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(MCT)—Q: We’ve lived in our house for 18 years (it was built in 1985). Over that time, we’ve had water in the basement four times, but only in extreme weather conditions, such as the hurricane in August. The water each time is about five gallons total, but enough to damage carpeting, cause a musty smell, and possibly cause mold to grow behind the walls.

The water seeps through two walls in the same area, so it is a limited area of exposure. I’ve had two waterproofing contractors tell me that I need a sump pump and drainage ditch installed around the perimeter.

They also indicated that once they dig down through the foundation, we will probably have water come from under the house on a regular basis.

Is this true? Are there alternatives to a sump pump that you can suggest?

A: So what they are saying is that the cure they recommend will cause a permanent problem bigger than the one you started with. Doesn’t sound like a cure at all.

Four times in 18 years, five gallons of water, same place, damaged carpeting.

If the water is coming in the same place, you need to figure out what is on the surface above those walls that might be leading water in heavy rainstorms to find its way into the walls.

Is it poor drainage, with water not going far enough away from the house? If you don’t clean gutters and downspouts regularly, or if you have gutter guards that are covered with sticky pine needles, the water may come pouring over the drain in buckets. This may have resulted in hydrostatic pressure, causing a crack below the surface around the foundation where the water is seeping in.

Did the water problem begin immediately after you moved in, or did it appear a few years after? The builder probably graded the area around the foundation properly, but you may have allowed shrubbery along the perimeter to root too close to the foundation, and the water follows its way down.

It seems to me that the problem may not be as severe as you are being led to believe. I can tell you, too, that although I have perimeter drains and french drains in my basement that take 99.99 percent of the groundwater into the sump, the pressure from the high water table cracks the floor in places.

It’s a fact of life. The water has to go somewhere, but it would be worth your while, before you start paying a king’s ransom to further mess up your basement, to find the source of those five gallons of water.

©2011 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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