Backfill and the history of Basement Flooding in the Bunker Hill area of Boston, MA

Basement waterproofing in the Bunker Hill area of Boston is on the rise. Much of this is due to the way that the land was moved and created in Bunker Hill during the population growth through the 1800s and 1900s.


The actual Bunker Hill that was spoken about in the revolutionary war was broken down, bit-by-bit, and used to form land in places that were, up till then, marsh or bay.  One Sixth of the land in Boston has been formed this way to accommodate the in flow of new families industry and commerce.


With homes sitting on man made land basement waterproofing in Boston has become a growing concern in the Bunker Hill area. Loose back fill, or loose soil, used to make these large plots of land from the original Bunker Hill, is still in the process of compacting. Settling and shifting have occurred and houses have paid for it as water has found its way into their basements and cellars. Mix this together with stone foundations and you have a recipe for wet basements in Boston.


“Homes in this area of Boston are sitting in more water than normal. Because the soil around the foundations is still loose, water easily sits and gathers in these areas close to the bay.” Steve Andras, President of Pioneer Basement, “We get a lot of calls in this area because of the poor basement drainage.  People don’t have the proper protection for their basements in this area.”

Loose soil invites the water to settle around home foundations. In this back fill, especially in places with high water table such as near the shoreline, have a harder time removing the water away from homes.


“With this added amount of water it takes only a small amount of rain fall to force people to have wet basements. Basement Waterproofing is especially needed in areas like these. Mold and mildew are just the tip of the iceberg when dealing with a constantly wet basement. It is important to realize that there are solutions out there to help you control the water and not let the water control you.


Interested in getting an inspection done of your basement: Call Pioneer Basement at

1-800-649-6140 or visit them online at

Is living in the basement healthy?

That’s a pretty standard question for people to have when looking at converted basement spaces. The non-biased answer is “it can be healthy.”

The all important counter question is “has the basement been prepared for basement finishing?”

What does this mean?

Having your basement prepared prior to conversion into any apartment is a very simple process that can be done by a company that specializes in basement waterproofing. Pioneer Basement has been helping to prepare spaces in water rich areas like Boston, Fall River and Wakefield Rhode Island for over 25 years.

Basements all have the same possibility to get wet because of the ways that basements are designed and constructed. Moisture control, air circulation and filtration and mold resistant materials used to build the space are all necessary parts to having a healthy basement converted apartment.

Moisture control

is essential for maintaining a standard, livable, and comfortable amount of humidity in the basement. It also is designed for ultimate leak, flooding, and seepage protection for the basement. Without moisture control you’re automatically forcing everything in your basement to come into contact with moisture as vapor and as liquid through leaks, seepage, flooding or other infiltration.

Air circulation and filtration

can be taken care of with a professionally installed Santa Fe Dehumidifier system. It forces warm air into the space to stir and filter air to reinstitute it into the basement space. It’ll leave you with better smelling air, relative humidity control, moisture control, forced air circulation and air stabilization. Not having healthy air to breath is the second major problem that then helps to lower your defenses to other elements facilitated by not having moisture control. With a weaker immune system your body is more susceptible to effects of mold, mildew, and other air born bi-products of hazards that come with standing water and excess moisture.

The last major part

of a successful of a properly converted basement space is the materials that are used to build the walls and the fixtures installed in the space. If they are designed to resist mold and mildew, sagging, and rotting, you defend further against the negative implications of moisture build up.

Once the air circulation and filtration, moisture and water control are both installed you might ask yourself “why should I worry about mold at this point?” You’re right to ask yourself this. Other things can cause leaks, basement water, or excess moisture in your basement. A common occurrence is pipe bursting in the ceiling or on a floor above yours. By having walls, ceilings and floors that are all designed to resist water damage makes not only the clean up easier but it also ensures that the aftermath of such events isn’t followed with rotting joists, moldy dry wall, or water-logged floor boards.

Stepping Out Basement Repair Projects.

Basement waterproofing, foundation repair, and other basement projects tend to be “reactionary” rather than preventive projects.

When you get water in your basement, you want to stop it. When you notice a crack, with or without water, you want to patch it up. However, it’s hard to imagine an easy solution when you suddenly are assaulted by a foot of water in your basement. This is not a problem that many people are pre-programmed to handle.

Most basements are subject to some amount of water over the course of their lifetime. When faced with a basement-waterproofing project, some homeowners feel overwhelmed and pressured to get it done all at once. If you’re under tight budgets but still want to do the right thing, there are ways to step out the project to make it easier for you to pay for as well as to get the protection you need or want in your basement.

Firstly there has to be a sump pump installed. This central hub will be able to connect to drains later on if so needed. Having the sump pump installed can help to combat under-floor water pressure, and water coming over the footer. It cannot protect you from wall leaks or water that seeps up onto the floor from the wall/footing cold joint. This is a good first step if you’re tight on money but need to act.

Secondly, a dehumidifier could be installed. Dehumidifiers naturally work best with wall protection, however, once you have a sump pump and basin installed you have a natural drain point for the dehumidifier to work with. Circulation and filtration of the air in the basement can help you dry out faster and help to generate healthy air to breath in the upstairs.

Third step would be to introduce drain and vapor barrier at the same time. You can get the rest of the project done at this point, or again step it out to a “by foot” or gradual installation. Your basement isn’t fully protected without these two elements and until your basement is entirely protected most basement waterproofing companies won’t sign off on suggesting having your basement finished. This third phase can take as many steps as you feel necessary to complete the job.

So here you had a very easy 3-step solution of how to break down your basement waterproofing projects. Your basement waterproofing project manager wants to help you receive the protection you need while still allowing you the flexibility to follow through on the project the way that fits best for your schedule and budget.

*Please take note* that this entry is only here to ease your worries about having a “oh god, i have to do it all at once and spend how much?!” You can take the steps in any amount that you want too.

Prioritizing Household Repairs

With any home improvement project comes a desire to do a fantastic job, save money, and get it done quickly. With home repairs stacking up for many homeowners it’s hard to prioritize and start on their seemingly endless list of “things to do around the home.”

When it comes to DIY or buying a home you’re interested in, I suggest the following “flow of action” to my clients:

1.) Foundation
2.) Roof
3.) Septic Lines/Tanks
4.) Chimney (if you have one)

Now I put foundation first because it’s the stability for the rest of the home and more often than not, problems that are over looked in the basement can cause problems in the rest of the floors, walls, and ceilings and yes, even the roof. Once the basement and foundation are taken care of, having the roof inspected and or updated is a suggestion. Not all roofs have to be updated, but it’s a good idea, just like with the basement, to hire a keen eye to inspect and make recommendations. You might be lucky and still have another glorious 5-20 years on your roof that you currently own.

Most homes today have septic lines that connect to town or city sewage lines. A quick call to a plumber or a check in with your town hall can uncover any previous problems with your septic situation. Doing this could keep your system updated, cleaned and causing less of an odor problem. Having a clear septic line can keep the line clear, flowing, and prevent any back ups into the home.

If you have a chimney, re-pointing the bricks and mortar can save costly repairs down the road. Maintaining the stability of a very tall, heavy pile of bricks is essential for future landscaping projects (I don’t know about you, but having 2 tons of bricks fall on me, isn’t my idea of fun.) More often than not chimneys are some how connected to or resting on the foundation of the home. Which is why, again, I always recommend starting home improvements in the basement.

Once you’ve tackled the safety and stability of your home then all the other projects on your list can be tackled in groups or one by one. Updates and renovations are fun, but if you’re planning on putting money into your home focus down onto the basics and reestablish stability and safety first.

Moldy Rug in your Basement; what do I do?

When dealing with any style of mold the first thing to do would be to throw out the object(s) that is supporting the mold; in this case the rug. Letting anything sit and decompose because of mold isn’t healthy. The mold that will grow on that rug adds many pounds of allergens to the air each day.

Second thing to do would be to scrub down the floor with a mop using a 50/50 mix of bleach to water and let dry.

Whenever you work around mold, whether you’re sensitive to mold or not, make sure to wear proper eye, hand and clothing protection in order to not let your skin or eyes become irritated. If your skin does come into direct contact with mold, make sure to wash your skin with soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds.

Thirdly, this is the time to have a very thorough basement inspection. Ask yourself: where is the water/moisture coming into the basement? Am I running a dehumidifier to help filter the air and regulate the RH (relative humidity) in the basement? What other organic objects (boxes, bookshelves, wood, clothing, paper, etc.) is down here that might be feeding the mold?

By removing all the mold food you can easily gain control back of your basement. But don’t neglect the basement because of one small rug being moldy. This rug was a definite sign of issues in your basement that needed to be handled.

Contact your local basement-waterproofing expert in order to fully control any and all moisture in your basement. Controlling the moisture is a sure way to limit and even eliminate the mold content of your basement.

New Electrical Standards Laws in Mass. (MA)

A new construction code was just announced to go on the books for January 2009. Many contractors are implementing the new code now in order to be ahead for the New Year.

The new code states that all electrical outlets must have a GFI (Ground Fault Interrupter). The code stated up until recently that these only needed to be installed in areas 8’ from any water source, so you might already have them installed in your kitchen. However, this new code is helping to update old construction and start new construction in the right direction.

GFIs are naturally very sensitive. A reset button is located between the duel outlets. This is easily pushed back in to reset that outlet. The GFI helps to eliminate tripped circuits by catching the surge at the source. This will help you maintain power in a long line with 8 outlets with only 1 outlet being shut down due to the GFI being activated. You can still have power in this example in the other 7.

This is all the more reason to install a battery back up sump pump system and make sure that your sump pumps have alarms,” Says Mike Oliveira from Pioneer Basement Waterproofing. “Having a sensitive GFI means the outlets can trip easier, leaving you unprotected if you are just running an AC power pump. Not having an alarm on your pump and by not having any notice of a GFI trip you can be without power on that outlet for a long time before you notice.”

For instance, if your TV were to black out by your lamp to stay on, you would know visually that it was the outlet that your TV was plugged into that needs to be reset. How about the basement? If your sump pump or storage refrigerator was plugged in and the GFI tripped, how would you know?

All pumps from Pioneer Basement are sold with a DC2 Switch control box which not only has an audible alarm to let you know it’s not receiving power, but it can also be tied into a home security system. The DC2’s security features are also built right into the Battery Monitoring systems for all of Pioneer’s Battery Back up Sump pumps. By having a battery back up system to start with, even when the GFI trips, your system can still run, function and protect your basement from flooding.

“As far as I know we’re the only company in our area providing this advanced protection for our customers,” Oliveira states.

For more information on the new code regarding GFIs in Mass:
The “Electrical Code” in Massachusetts is 527 CMR 12.00.

Radon Mitigation DIY: Think twice

I’ve had people ask me directly and indirectly if there are mitigation systems for basement radon that they can install themselves.

My final answer is: NO.

Radon is not a joke or a laughing matter. Radon is a serious radioactive substance that can cause major damage to you and your loved ones. If you have a radon problem in your house, have your basement inspected first. Once you test for radon and have your numbers you can compare them here.

    A radon Level of .5-1.0 is acceptable. (.5 is the natural level of radon in air)
    A radon level of 1-2 is considered by the EPA to be “Action Optional.”
    A radon level of 2-4 is considered questionable and should be followed with a serious consideration of having a mitigation system installed.
    A radon level of 4 or higher is dangerous and the EPA suggests that it would be considered mandatory to have a mitigation installed to continue living in that house.

If you’re going to have a living area in your basement for someone to live in, anything above a 1 should draw red flags of caution.

If you have further questions about radon or would like to ask for help in your area you can contact your local Radon Mitigation company or ask us at the Pioneer Basement Forums who we know in your area.

For more links to EPA maps and further conversation on radon: Basement Depot Radon Conversation