About Those Historic Cisterns

Questions and answers relating to houses built in the 1800s and before.

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mr Henry
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Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2011 7:14 am

Re: About Those Historic Cisterns

Post by mr Henry »

Well Eden... Yesterday the hardwired smoke/CO2 censor went off because of high humidity levels in the basement! It had been dry as a bone around here and when we got some heavy rain I discovered a plugged drain tile. I used water to level stone dust when I laid a patio and to keep a foundation wall damp before and after pointing. I gave in and turned on the dehumidifier. I resist running it because I can hear it upstairs, not to mention the electricity consumption. One thing that fascinated me about that well in the picture I posted is that its water level becomes higher than my basement floor. Has anyone out there had any respiratory issues in regards to a heavily humid environment?? I spoke with a woman who owned an 1812 Cobblestone and she said she sneezes and coughs ever since she moved in...

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Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2008 11:50 am
Location: Hampstead, MD

Re: About Those Historic Cisterns

Post by Eden »

"One thing that fascinated me about that well in the picture I posted is that its water level becomes higher than my basement floor."

Well, that's my problem! Mine doesn't hold water, it leaks into the basement, lol, but I'm going to do get some gutter work done first and then tackle the cistern issue. Maybe my cistern needs a plug where it leaks out of the hole in the wall? Wouldn't that be a simple fix, lol!

I can smell the dampness upstairs each time I come into the house, terrible.
OHW Member since 1999

1912 Gordon-Van Tine House Plan #122
"Be The Change You Want to see in the World," Ghandi

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Re: About Those Historic Cisterns

Post by dcwalin »

Hi! I'm new to this forum so I may be asking questions that have already been answered but I haven't been able to find the information I was looking for.

We have a brick building that was built in 1901. It has always been a commercial building, an old grocery store, offices, barber shop, and who knows what else. It has an old cistern in the back yard area about 6' or so from the building. From what we can tell it was filled by rainwater from the roof by a downspout. There is a pipe coming into the basement that attached to a pump to bring water into the building. The downspout no longer feeds water into it, but it still fills with water with heavy rains. I am guessing that water is coming in from the ground through the sides somehow? It appears to be a "jug" shaped cistern with a brick dome at the top and the lower section looks to be coated with mortar. After receiving almost 10" of rain in a little more than 2 days, the cistern was practically full and water was coming into the basement through a small (3/4"-1") hole in the very bottom corner of the basement wall. (in line with where the cistern is located) We ended up with approx. 4" of water in a basement that measures 22' x 60'.

I need to make this stop asap! Spring is coming and with it a lot of rain. Does anyone know if there is a way to tell if that water is coming in from the cistern somehow? An overflow or something? I have been told to fill the cistern with sand, flowable concrete, etc., but if that's not the cause, I don't really want to spend the money to filling it. The basement floor is dirt so the water seeps into the floor but I can't have all that moisture and water down there.

Thank you for any thoughts you might have on this.....

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Joined: Wed Feb 28, 2018 7:30 am

Re: About Those Historic Cisterns

Post by OliviaWatson »

Nice discussion!! I am glad that I found this kind of forum community :) :)

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Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2021 6:23 am

Re: About Those Historic Cisterns

Post by Shebeann »

this is all very good info but I still havc some questions.i have a cistern then five to seven feet away I have what I believe is a well. All stone and bricks both of them under my floors in kitchen and back porchway. Idk what to do with the well I got the down spouts unhooked so cistern stopped filling up so much and I got it pumped out except for three or four inches of water ,and the well...,well that's a deep subject. Lol it can't be pumped out it just keeps filling up. There's a pipe in the well I can't reach it's about eight to ten feet inside of it.im just not sure what to do with the well like can I use it for laundry and cleaning ? Maybe even flushing toilet? My basement is a wreck it's got rock foundation river rock and some dirt floor and a hill and some concrete it's a mess we just bought this place and don't know what the heck to do!!

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