Huge Water Issues/Basement Smells

last month

Has anyone successfully rid their old home of the musty basement smell?? Is it ok to have an open drain of water in the basement?? What’s the best way to keep water from entering the basement??

Backstory: we purchased an old home, circa 1910 that sits at the base of a hillside. We’re getting a tons of runoff from the hill and I’m sure there are natural springs causing issues as well. The grading of the land outside the house isn’t great and we’re working on fixing that. When we don’t have several consecutive days of dry weather, there’s a section of yard that is completely saturated and soupy. There are also a few old French drains that don’t seem to be doing too much. Inside, the basement is cold and damp, with a gravity drain...essentially a little trench running around the perimeter and out a drain to the road. This drain had somehow been filled in over the years and was not working...there was standing water in the basement so my husband has been working on digging it back out. We had the drain to the road checked out and it’s clear and should be functional. There’s also an addition off the back with a crawl space underneath that has some plastic covering it, but has a dirt floor. We have a dehumidifier running constantly in basement, but it’s not doing much.

We’ve had a slew of people come through to look at the problem and everyone has a different opinion on what will fix it. Opinions are as follows:

Opinion 1: dig an 8’ French drain (or as deep as needed to be below cellar level) around the back of the house and down the side where the water is coming from. Regrade, install window wells, downspouts directed to drain, fill in old unused hand dug well near house (oh yeah, there’s an old well in the back on the side with issue too).

Opinion 2: dig 1-2’ French drain in problem area and do the same in the perimeter of basement with a sump pump to get water outside.

Opinion 3: same as #2 above, but installing fancy basement waterproofing stuff like drain/trench caps, plastic sheeting, industrial grade dehumidifier. Plus another long French drain up the hillside.

Opinion 4: clear existing gravity drain and make functional again, spray insulation under crawl space and ceiling of basement, plastic sheeting on walls and floors

Opinion 5: install retaining wall outside in the problem area with drainage leading away from the house.

Our biggest concern is mitigation of the water obviously. We have been told that the structure of the house is still just fine, so there isn’t much concern there, but we don’t want a basement that will never dry out. The house has been vacant for a few years and things just weren’t maintained in that time. There is also a nasty musty basement smell, that I’m having a hard time with. It really dissipates when the windows are open, but as soon as you close the house up, it hits you. I’m worried about the air quality of the house, especially since we have a baby. We’re not currently living in the house, there are a number of renovations to do first, but would like to fix the musty, dirty basement smell before we put more money into the house.

Is it possible to fix these issues? Are we doomed? We are feeling so overwhelmed with it all and aren’t sure what direction to do. Any help would be appreciated!

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