Drainage Tile and Foundation Membrane

One item I haven’t written about is waterproofing our foundation walls and preventing water problems in the basement. As a kid growing up, we lived in a house with a basement that became a shallow pond at one end during prolonged rains. The only thing missing was the stocked trout. It was a nightmare! For our current project we used drainage tile and foundation membrane to waterproof our off grid ICF home.

Johanna Working Around the Foundation

Johanna Working Around the Foundation

As you probably remember, we had a large hole excavated and then I set the footings in. For this part of Nova Scotia, our footings needed to be 4 feet down to get below worst case frost line. Once the concrete footings were poured, we started building the ICF walls. The walls were poured, the floor framing was built and then at that point, we were getting close to back filling around the walls.

Keep in mind, it was critical to build the floor because it acted as an internal brace against the force of backfilled dirt. Without the floor framing, if we backfilled, we potentially could have deformed or caved in a wall from the pressure of all the dirt and rock.

Water Proof Membrane Application

But before we could backfill, we needed to do some waterproofing. Nudura has a waterproof membrane that comes on a roll. I believe it is a 4 foot wide roll. There is a summer and winter weight. All that means is the sticky backing differs depending on the temperature when the material is applied so that good adherence to the foam exterior is achieved.

With a brush, we carefully cleaned the exterior of the ICF foam to give the sticky backing the best bonding surface. First the membrane was cut into appropriate lengths as determined by the height of the wall below grade. Starting at a corner, we peeled the backing off and started to apply the membrane vertically to the exterior wall. We overlapped the footing a few inches so that any water that might come down the wall will run off the footing.

Water Proof Membrane Below Grade

Water Proof Membrane Below Grade

Application of the membrane is a job for at least 2 people It’s best if one person mans the top of the piece while the other is peeling and applying as you work your way down the wall. Each successive piece was overlapped at the seam by about 4 inches. This was done all the way around the perimeter of the building.

Dimpled Plastic Protective Cover

Then we bought a dimpled plastic protective cover that also came on a roll and applied that on top of the waterproof membrane. Its purpose is to protect the membrane from jagged rocks when the back filling is done. There are fasteners that need to be purchased just for attaching the dimpled material. The fasteners keep the dimple board in position for back filling. 

Dimple Board Protecting Membrane on Wall

Dimple Board Protecting Membrane on Wall

At the top of the dimple board, there is a plastic strip that is screwed on to make a tight seam at the top. That also supports the dimple board while the trench around the house is backfilled.

I would definitely consider using this water proofing material on any below ground structure. Not only ICF, but poured foundations and cinder block.

Weeping Tile Installation

Once the waterproofing was done it was time to install the weeping tile. Kind of a weird name. There are a couple of options here and we chose to use 4 inch perforated pvc sewer pipe. The perforations face down and any water that accumulates around the foundation will seep into the pipe to be transported away from the house.

Covering Pipe with Clean Stone

Covering Pipe with Clean Stone

There is also a flexible hose that can be used but we heard there is potential for the pipe to collapse so we went with rigid pipe.

We laid a layer of clean gravel around the foundation as a bed and then plumbed the drainage pipes in. The pipes were placed at a slight angle so that all water in the pipes would run to a central point where a “T’ was plumbed in. At the “T”, solid pipe was connected and with the aid of a transit, a long trench was dug, pipe laid, and ultimately plumbed to where it would drain freely a long ways from the house. In our case, several hundred feet away.

Determining Pipe Elevation with Transit

Determining Pipe Elevation with Transit

The last thing we did to ensure a water free basement is to have the outside properly graded to drain water away from the house. Because we have a hip roof all the way around, water flows off the roof on 4 sides. Grading is critical to make sure water isn’t funneled towards the house.

As an added measure, because we had extra plastic dimple board. I had the excavator dig a flat area along the house. That flat area was about 4 feet wide which is the same width as the dimple board. I laid the dimple board flat with a slight angle away from the house and then we backfilled over it, essentially creating a water barrier from the house four feet out. That will also help keep water from percolating down to the footings.

Until next time, keep the dream alive! We wish you a great day!

Ron and Johanna

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6 Responses to Drainage Tile and Foundation Membrane

  1. Bebe says:

    Enjoy your articles. I admire you and your wife for doing your dream

  2. John says:

    I’m in Nova Scotia and contemplating buying a property with an existing house in need of a full restoration. I’m online looking for the experiences of others and found you guys(yay!). It would be super helpful if you mentioned the ballpark cost of each “phase”, nothing specific but like “waterproofing foundation = $2500”. I know you do most of the work yourselves but when you need outside experts or large equipment rentals…. it’s that stuff that I know nothing of cost on.

    I’ve got a nice plot of land with a fantastic view and a house that needs work. I look at the likely work, I look at the bank account, then the work, then the bank account… and I have no idea how far it will stretch. If $100,000.00 or so, not including the house and land, is what I have for what is essentially a full rebuild… do I need to go back to a 9-5 asap?

    I know, asking a lot, great site and inspirational story, thanks for sharing it.

    • Ron & Johanna Melchiore says:

      Good Morning John,

      Welcome and thanks for the comments. We are so glad you found us and find our info useful. To be honest, we never gave costs a thought when we wrote our articles. As you note, 99% of the work was done by us with some help from my brother. The only times we hired help was for pouring the concrete walls, footings and drainage tile. Working large amounts of concrete is time sensitive and we needed help on that. The excavator of course dug the foundation, well and installed the septic.

      I would give you the following tidbits of advice. Get multiple estimates to any facet of the construction. It would not hurt to inquire of others about their experiences with these contractors. There is a huge difference in quality, including excavator work. Most are real pros but you might find one that accidentally tears into the styrofoam walls. Yes, we did. He would be great for demolition derby but we would not have him back for close house work. So the point is, find a good excavator operator and don’t be afraid to negotiate on price. They charge by hour or by job and it also depends on the size of the equipment what the cost will be.

      We look at the house, then the bank account and then the house so we know exactly what you are faced with. This is a work in process. There is still a year’s worth of work here easy. So we prioritize what really must be done. You might consider doing the same. Having a water tight, insulated shell is a priority. Then we/you have no worries about weather. The interior can be picked away over time as money becomes available. Safe potable water is a priority.

      I would also contact a number of building supply places near you and have a talk about opening an account of some type that will give you contractor pricing on supplies. What is the general discount for contractors? We actually deal with 2 suppliers. Initially, I created a materials list and then submitted to both of them. Whoever was cheaper, I went with and made it clear why I was going with the other outfit. Hopefully the next time when the material list is submitted for the next stage, they will do better with pricing.

      Those were things off the top of my head that might help you. By doing what work you can, getting estimates and sourcing materials at the best price, you can make your hard earned money stretch quite far. Focusing on the priorities and then putzing over time on the lower priority stuff as money becomes available will help. And our mantra has always been to stay out of debt. Pay each bill off monthly so we aren’t shelling out money to a bank in interest charges. Good luck and please feel free to comment anytime. Ron

  3. John says:

    Staying out of debt is our #1 goal too, thanks for all the great tips. We’re finding another barrier that is daunting to traverse and it has to do with bylaws, what are your first thoughts on this…

    My wife, kids and I have enjoyed wilderness camping, summer and winter, in Yurts across Canada and another path we might take is finding empty land in a spot we like that is fairly private. We’d build a yurt to live there for a couple of years, to see how we like the spot, and while finalizing permanent building details thoroughly.

    Apparently there are bylaws in many places saying that you cannot do this on vacant land(yurt or camper) until there is an approved, permitted, permanent, and completed dwelling in place first. ie: we’d have to build a house before being allowed to bring in a yurt?? Have you encountered this or have any ideas about what can be done if that’s the case?

    It seems like it should be allowed in more remote areas, to allow people to see if(and how) they want to build on their land, worse case scenario is you find out it’s not for you and you pack up the yurt and sell the land. Also, specific bylaw information like this is really hard to come by, until it’s being used to tell you stop it seems.

    I’m a bit leary of buying land only to be told I absolutely cannot put a yurt on it, house first. It’s not as cut and dry or as simple to figure out as it should be in my opinion.


    • Ron & Johanna Melchiore says:

      Hi John,

      I have no experience with yurts. You are probably aware we lived in an expedition tent for almost a year while we built our home here without any problems. But as you note, there are plenty of rules, regulations and bylaws. In my opinion, a person that owns land should be able to throw a yurt or tent up for some period of time unless it becomes a disruption, health or safety issue for those that might live around them. The same for a more permanent living abode.

      I have a couple of thoughts on the topic though. A person can be open and upfront or just do it and wrestle later if it becomes an issue. In our case, we selected an economically depressed area and county to settle in. The thought was that government officials would be easier to work with, more flexible, reasonable and willing to at least listen to our proposals. It is in the counties interest in getting people to settle in the area. We would bypass any area that is so rigid they won’t listen and consider ideas that are unconventional.

      Choice 1 is to stop in the town or county office and be upfront with them. We are considering moving and building a home in this area but we’d like to live in a commercial, well built yurt (or whatever) for X amount of time or as a permanent home. I’d make sure I preempt every objection they might throw out with well thought out answers. Such as: we will get our water from here, we will deal with our gray water in this manner, We will have a composting toilet or outhouse for sewage etc etc. We own our property, desire to make this area our home for the long term and before we spend a lot of money, we want to experience the weather, confirm there are jobs for us, have a chance to design a home that is environmentally in tune with the area etc etc. You can kind of get the idea I’m driving at. The gist is this: when dealing with town or County officials, they need to get confidence in you and your plans that you are sincere, know what you are doing, are competent and will be good members of the community. You want to allay any concerns they have preemptively by having a well thought out game plan.

      Choice 2 is to fly under the radar and do it. I do not advocate either choice. Simply laying out what choices people have. If the property is owned and especially located in a remote area, I’m an independent guy and I’d like to think I legally have the right to set up a tent, RV, yurt etc to live on my property in peace as long as I do it in an environmentally safe manner that causes no disturbance to neighbors. If someone objects, then all the info in choice 1 applies. This is our long term plan, this is how we are dealing with this issue and that issue and we are in the process of designing our home and are getting estimates for this and that… and this is our home, we have no other place to go, we are supporting the area and local business with our purchases…again you can see the logic of how the arguments and justification go.

      It definitely pays to check out the areas a person is considering settling to. Check out weather and climate statistics, tax rates, copies of zoning laws, soil and water quality in the area, employment, proximity to neighbors and local industry that might be noisy. Just some thoughts on the topic. Good luck!

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