A wet basement can be just a nuisance or even real nightmare. Each year, thousands of homeowners are faced with the unpleasant side effects of seasonal rainfall. Problems they can face range from just dampness to even flooding. Chronic basement leakage is a serious problem that can destroy personal property, furnishings, appliances, and sometimes even cause permanent structural damage to a homes foundation. Excessive moisture is a huge attraction to wood-eating insects, wood rot and decay. Despite the pervasiveness of the problem, few homeowners are aware of the causes of water leakage.
One common cause of basement leakage is improper surface drainage, such as a yard sloped toward the home. In many cases, the problem can be greatly alleviated by re-grading the yard to slope away from the homes foundation or diverting surface water around the house.
Other common culprits include poorly positioned rain gutter downspouts, missing, leaking or clogged rain gutters. A downspout that is improperly positioned to drain against the side of the house, allows water to build up along the foundation wall, until the backed-up “reservoir” finds a weak spot in the foundation wall.
The most difficult cause of basement leakage is a high water table. A high water table problem occurs when the home is built too deeply in the ground, into the level where water remains constant throughout the year. A high water table problem can also be caused by under ground springs or sustained periods of rainfall that cause the water table to rise during the wet seasons.
Is it Leakage or Condensation?
You should try to determine if your problem is actually water “leaking” in or if it’s just condensation forming on the cool surfaces. Condensation occurs when warm, humid air comes into contact with cooler basement walls, floors, water pipes etc.
As an example, just take a cold bottle of soda out of your refrigerator and set it on the counter. After several minutes, you’ll notice steam forming on the outside of the bottle. After many minutes pass, you will see a small puddle of water forming at the base of the bottle, as the beads of moisture start dripping down. This is a classic example of condensation, not “leakage”. If your basement is actually leaking, the water should not just “appear”. You should be able to see where it’s coming in as it leaks, in the form of a puddle or stream or water.
Your rain gutters should be cleaned of leaves and debris at least once per year. Downspouts should direct water runoff from the roof to a discharge point at least several feet away from the homes foundation. Use a splash block at the end of your downspout to avoid soil erosion. Never bury your downspout lines unless you can empty them out to daylight.
Buy a good dehumidifier to lower the natural humidity level in your basement. Make sure your dehumidifier is the proper size for your basement. Ask for a drain hose attachment so you don’t have to empty the water collected every day. Get a unit with a built-in de-icer. Dehumidifiers are actually refrigeration coils and can freeze up and stop working. Keep the doors and windows to your basement closed, year round. Opened doors and windows allow extra humidity to enter your basement, causing condensation. Your dehumidifier will also run less.
Waterproofing Paints and Sealers There are several good waterproofing paints and sealers on the market today. Waterproof paints and sealers can work well for minor dampness on walls and floors. Pay special attention to the preparation instructions from the products manufacturer. Be aware though, interior waterproof paints and sealers don’t do anything to alleviate the “source” of the problem.
Time For a Professional?
A professional basement waterproofing contractor can offer you a variety of solutions, depending on the source of your problem. Methods can include outside excavation, installation of drain tile, parging your walls, interior drainage systems or epoxy cove systems
Prevention is always the first and best approach. Look closely at the grading around your property and make sure your rain gutters are in good working order. Get a good quality dehumidifier to reduce humidity in your basement.
If you’ve done your best to correct your problem and it still leaks, it might be best to bring in a professional. Check companies for local references, ask for a certificate of insurance, check the companies warranty to see what’s covered and check them out with your local Better Business Bureau.
Robert Clarke has owned B-Dry System NEPA, a basement waterproofing company, for the last 20 years. Visit http://www.b-drybasementswaterproofingnepennsylvania.com for more information. He has also served as President of the B-Dry Owners Association, a nationally recognized group of basement waterproofing contractors. Visit http://www.b-dry.com/ for details.
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