Unfinished basements can easily be the most intimidating part of the house with their cold, often uneven concrete floors, exposed wiring, and mysterious holes in the ground. These mystery holes don’t have to be a total mystery, though.
It is necessary to differentiate between different types of holes that can be found in the basement, understand their function—if they have one, and how they can be sealed. Once this is discovered, it may make the basement a little less intimidating.
The hole in a basement floor could be a functional or old and non-functional drain. It may also be a current or previous sump pit. Some basements have holes with roughed-in plumbing. Weaknesses in the floor can result in holes over time.
Unfinished Basements Have Drainage Holes
A possibility for the function and type of hole in your basement floor is that it is a drainage hole.
Since basements are usually the dampest floor of the home, as well as the one most likely to flood first, drainage holes are often necessary. Drainage holes are also important for the collection of excess water from baths, sinks, toilets, and other home items that may flood.
Drainage holes can be identified by the slope of the ground around them. To allow more water to easily enter the drainage hole, sloping of the ground around it is fairly important. It is usually topped with a small metal grate as well.
The hole should go fairly deep since it has to collect in a reservoir before being transported by the sump pump to the surface or to a storm drain.
If the reservoir was close to the surface, it would fill up fairly quickly, and flooding would still occur. This defeats the whole purpose of a drainage hole.
When finishing a basement, these drainage holes are often converted into a shower drain.
Old Basements Have Non-Functional Drains
Age leads to an increased likelihood of systems malfunctioning. As basements age, their drainage system ages as well and may cease to function. Alternatively, new technology and techniques result in older drainage systems becoming obsolete.
If you live in an older house, a hole in your basement might be an old, no longer functional drain. These will probably look very similar to the drains mentioned in the previous section, with a few differences.
Firstly, they will probably be drier as the draining function will be carried out by newer systems. Secondly, you may see signs that someone tried to fill the hole in or cover it at some point. Sometimes, the holes will be filled with gravel as older basement drains were often French-style drains.
Sump Pump Pit
If the hole in your basement is considerably larger than what a drainage hole would look like, is at the lowest point in your basement, does not have a slope in the ground around it, and the hole is not too deep and is lined metal, this is most likely a sump pump pit.
A sump pump pit collects excess water from flooding or storms from your home and sends it away from your home’s foundation. A sump pit is integral to the maintenance of your home if you live in an area that receives large amounts of rain.
When the sump pump pit reaches a certain level of water, the sump pump activates and redirects the water in the pit away from the house. If you hear loud, mechanical noises in your basement during a storm, it is most likely your sump pump.
It could also be an old sump pump pit that has not been filled in. This is more likely to be a mysterious hole than one which still has the functioning sump pump pit in it.
However, if you are new to the USA or you have very little experience with basements, then you might not recognize the working sump pump setup.
Location of Roughed in Drain Pipe for Plumbing
Rough-in plumbing is a process that is like the rough draft of your project. Basic framing is installed, but the endpoints such as toilets, showers, etc., have not been installed.
If a hole in your basement does not fit the descriptions of a basement drain or a sump pump pit and looks like an end element to a plumbing fixture, the hole may be an endpoint to rough-in plumbing.
If this is a new home and you are not sure why there is half-finished plumbing here, it may be a project of the previous owner’s that was never finished.
Especially since basements are often unfinished, in the original construction of the home, plans may have been made to create a bathroom space, but the space was never finished.
Rather than a plumbing project that was never finished, the rough-in plumbing may have been finished, but the fixtures were removed or repositioned. The rough-in plumbing holes you see may be from a previous location, while the current and in-use plumbing is in a different location.
You might not always see the pipes sticking up from the ground. They may even be covered with a layer of sand in the hole, but a bit of digging will uncover them.
Weak Spot in Flooring/Ground
If the hole in your basement floor is not very deep, is fairly small, is of an irregular shape, and has cracks around it, this is most likely a weak spot in the foundations that led to cracking and then a hole forming.
There are several reasons why weak spots can form in a basement floor.
- They can form from the foundation settling after initial construction, especially if the foundation is laid poorly or if the water table has changed over time beneath your home.
- Sometimes, the installation of a basement causes the formation of a false water table, which can lead to water seeping through the floor. This will increase humidity in the basement and can degrade the basement floor.
- They can also form from the expansion of the soil beneath your foundation. This is more common with soils that have a high clay content. If the problem is the expanding of soil, then heaving will take place, leading to cracking where some portions of the concrete are rising.
Heaving is not a good situation, and a professional foundation repair contractor must be called in this situation.
If the cracks around the hole indicate sinking instead of heaving, the foundation must then be leveled and the hole should be filled. This project can be undertaken by yourself or by a professional.
If the cracks around the hole are just hairline cracks, they are completely natural and do not need to be fixed. The cracks can be left alone and the hole can be filled.
Some Basement Floor Holes Are a Mystery
What if the hole in your basement doesn’t sound like any of the holes described above? Fear not, it is not rare at all for holes in the basement to be a mystery.
If you go on any home-related forum, it is very likely to have at least one person respond that they have a similar conundrum.
Mysterious holes in the basement are especially common in older homes since they have gone through decades upon decades of wear and tear, upgrades, and remodels that can lead to many problems, such as these inexplicable holes.
Should I Block up the Hole?
If the basement hole serves a purpose, it is not wise or necessary to block up the hole. This would be if they are drainage holes, sump pump pits, or rough-in plumbing end elements that are still functional.
If the hole fills with water at any point, then it is also a bad idea to block the hole until you figure out why (if it is not the basement drain).
If the rough-in plumbing elements are not functional and will not be used as a basis for plumbing in the future, the hole can be blocked. This goes for sump pump pits that are no longer in use, as well as weak spots in the foundation.
It is wise for these to be sealed to prevent any seepage of water into your basement. Sealing them also removes a potential tripping hazard. It is also good to seal holes to improve the look of your basement.
If you have a mystery hole, it is wise to call a professional so that they can assess whether the hole has a function as well as give advice on if the hole should be filled.
Options/Tips for Blocking Non-Functional Holes
When you are 100% sure that the hole you’d like to block is non-functional, it is a fairly simple process to block a hole in your basement’s floor. The process shared below is a fairly quick fix and is my recommendation for filling nonfunctional holes in your basement.
The first step would be to use a hammer and chisel to break apart and remove the loose surrounding concrete.
Then, these broken pieces must be removed. Large pieces can be removed with your hands and smaller ones can be removed with a vacuum.
To ensure that no loose particles remain, soak a sponge in warm water and clean the hole and surrounding area. Wait for the entire area to dry.
A concrete adhesive must be bought for this project. I recommend the Sikaflex Self Leveling Sealant, which you can get with the below link, for its high ratings in ease of use.
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Be sure to read the directions and then apply the adhesive to the inside of the hole.
You must also buy a concrete patch mixture for this project. Red Devil Pre-Mixed Concrete Patch is a good option. It has high ratings in solidity and drying quickly.
- REPAIRS CRACKS AND BREAKS IN CONCRETE: Premixed formula makes repairs easy
- DRIES A LIGHT TO MEDIUM GRAY COLOR: Ideal for lighter shades of concrete
- WON'T SHRINK OR CRACK: Provides maximum flexibility for a permanent repair
- INTERIOR OR EXTERIOR USE: Can be used inside or outside
Last update on 2023-12-03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Read the directions of your concrete patch mixture and then mix the material according to the directions.
Next, fill the hole with this mixture and use a 2×4 post to level it. You can also use your trowel to smooth the surface of the now-filled hole.
Give this concrete mixture at least 24 hours to dry and cure, and you’re all done.