“Smells good to me!” I was down on hands and knees, with my nose hovering inches above the concrete floor of Nancy’s basement.
After a recent rainstorm, some seepage had occurred in the basement, and shortly after, a foul odor had emanated from that area. It was soon apparent that chemicals used to bond the laminated baseboard had reacted with the water, dissolving and releasing noxious fumes. Now, the damaged floor and wall materials had been removed, and the room had been dehumidified, but Nancy needed a second opinion about whether the stink was truly gone as well.
While I was happy to drop by and lend my sniffer, I was more interested in the mystery at the source of the problem. Nancy had lived in that house for many years, with nary a sign of moisture – why now?
I looked all around the basement for any sign of leaking pipes, water tracks on the walls, backed up sump pumps or unsealed windows. Nothing. I went outside and walked the perimeter, looking for signs of a broken sewer line, small sinkholes, standing water, or open irrigation lines. Still nothing.
I scoped out the lay of the land – Nancy lives on a down-sloping lot, so I checked out the storm drain at the street above, and tromped around the outside of her garage, through some ferocious ivy, looking for clues. Finally, as I was fighting my way around the far side of her garage, I saw it. Just a few feet away at the neighbor’s house, a PVC pipe ran from the neighbor’s gutter, along the garage wall, and angled down to the rear of that neighbor’s yard. But right in the middle of the span was a joint, and at that joint, the pipe had separated, dangling from its bracket in mid-air.
Eyeballing the hillside between the separated pipe and Nancy’s house, it was clear that any water spilling form this pipe would follow an invisible path under the ivy directly to Nancy’s basement wall. Further investigation revealed that the neighbor had recently replaced his roof. He had no idea that the workers had not properly re-attached the drainpipe to his gutter – probably because of all that ivy – but he was happy to fix it. Case closed!
In my 20+ years as a Realtor, I have found that keeping water out of your home is the single most important home maintenance task. If you are having issues with water intrusion, I recommend these resources:
Do you have a mystery for me?