Ugh, there's standing water under my house!

I have a crawlspace, which used to be bone dry. At some point, it seems to have decided not to be - this winter we had a dead rat under there (it turned out to be right next to the “nothing” my husband said he saw down there when I sent him under when we first smelled it, like, a month and two freezes and thaws later, and did I mention I was pregnant at the time?) and we noticed some puddles then.

So we’ve been thinking that maybe the cats are furious at the new baby - when we came home from the hospital in July, we smelled what we were sure was cat pee, but we could never identify a source. Of course, sometimes it can be hard to find the peed on object - it seems to be one of those smells I can’t always locate. But it’s also kind of a musty smell? And it comes and goes? So we’re thinking, hey, maybe it’s actually that water under the house. We do seem to smell it after it rains.

So, what on earth does one do about that sort of thing? Is it a danger to the structure? (We’re not talking about a lot of water necessarily - I haven’t seen it myself, but he says it’s a few medium sized puddles and some mud.) We don’t have gutters (the house was built in 1928 and has never had them - I was noticing today out on my run that very few houses in my neighborhood seem to.) Would that help? Do we need some sort of… drains dug or something?

Is this going to be expensive? And is it actually likely the source of the smell? This morning evidently I told my husband in my sleep that “it smells like a goddamned turtle tank in here”.

By the way, last spring/summer we had extraordinarily heavy rains. I can’t tell you the last time I saw the rivers as high as they were, and evidently all the fresh water even killed a huge percentage of the oysters on the coast. We have had some, but not as many, very heavy rains this year as well; that may be the reason we’ve never had water before but do now.

crawlspaces are often poorly ventilated or not ventilated at all.

in nonheating season it is good to let nonhumid outside air through it; closing vents would be good.

you have some opening for vermin, mud water which should be closed from the outside.

Well, yeah, there are on-purpose holes in the brick. Like, decorative ones.

if there are holes then you want them to give enough ventilation to keep the space dry while they are screened to keep vermin out and not low enough to let mud in.

if they are screened and above the ground then you might have a crack elsewhere.

Grade the ground so that the water flows away from the house better. Adding gutters would make this easier, since you could run the downspouts far from the house. If you’re on a slope, especially pay attention to the upslope side. You could also look into adding sand in the low spots under the house, where the puddles form.

I wonder if the ground under your house has settled some to make it easier for water to end up under the house. Or maybe an upslope neighbor diverted some water to where it flows towards your house.

All of the above plus a sump pump.

How would a sump pump work with a crawl space? Not doubting; just have never seen one used in a crawl space…my house is also older and doesn’t have a basement. I worry about moisture/water issues as well, although so far it’s stayed dry.

On my last house, which did have a damp basement, I added soil and groundcover to slope and drain away from the house, and also used sand between the ground and the house to fill in spaces, as ZenBeam suggests… It really helped and cost was minimal.

They’re not screened. The house is also on a slope such that a medium height person can stand in the crawl space at the back of the house while it’s a true two foot crawl space at the front. (So it’s already graded by Mother Nature.)

Since OP is complaining about sewerage type smells, don’t we have to think about sewerage leaks ? The ceramic downpipe can easily crack.

The combination of old wood and high moisture can produce a smell very similar to cat urine. Lots of old neglected sheds, shacks, cabins and crawlspaces develop this smell, It is a regular issue in flooded basements. The solution is drying it out and keeping it dry. Treatment with a product like Bac-Stop will help kill the the micro organisms responsible.

Rent a couple blowers and run them for a couple days to dry up the puddles. The combination of proper drainage and a skirt around the house to prevent water getting in there the next time it rains should solve the problem.

Hmm, I’m not sure exactly to where the plumber replaced my sewer pipe, but it did get replaced when I moved in (9 years ago) - first house expense! I don’t know if the replacement ran all the way to the downpipe or if it was only outside, but the old ceramic pipe had essentially disappeared amidst the tree roots.

So if it’s a continuing water issue what kind of person do I have to call?

there is sanitary sewerage, waste water from sinks, tubs and toilets. if you are in a developed area there is a sewerage system or if rural you would have a septic system.

there is storm sewerage from gutters and downspouts. in some cities people ran that into a pipe and into the city storm sewers. in many places this is no longer allowed and even old systems have to be disconnected because it overloads the sewerage system. these pipes might also get clogged and cause the water from your downspouts to stay near the house rather than being moved away.

inspect for cracks in the basement/crawlspace walls and floors. if you see holes or signs of where water had flowed then get a foundation repair company to inspect and repair.

if you have puddles against the high side of your house or see signs of water flowing up to the house then you would need some landscape alteration to get the water to flow around the house better.

it is likely that wall repair might be needed as well as digging a trench on the high side and waterproof the wall better and make better drainage before the house wall.

get estimates on the whole deal. if you can only afford landscaping then do that.

extend the downspouts away from the house, you can buy hoses that fit tight on the downspouts and you could run the hose dozens of feet away away from or around the house.

Here in Michigan there are companies that specialize in basement and foundation waterproofing. Might be a good place to start?

Assuming the moisture is getting in from outside, there will most certainly be foundation specialists in your area that deal with this sort problem. They are likely familiar with the construction style of your home and have a solution that they have used before. You may also want to call a rain gutter/cladding contractor as adding rain gutters may be the best solution. A good, established contractor of either type should be willing to take a look and give you a quote. Make it clear that your goal is to eliminate crawlspace moisture.

If you are not sure where the moisture is coming from, a restoration company that does water damage remediation may be a place to start - they should have experience confirming the source of the water.

Grading around the house is the most common reason for a wet crawlspace. It needs attention ASAP. You don’t want mosquitoes breeding in those puddles.

first check your gutter downspouts. Are they dumping water right beside the foundation? Get them extended a few feet away. A very simple DIY fix. Theres a very good chance this will fix the problem.

regrading the ground around the foundation may be required. A good landscaper can do it. Maybe a DIY project if the homeowner sees an obvious area where the grade slopes towards the house.

The other thing to check FIRST is any broken or leaking pipes under the house. Run water in the sinks, turn on the Washing machine and check for leaks under the house while its draining. Don’t forget to flush the toilets while someone is under the house. A leaking seal ring is a possibility.

  1. Chlorinate it.
  2. Put the place on the market as a home with an indoor pool.
  3. Profit!