Author Archives Kevin Sanders

5 Causes of Leaks in Your Basement & How to Recognize Them

Leaky basements are a common problem most households deal with at one point or another. Taking care of your basement is essential to ensure a healthy home, but most of the time we don’t pay enough attention to that dark, cold area of our house. Basements can potentially become dangerous and inconvenient source of problems that could affect the foundations of your home and ultimately result in costly repairs. High humidity promotes an environment in which mold and mildew could grow and cause allergic reactions in you and your family, and water damage could result in important structural damage and, therefore, greatly reduce your property’s value.

It is crucial for yours and your family’s safety and health to be aware of the water sources that supply your home located inside and around the exterior of the basement, and to be prepared to recognize water damage signs and determine what is causing them. For this reason, we will explain what are the main causes to most water-related problems in basements, and will provide you with a guideline in order to effectively recognize them in a timely manner:

What Causes Leaky Basements?

A basement’s number one enemy is certainly water, since it is responsible for most problems found in them and could cause great havoc. The following are the main sources from which water could be making its way into your home causing leaks in your basement:

 

  • Rain accumulates around foundation

 

Heavy rainfall can be deadly to a home that hasn’t been properly waterproofed. Problems due to rainfall accumulating near the foundations are more common in older homes, but even new houses can become flooded if there isn’t proper drainage that directs the water away from the structure. You should have a slope around your home that will help divert water away from the foundation, regularly clear out gutters and make sure downspouts are draining away water at a sufficient distance from the house.

 

 

Sometimes the issue simply lies in small cracks and holes, or improper sealing of windows and stairwell doors. Take advantage of the next rainfall and inspect your windows and stairways for signs of leaks, and proceed to caulking and repairing whatever flaws you have found, sealing them properly and making sure outside drainage is adequately diverting water away from your home.

 

  • Leaky plumbing

 

The issue can also be inside your home, since leaky pipes are also very common problems and could be the source of dampness behind a wall. It is essential that you regularly inspect your pipes for leaks and cracks or blockages, and that you properly prepare them for cold weather by insulating them to prevent freezing and, ultimately, a burst pipe and a flooded basement.

 

  • Inefficient sump pumps

 

Another important piece of equipment you should have in your basement is a sump pump. It will take care of the collection and drainage of groundwater under your house, which is essential since when the soil accumulates too much water it expands and could force its way into your floor and walls. If the sump pump is not regularly cleaned and adequately maintained, it could fail to divert water away and will most likely leak into your basement. Invest in a good sump pump and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to clean it and have it running year round.

 

  • Condensation

 

Sometimes the source of leaks is not external water seeping through, but simply high humidity levels inside your basement. This could be due to poor ventilation of the room, living near the ocean or simply due to warm temperatures during the summer. You can recognize condensation when you see the walls, pipes ceiling or furniture seem to be “sweating”. This is a problem that can easily be solved by installing proper venting, especially for your dryer in case you have it in your basement, or by using a dehumidifier to condition the air.

How to Identify Leaks in Your Basement

Identifying leaks in your basement in a timely manner will be crucial in order to prevent further water damage. The main objective should be to determine whether the source is from an external water source, such as rain, lot drainage or groundwater, or any other source, such as leaking plumbing or condensation.

In order to determine the source and decide how to best repair it, you will have to carefully inspect your basement looking for signs that indicate leakage, which are:

 

  • Dampness or brown stains on walls and ceiling

 

If walls feel or look damp, or you have brown stains forming around your walls or ceiling, this can indicate water has been absorbed into them and is reacting with the clay outside your home by drawing the acid in it and filtering it through your walls. Water could be coming from leaky plumbing, groundwater seepage, or rainfall accumulation.

 

  • Mold and mildew

 

Two of the most common home invaders are mold and mildew, since they quickly appear in areas of high humidity or where water accumulates. They are the culprits of that awful musty smell in your basement, and have the power to rapidly spread. They release spores that can produce respiratory problems and allergies, especially for patients suffering from asthma.

 

  • Efflorescence

 

Is that chalky white mineral deposit you sometimes see on your walls, which occurs due to the chemical breakdown of its bonging agents that leach lime through masonry surfaces. This is a sign of an environment that has high humidity levels.

 

  • Rust stains

 

Rust stains are usually found on concrete floors and carpet due to corrosion metal objects such as nails on baseboards, electrical boxes, metal feet on furniture and others.

 

  • Stained carpets

 

Finding stains or a damp carpet could indicate water has been coming through. Try to identify in which areas this happens and if it is connected with heavy rainfalls.

 

  • Water bugs

 

Some small insects are attracted to areas where moisture accumulates and will go looking for water sources. Look for evidence of bugs behind furniture and appliances, around corners, and along baseboards and beams to come closer to the water seepage source.

 

  • Stained or warped wood

 

Darkened wood and stained or warped floorboards are clear signs of water damage in the area.

 

  • Cracked and damp floors

 

If you find cracks around your floors or walls, this could be a sign of water putting too much pressure on the structure and wanting to force its way in, thus resulting in the floor breaking and water seeping through.

Basements are highly vulnerable spaces to water problems since they are the lowest point in your house and have to hold down excessive amounts of weight, especially during the rainy months. Catching problems early will make a huge difference in determining the method that needs to be used to solve them, and therefore, probably the costs you will have to incur in too. Don’t neglect your basement any longer and acknowledge how crucial it can be to the entire integrity and value of your house; take matters into your own hands and take some time to inspect it and avoid worse problems in the future.

 

Should My Crawlspace be Ventilated?

Old crawlspace engineering had builders putting vents on either side of your house. The thinking was that, when open, they would create a through breeze in the crawlspace that would help to keep the area dry.

Unfortunately this is not how it works. In reality, in warm weather, the air comes in from both sides of the house and moves upward in a chimney like effect. The moisture moves upwards to the living area and collects on every cool surface it meets in the form of condensation.

Plus, during the winter, the vents increase heating costs for your home by sucking in cold outside air under the house.

Some obvious signs of too much ventilation in your crawlspace include:

• Soggy insulation during the summer
• Cold ground level floor during the winter
• Muddy crawlspace
• Rot on framework
• Rusty duct and metal posts

Fortunately, there is a better solution these days. By encapsulating your crawl space with a vapor barrier, you can successfully manage your moisture problem. The floor and walls of the crawl space , plus any gaps or holes to the outside of the house, are sealed with the vapor barrier. All vents will be given airtight covers. This will effectively keep the moisture out of your crawlspace and preserve the area.

Summer Storms

Summer storms can bring a lot of rain in a very short period of time. This creates drainage issues on your property. This invariably leads to the water ending up where you want it the least, in your basement or crawlspace. It is always best to be prepared for the storms. The time and money it takes to prevent flooding is much more affordable than what it would take to clean up afterwards.

Take the time now to check the drainage issues your property may have. Check to make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear. Make sure the runoff is being diverted away from the house and to an area that is better equipped for drainage. There is no time like now to make your home more water-friendly.

 

 

Sealing Drywall Cracks

You can seal drywall cracks from either the exterior or interior of the foundation.  Both are equally effective if done correctly. If there is something in the way, such as a patio or deck, or if the basement is unfinished it is common to seal the cracks from inside. Drywall or paneling may force you to do it from the outside.

Interior Foundation Repair

It used to be the only way to seal a crack was to chipping out the area and patching it. This consisted of using a chipping hammer to chisel out the concrete in a ‘V’ shape. It needed to be a few inches deep then it was patched with hydraulic cement. It was not the best lasting solution because the crack was not filled all the way to the outside soil. Plus hydraulic cement is not an especially strong or long lasting product.

These days crack injection is the most utilized and preferred method of interior foundation crack repair. This consists of using an epoxy paste to seal the crack on the inside face, then injecting a resin that fills the entire crack to the soil. This is commonly referred to as Epoxy Injection or Urethane Injection. Urethanes are preferred because they stay flexible longer so are more effective for waterproofing.

Exterior Foundation Repair

To properly seal a crack from the exterior, you must remove the earth along the wall to expose the crack. It needs to be exposed from the footing all the way to the top of the wall. The hole is normally 8-12 inches, although a larger one may be necessary. When the crack is fully exposed from bottom to top, you need to fill the hole with granular clay. This will form an impenetrable  water barrier to seal the crack.

Both options are completely viable and the choice is yours depending upon the circumstances of your repair.