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