Indications of Water Problems
One of the first things that you might notice that indicates you have possible moisture issues will be a musty smell in the basement. This can be your first clue that a bigger problem exists or is coming. Other indicators of moisture-related problems are:
Seepage Through Basement Walls and Floors
One of the most common and troubling sources of water in a basement is seepage through the basement walls and floors – usually during and after heavy rains. The leaks can come from moisture permeating through the walls, or from water freely passing through cracks in the foundation. Below ground leaks often end up with saturated carpets and rugs or standing water on the floor. These problems can be the most frustrating for a homeowner to fix. But, they can be much less daunting if you understand how the leaks happen.
A common problem is poor grading around the foundation of your home. The soil placed right next to the foundation walls is normally not as well compacted as the rest of the soil, so this creates a zone where water can flow more freely into the ground next to your house, and store more water because the soil is not as densely compacted. This area that is not as well compacted will settle over time, reducing the slope away from the house. Some homeowners might excavate around the foundation for a garden or other landscaping, which can create an area where water cannot freely flow away from the house. These are all sources of water in the ground next to the foundation, which can lead to water in your basement.
Roof drainage is another source that can add a significant amount of water along your foundation. Roofs with no or clogged gutters discharge a lot of water right next to the house, and gutters with missing or damaged downspouts can do the same. Much of this water can seep into the soil surrounding the house and end up in your basement, especially if you have inadequate drainage away from the house.
Surface drainage repairs can reduce or eliminate many basement water problems. The ground should be sloped at 1 inch per foot, or steeper, for the first 5-10 feet away from the foundation and continuously sloped away from the house beyond that. When grading around the house, make sure to maintain a separation from the soil and any non-concrete wall surfaces to prevent other problems. If there is a garden or landscaping, there should be a way for water to escape and flow away from the house. Keep your gutters clear and the discharge downspouts should be at least 5 feet away from the house, directed to a location where the flow will continue to drain away from the house.
If improvements to the surface drainage around your house don’t do the job, a subsurface drainage system may be needed. The most effective, but also most expensive, is to install drain tile system around the exterior of the foundation. The drain tile is connected to a pump to discharge the water away from the house.
An interior drain tile, installed under the basement floor around the perimeter of the foundation, is another effective means of removing the water from your basement. This system is installed by breaking through the concrete floor around the perimeter of the basement and installing the drain tile with a bedding of washed rock. The drain tile is connected to a sump which has a pump to discharge the water away from your house.
Simple humidity can be a significant source of moisture in basements. A major source of indoor humidity is open windows letting in the moist summer air. Indoor humidity also comes from cooking, showers, humidifiers, or unvented driers. The hot, humid air condenses on cold water plumbing, and colder walls and floors. A full-time operating dehumidifier can significantly reduce the humidity. Other methods of reducing that humidity are installing or repairing any leaks in dryer vent pipes, running bathroom or kitchen fans when showering or cooking, and reducing or eliminating the use of humidifiers in the summer.
Plumbing leaks can be another source of water in the basement. Plumbing leaks can come from water supply or wastewater pipes, faucets, appliances, or sinks or tubs. Two common plumbing leaks in homes are tile showers and the water and ice maker connections for the refrigerator. It is important to repair the leak or replace the defective item after you have figured out where its coming from. Even if you need to cut a hole in the wall or ceiling somewhere, a prompt repair of a plumbing leak can save you from much bigger problems in the future.
Leaks from Above
Exterior above grade walls can leak where the wall covering is damaged or deteriorated, or along wall penetrations. Wall penetrations include anything that is installed through a hole in the siding, such as doors, windows, electrical conduits, or vents. Water can also leak through masonry siding such as brick or stucco. These leaks may seep through the wall and run down the exterior wall, presenting themselves by the presence of stains or drips near the top of the block basement walls.
Leaks in the walls need to be addressed from the source of the leak. Leaks around windows or other wall penetrations can often be repaired with some exterior caulk or sealant around the opening. These leaks can sometimes be easily identified by the condition of the existing sealant. Always completely remove the old sealant if you are repairing the caulk and make sure to completely seal the opening.
Leaking brick walls can be repaired by replacing any damaged bricks, or a job called tuck pointing to repair deteriorated masonry in the joints between bricks. Small cracks in stucco can be repaired with a mixture of sand and exterior caulk and finished with a paint to closely match the existing surface. Larger holes in stucco need to be repaired with new stucco and painted to match the existing walls. For the usual micro-cracks that most masonry products have, there are several sealant products that can be sprayed or brushed on that can seal the small seepage pathways in the walls.
Cracked or damaged aluminium, vinyl or wood siding can be replaced one piece at a time or can be patched with sealants or matching materials. The patch, even if it is the exact same product and color as the original installation, is likely to not be an exact match due to the weathering on the siding on your house that has been exposed to the elements for a period of time.
Moisture in your basement can first appear to be a daunting problem but is often remedied with much less expense or effort that you might expect. If you have a water issue, the first step is to determine where it is coming from. You can come up with a game plan after determining the source. It is important to address these leaks as soon as possible after they are identified to prevent other, more costly and significant, damages. If you have a drip or leak and are having a hard time figuring out where it is coming from, give us a call at (612) 325-5131 – we would be happy to help you protect your investment.