt to back fill, and hold the pipe in place. Soil and sand allow for shifting and very easily can clog holes of ¼ - ½ inch in diameter. Drilled holes in the pipe make it easy for debris and for clay style soils to get caught and slowly clog the drain by blocking holes.

Curve: The logic is by using a curved pipe the water has less to stick too because a curve helps to reduce the amount of friction the liquid has to overcome in order to flow. By having a low point in a pipe and stone being the bottom of the pipe, the dirt and soil that does come in with the water will slowly settle to the bottom of the pipe. As the area inside the pipe diminishes, it covers the holes that allow the pipe to drain water and allow water to flow through the pipe. Eventual clogs can occur.

Mineral deposits: The standard modern pipe and stone is ether iron or a perforated black piping. The iron pipes can rust and possibly (this is in theory) increase the amount of food for iron bacteria to grow colonies. Iron bacteria can easily clog pipes and cause major problems through a waterproofing system. The perforated black pipe (which you can see at Home Depot in the plumbing isle) has little ridges which just help to speed up the sediment settling process which I just mentioned will clog a drain over time.

Corner Seepage: Most companies, even today, neglect to install corner connections on the pipes (called elbows) which still lead to 85% of pipe and stone system failures occurring in the corners of the basement.

With all the choices today for interior basement waterproofing pipe and stone technology is best to be left outside. It’s the perfect technology for large volumes (pipes being over a foot in diameter, public works, road drainage) where it can be publicly maintained by the town/city/state but for a homeowner it’s not the solution for your basement.

Related Reading and Links

Read about the Top 6 Basement Mistakes that contractors and homeowners make.

Ask Jacob A question Directly on Pioneer Basement's Help Forums!

Businesses are changing, times are tough, but that doesn’t make abuse acceptable.

Here in the office we received a very disturbing phone call the other day. A kind woman recently got a pipe and stone system from another company for $9000.00, which failed this past week.

As a professional it wasn’t the fact that it was a obsolete basement waterproofing system that made me angry, it was the following tail of what happened to get to that point.

“The company” (which shall remain nameless; they already have enough complaints) sent a crew out to do the job like any business would. The foreman however started acting strange and became verbally abusive to the homeowner. This went on for so long that the homeowner got scared after being threatened and called the police. The police removed the foreman and the crew leaving the job unfinished.

Calling “the company” they set up for a crew to stop by the next day to finish the job. Lo-and-behold, it was the same crew, same foreman, and again the same thing happened.

I couldn’t believe it. How could any company continue to have on staff a man with a blatant inability to be civil? How could a company let the same guy go back to job a second time, which got him removed by authorities the first time?

She confessed on the phone that she should have come with Pioneer, but I couldn’t feel proud at that statement. There’s no excuse for any person in you invite into your home to become verbally abusive and “the company” should have reacted.

So we learn two sad things:

1.) Verbal abuse by anyone you let in your home is not socially acceptable, especially a service company.

2.) Anyone selling a pipe and stone system for $9000.00 is over charging you.

A pipe and stone system for $9000 should be build by hand-forged steel made in the bowels of a Hawaiian volcano. And knowing the install habits of this “company” I know for a fact there is no wall protection and they use sand for a backfill that will help clog the pipe. You’d be paying $9000.00 for a product that will fail, period.

I’ll detail why pipe and stone systems are obsolete, why they fail, and the design flaws with using them.


NAWSRC Regional Meeting: Chicago, IL: Special Realtors Focus

May 22nd + 23rd, 2009! Chicago, IL
Metropolitan Industries
37 Forestwood Drive
Romeoville, IL 60446

Selling homes quickly and effectively is what makes Realtors money. For a long time Basements have been a sore spot in the home. Potential problems with the foundation, odors, and even minor/major leaks have kept homes from selling.

The NAWSRC is holding it’s regional meeting in Chicago, IL and is inviting all local realtors who want to help their clients. Registration can be done at NAWSRC Chicago Regional Meeting Registration Page and can even include web-marketing packages if you so wish to help sponsor the event.

What can a Realtor get out of Basement Waterproofing?
The fist major thing that a home gets from basement waterproofing is a safe, clean and clear basement. No water, controlled humidity, and better air quality can actually help to sell the home. A clean space that’s ready to finish leaves a blank canvas for homebuyers to start thinking about expansion before they even decide to buy. The more amenities at a competitive market value will help to showcase that home over the others.

Foundation Repair insures a good Investment
Fixing and repairing foundations can help to limit moisture, control and repair unsightly and worrisome cracks and can help to insure the foundations strength and stability. A solid foundation will show itself through better curb appeal. A level home with smoothly opening doors and windows can and will look and feel better on the first visit. A good impression is something that any Realtor needs to sell homes fast.

Our homes don’t have water, should I still come?
YES! You may not think they have water but all basements have the possibility of leaking, especially in wet areas like Chicago and Chicagoland’s metro area. If you think that water isn’t a problem, think about it as protection for your buyer.

*Automatic Warranties on the work to carry over to new homeowner ($$)
*Automatically add another 1/3 to the sell home and increase marketable floor space. ($$)
*Create a blank canvas for a buyer to think about finishing. ($$)
*Maintain pleasant air quality and make the home more pleasant to show.($$)
*Increase your network to the companies for referrals to you! ($$)
*Direct P2P and B2B networking at the Regional Meeting! ($$)

This meeting is focused to cover:A Realtor and Inspector’s Seminar
*Sell Houses Faster Without Discounting. NAWSRC Member Contractors Can help!
*Grading and Exterior Solutions. Simple Things To Do BEFORE you List That House
*Basement Drainage – Interior Solutions. Afraid to Show That Basement – We Can Help!
*Don't Let a Sinking Foundation Cause You a Lower. Commission or Worse No Sale
*Women, Plumbers, and Doctors – Air Quality Starts In The Basement
*Pre Sale Inspections Can Help You Sell A Home Faster, Build Your Reputation & Limit Your Liability
*Networking Sessions
*Product spotlights
*Question and Answers sessions
*and MORE!


Choosing the most “Green” Sump Pump.

Glentronic's ProSeries 3033 Sump Pump
Long ago I talked about the Glentronics pumps being the most “green” on the market. That article dealt more with how these pumps don’t contaminate or use drinking water to supply its pumping power. There are many more aspects of a sump pump that would make it eco friendly.

If you’re in the market for a sump pump and you’re being environmentally conscious then there are many other factors that you need to ask questions about:

What’s the Energy Draw of the sump pump?
The amps that the sump pumps use dictate the amount of energy that is pulled off the grid to power your sump pump. Amps range in the market from 3.8 or so to pumps that can draw over 12 amps. The cost to you would be more like $28/year to $88/year. The more amps, the more money the power company is going to charge you, and the more (possibly) harmful that can be to the environment depending on how you’re getting your energy.

What is the sump pump made of?
Many reputable and respected companies make their pumps out of cast iron. But the new solution for pumps has been the introduction into solid stainless steel construction. This introduces less rust, corrosion and introduction of processed minerals into your ground water.

Does it cool with Oil or water?
Cooling with oil is typical to most mechanical devices such as cars and lawnmowers. But with oil comes sludge. Oil can bind an engine if it reaches a certain temperature and in heavy rains when your pump can literally run all day to keep your basement dry, it’s not smart to take that change. Water cooled sump pumps use the water that’s around it, not drinking water, to cycle through and cool the interior of the pump. Different pumps have different cycles, but the important question to ask is “does that water come in contact with lubricants?” The answer to most water-cooled pumps on the market is no.

How much water should it pump?

3000gph/50gpm @ 10’ head is a good marker. Any pump that can do this amount of pumping with a 1/3 horsepower engine with around 3.8amps is a fantastic start. You’ll bind together pumping efficiency with energy savings to get more “bang” for your buck.

Is there an energy star rating for sump pumps?

As of right now there isn’t. The Sump Pump manufactures in America are working to get this coveted mark and hopefully soon this will be an easier way for you as a homeowner to find and shop for a product that’s right for your home.

Making the switch over to clean “green” energy for your home doesn’t have to disrupt the protection you’re installing in your basement. Sump pumps run of ether AC or DC Battery power. The easiest way to make sure that your energy draw is environmentally friendly is to take part in your state’s program to assign where you’d like your power to come from.

Green Foundation Repair: Crack Repair and being Eco Friendly.

foundation crack repair
The sad thing to realize about foundation repair is that there is, not yet, a totally “green” method of doing it.

Crack repair for all styles of foundation all require epoxies and other heavily chemical based substances in order to help the concrete to chemically bond and seal the crack effectively.

Because of the way that concrete separates when it does crack, it takes a remarkable flexibility and strength in order to not only fill the void left behind, but to also hold the sections of walls together.

There are many forms of epoxy injections. Different epoxies can help us to repair different varieties of foundation cracks. Horizontal cracks are not caused by many of the same things that Vertical cracks are. Because of this, the stresses put on your basement walls are different in sections depending on the style of crack that you have.

Why aren’t there Eco/ Green Foundation Repair products?

They just haven’t invented them yet. Ether that, or they haven’t been introduced to the industries that would use them. (ie, Foundation Repair, Basement Waterproofing, Structural Repair Contractors etc. )

There have been leaps and bounds in the discoveries and usage of green epoxies in the joining of plastics. But there is yet to be found a substance that’s both strong enough, flexible enough, gives off low or no V.O.C.s and is “Green” enough to be used for foundation repair.

Until that substance appears (and we all hope it appears soon!) the standard methods of Foundation Repairs still apply.

Being as Green as possible with what there is:

Foundation repair with epoxy is a controlled process. The injection process, of the various epoxies, is sealed and the epoxies that do come into contact with soil don’t break down. Soil’s compression actually stops the epoxies from spreading past the exterior wall. By having a product that seals, doesn’t break down, solves the crack issue, and also doesn’t contaminate or break down with moisture and soil contact, you’re being as eco friendly as possible with the current state of the foundation repair technology.


Hiring Unlicensed Home Improvement Contractors can hurt the community more than help.

Michael F. Sabitoni, President of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council, wrote a piece for the Providence Journal last year entitled “Contractors behaving badly: Secret economy cheats workers, state.”

It dealt more directly with a few local incidents in Rhode Island with contractors receiving kickbacks from their workers, who were under paid, and in some cases not national citizens. This basically, again, unearthed that this practice is rampant in the construction industry and that many workers, or laborers, are paid under the table. By doing this it allows the contractor and the laborers to skip out on many taxes.

If you’re doing a home improvement project at home and the contractor you hire isn’t licensed with the state you’re setting yourself up for a great deal of financial hurt.

Firstly: By not having a license they’re not recognized in the state as a proper HIC business. This also should shoot up a red flag of warning that they are also not properly insured. Many states link the two together, you must have insurance to get your HIC license for the state and before you can do ether, you must be locally registered and state registered as a business with the Chamber of C\ommerce.

Secondly: If something goes wrong in the project, damage, abandoning the work and contract, or not fulfilling obligations you have a few options. I always suggest trying to work something out directly with the contractor. Many things can be simply corrected just with straight forward. However, if things get bad and lawyers need to be called, the state can’t help you to locate, find, prosecute, or help you mediate with an unlicensed contractor.

Thirdly: The contractor, who isn’t licensed, doesn’t pay fees/dues every year to have their license renewed. This is essentially more tax money that the local government will have to find elsewhere. Combine this with the other money that’s not being paid in local, state, or federal taxes by paying workers under the table and you can see hundreds to thousands of dollars being withheld (depending on the size of the business it can be much more!).

Just last year $4.5 million was missing, in Illinois, based on the amount of money that wasn’t declared by license and unlicensed contractors. The licensed contractors can at least be reprimanded and forced to pay this money. But the unlicensed contractors get away with your cash to make their wallets fatter.

In my series or blogs that I’ve done with consumer protection issues I’ve strongly urged people to change the way they shop for contractors. Doing a little bit of research can not only help you get a better project done, but provide reassurance that you’re not hurting your town or state tax payers (your neighbors).

Be Aware: Offers that sound too good to be true (i.e. Basement Finishing for under $9k, or total bathroom remodeling for some small amount) often are. Contractors can be skipping out on both quality materials and on proper employee wages in order to cut costs and get more jobs. If something sounds too good, it probably is.

Do you research: HIC numbers are public knowledge and any company that is properly licensed should have evidence of it on their person, vehicles, or a wallet copy that can be verified online with your Department of Public Safety.

Don’t Sign Anything: If you’re not convinced or having double-checked the contractors’ credibility, don’t sign anything. Reschedule for a revisit; give yourself time to find the answers and the verification you’re looking for. But be upfront about it!

Companies would rather have you as a comfortable customer than an uncomfortable panicked whistle blower. If a company wants to do business the right way, they provide the customers will all the information they need to know that they’re covered and protected in their purchase. Unlicensed and uninsured contractors create more liability and won’t be able to provide proper information that would set you at ease.

Bottom Line: It’s better, overall, to do business with a licensed and insured contractor.

Recent Construction Industry News in Rhode Island:
New partnership to provide training to contractors and enhance safety during construction of new Warwick Intermodal Station


Basement Waterproofing Contractors and Foundation Repair Contractors take a wrong turn with SEO

Being in the Waterproofing industry I'm constantly interacting with other companies online. Innovated designs, solutions, some fail, some don't. There are many licenses that are needed by companies to work in the Waterproofing, Foundation repair, Radon Mitigation, Asbestos removal, and other home improvement industries. Recently, I wrote a post about how improperly licensed waterproofing companies are putting the consumer at risk.

SEO, Web Site Optimization, and Getting Ethical:
Today, I'm talking about the people in the back room, doing the marketing or taking over the public distribution of the branding of these companies online.

I recently made a more personal opinion post on Ezine's Members forums about what I've been running into.

The Problem: Companies are jumping the Gun to get out ahead:
New companies, wanting a leg up, and even older companies needing to create new leads and sustainability in a down economy are taking SEO (Search Engine Optimization, a branch of Web Site Optimization) and other website optimization specialists and bringing them to work at their Headquarters. Lovingly called "In-House SEO," it became a special topic at this year SMX.

The problem comes not from the planed "currently running" SEO; it comes from the SEO and web site optimization that's implemented BEFORE the company is actually ready to do business. Some optimization and SEO companies have become so efficient, and there's so much information out there on the Internet, that even business owners are jumping in and pulling their weight. Again, the problem is that businesses are doing this in anticipation, making the sites live, and the sites rank well right off the bat, but the business is left in the dust trying to catch up.

Consumers need to step up their "Pre-Shoping" to protect themselves:
Consumers need to be aware and need to take note of this. Not all websites lead you to qualified people. Some websites are intentionally designed to fish for leads and then source them out to companies for a fee; this is the way these sites make money.

If a site is qualified, you can take the name of the company (sometimes listed in full at the bottom of a site) and actually find the license of the company listed in that state's Department of Public Safety or Department of Consumer Protection.

It is so important for consumers to be doing the right research when finding waterproofing and foundation repair contractors.

Many states are fighting large numbers of "seasonal" contractors who migrate from state to state and do work with improper licenses, and un-intentionally stealing work from local state licensed carrier contractors.

Bottom Line:
Protect yourself as a consumer: Ask for License Numbers.

Protect yourself as a consumer: Double check the name of the company or owner of the company against the databases at the Department of Public Safety or Department of Consumer Protection.

For business owners: DON'T JUMP THE GUN! Get your licenses first, operate the right way in your state, and THEN gather business from online and other referral processes. Doing business online doesn't leave you exempt from state or federal law.