Regular rain and snowfall can cause basement problems, especially if you haven't performed regular basement maintenance. But when the rain pours down for weeks upon end, previously dry basements can become damp and moldy. In some extreme circumstances, your basement can even flood, forcing you to make major, costly repairs and exposing your family to dangerous mold and mildew. You don't have to live next to the Mississippi river to experience the horrors of a flood. Fortunately, you can take steps to identify and repair these basement issues before they cause extreme damage.
Basement Trouble Signs
Some basement water signs are subtle while others are glaringly obvious. You have a moisture problem if your basement has a continuous musty smell. Even though it's located underground, your basement should not smell earthy. If yours does, you need to search for other signs of leakage. These include:
- Water stains by the floor - Look behind furniture and other items to check for these tell-tale marks.
- Efflorescence - Search for a white or gray substance on your walls. When water dries, it can leave behind this salty residue.
- Spalling - When water gets inside hard materials such as brick, stone or concrete, it can cause the surface to flake away.
- Mold - While mold comes in many colors, including black, green and yellow, it's always a bad sign to have it in your basement. If you suspect that you have mold in your home, you need to have the situation analyzed by an expert.
Before buying a home, you need to look for signs of past water trouble, including the presence of a sump pump or dehumidifiers.
What You Need to Know
A wet or damp basement affects your home's value as well as your family's comfort and health. No one wants to spend time in a musty home, and mold can cause major health issues including respiratory problems. Plus, the moisture can ruin your window sills, warp your doors and spoil your carpets and furnishings. Your wet basement may even warp the floors above it. Fortunately, you can take steps to correct your water problem. If you are uncertain of the cause, a home inspector with expertise in such issues will be able to help.
Problems and Solutions
Your basement water comes from either condensation, groundwater or runoff.
Condensation is the easier problem to deal with since a good dehumidifier should take care of the dampness. Of course, some people try to battle bigger problems with a dehumidifier, which simply won't work. You should make certain that your dryer is properly vented outside and that you do not store any wet or damp items in the basement. You can also prevent damage by using a waterproofing material on the interior masonry walls.
If your water problem is caused by runoff, or water pouring off your house or other places after it rains or snows, you need to make certain that your gutters are free of leaves and other debris and that your downspouts are carrying the water far enough away from your home's foundation. You can repair most cracks in your basement walls with masonry caulk or hydraulic cement. If the leaks continue, though, you will need to call in professional help.
If high groundwater is causing your problems, then you will need a professional to address the issue. You may need a sump pump and an interior or exterior drainage system. These are expensive but necessary steps to fight off groundwater issues.
Preventing Problems in the First Place
Keep Your Basement Dry
If at all possible, keeping your basement dry in the first place is the best option. First, make certain that you are buying a dry home. A proper home inspection can determine the true state of the basement. Next, apply a waterproofing product to the inside walls if they are masonry. Check to make certain that your yard slopes a bit away from your home so that water will be carried away after a rain. Keep your gutters clean and your downspouts clear. And never ignore possible signs of water trouble. It will not go away on its own, and the longer you delay dealing with it, the more damage it will cause. In extreme instances, you can end up with a weakened foundation, which will cost a daunting amount of money to fix.
Identify Water Sources Before They Cause Damage
Basements are not supposed to be wet, although many are. If yours is musty or damp, look for the water sources. In some instances, you can easily correct the problem yourself. If you have more severe water issues, you will need to hire a professional. A wet basement devalues your home and can risk your health. You can't afford to ignore it.
Inspect Before You Buy
If you’re buying a home with a basement and want to make sure it’s been properly maintained, click here to find a WIN Home Inspection expert near you, and one of our expertly trained home inspectors can assist you. Alternatively, call (800) 309-6753 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our experts will contact you promptly.