Water in your basement?


Is there standing water in your basement? One of the most common issues in homes is basement leakage. Though leaks seldom cause structural harm, water in the basement can be a major annoyance and often causes damage to interior finishes and stored products. Furthermore, odors caused by mold, mildew, and a lack of ventilation can be especially offensive to some people and even trigger allergic reactions in some.

During a single visit, it is not always possible to determine the magnitude and frequency of leaks in wet basements. There may or may not be signs of previous dampness in the basement. Even if the signs are visible, they do not always indicate the magnitude or frequency of the leaks.

One of the most common defects discovered during an inspection is basement water leakage. It’s also one of the easiest to avoid. Basement water leakage is often caused by poor exterior grading, settled/cracked or poorly sloped exterior paved surfaces, a lack of gutters, or a combination of these factors. Often, the solution is as easy as fixing one of the deficiencies mentioned above.

Troubleshooting Water Issues

Identifying the cause of basement water problems is the first step in diagnosing the problem.

Bad soils may intensify a flow of water from run-off, rain, lot drainage, and other sources. The top four feet of soil are usually affected by this form of water issue. This is referred to as a “external water source.”

Water from high water levels, streams, and other sources can be compounded by poor soils. This form of water issue can stretch all the way down to the basement floor level. This is referred to as a “external water source.”

Other Water – This term encompasses all other possible sources of water, whether within or outside (i.e. condensation due to temperature differences, inside plumbing leakage, outside plumbing leakage, etc.). This may be a “external water source” or a “internal water source.”

Start by asking yourself the following questions: “How long would it take for the leak to show up?” Is it just visible after heavy rains or does it appear every time it rains? Is the leakage normally limited to a single location? Is it possible to connect this area to an external source (such as a window well, a badly sloped road, etc.)?

A leaking water line inside a basement wall, sewer backup through a floor drain causing basement flooding, condensation on water pipes & walls during summer months, all can make a localized area very wet. This can easily be mistaken for basement leakage.

Look for some of the signs that indicate leakage. They can indicate what type of problem you are having and can also help in locate the source of leakage. Some typical indicators are:

Carpet Dampness/Staining – Indicates previous leakage. Determine when this happens and where it occurs in the basement.

Efflorescence is a whitish mineral deposit that can be seen on masonry surfaces in many cases.

Water seeping through the wall is the most common cause.

Mold/Mildew – Found on or near an area that has been exposed to prolonged moisture, allowing mold to develop. Frequently associated with a foul odor.

Rust Stains – Rust stains appear on concrete floors and carpets, typically as a result of rusted metal furniture feet. Rusty nails on baseboards, electrical boxes, and other surfaces are all signs of previous moisture.

Wood that has been stained or darkened may have been soaked up by water due to a leak.

Dampness/Staining Around Floor Cracks – This may mean that water is pushing itself up through the cracks as a result of pressure, water table, or other factors.

Water Bugs – Look for tiny insects along baseboards, behind sofas, in corners, and other places. Some insects prefer to live in wet environments.

If you’ve figured out where the leak is coming from, you can start working on fixing it.

The most common cause of leaky basements is poor external grading along the perimeter of the foundation walls. Surface water should flow “away” from a house, not accumulate and pool adjacent to the foundation walls, as common sense dictates. A 1-to-1 slope relationship is a strong “rule of thumb.” To put it another way, there should be at least 6-8 inches of slope away from the base walls for the first 6-8 feet.