Moisture and water problems are a very common problem for people who have basements. For people who seldom use their basements, this is not a major problem. However, people are increasingly turning their basements into well-finished living and bedroom spaces. If you use your basement as an everyday space, having moisture and water hanging out can cause all kinds of headaches. Not only does it cause serious damage to your house, furniture and fittings, it can also cause health problems for you and your family. Luckily, there are solutions to most problems that arise from a damp basement.
Causes of Water in Your Basement
Before looking at how to keep water from your basement, it is important to understand how water gets in. Some common causes are outlined below.
Interior Moisture If you regularly use your basement, your activities are bound to generate moisture within the basement. Some common sources of interior moisture are activities like showering and cooking, as well as appliances like unvented clothes dryers and humidifiers.
Surface Water Flooding During wet weather, the ground cannot quickly absorb all the heavy rains and melting snow, which might lead to pools forming around your house. The heavy rains and snowmelt also place a heavy load on existing drainage systems. With all this additional water around your house, some of it might find its way to your basement, since the basement is typically below the ground surface level. The risk of surface water flooding is aggravated in situations where the house is in close proximity to a roadside ditch or natural stream.
Improper Property Grading As a rule of the thumb, home sites should be graded so that they slope away from the house in order to direct surface water away from it. If the grading is improperly done, or if it has changed as a result of erosion, it might direct water towards your house. As this water pools around your house’s foundation, it is inevitable that some of it will find its way into your basement.
Improperly Designed Window Wells Most basements and crawl spaces are fitted with windows or vents on exterior walls for lighting and ventilation purposes. The window well should be designed to keep water away from your basement. Poor window well design might act as a drain right next to your basement wall, directing water to your basement rather than away from it. The bottom of the window well should be filled with coarse aggregate to allow seepage. Alternatively, the window well can be fitted with a supplemental drain tile extension.
Structural Cracks in Walls or Foundation This is a common cause of water in basements. Well-designed gutters, downspouts and window wells can do nothing to keep water from your basement if your basement walls and foundation have cracks in them. It is not unusual for the foundation or its walls to develop some cracks as the house settles. These cracks provide a route for moisture and water to get into your basement. The problem is compounded further if there is surface water flooding.
Defective, Missing or Improperly Installed Downspouts and Gutters The function of gutters and downspouts is to collect rainwater from your roof and drain it away from your house. Without these, rainwater would flow right off the edges of your roof and pool around your house. If your gutters and downspouts are defective or improperly installed, they won’t do much to keep the water from around your house, which might then end up in your basement. Check your gutters and downspouts to ensure they are properly installed and free of clogging. Ideally, you should use extensions at the foot of any downspout to ensure that it discharges water not less than four feet from your house.
Broken Water Lines This refers to the piping that gets water to your faucets, sinks, showers and toilets. If the piping is worn out or punctured, it will leak water into the basement walls. If you have broken water lines, find a plumber to fix them. If the problem arises from the sewer system, find someone to unclog it or contact your city’s sewerage department.
Sewer System Backups In situations where the sewer system is full, clogged or overwhelmed by excess water after a heavy downpour, it might start backing up since there is nowhere else for the excess water to go. When this happens, the sewage might get into your house through the lowest fixtures in your basement, such as floor drains, shower drains or the toilet.
Solutions to Your Basement’s Water Problems
When dealing with a damp basement, you should go for the easiest and least costly solution, depending on the cause of the problem. The best approach is to control the source of the problem, not merely to try and tackle the problem at the point where its effects are felt.
If the dampness in your basement is as a result of interior moisture, you should remove the sources of internal moisture from the basement. You can also use dehumidification as a way of removing the excess moisture from your basement. However, this is not a permanent solution and should only be used in cases where there is no underlying moisture or water problem.
If the cause of water in your basement is surface water flooding, you should ensure there is proper drainage around your house. You should also ensure that your property is properly graded to direct water away from your house. If the problem is caused by a poorly designed window well, have it redesigned such that it slopes away from the window sill. The bottom of the window well should be filled with coarse aggregate to allow seepage. Alternatively, the window well can be fitted with a supplemental drain tile extension.
In cases where there are cracks on basement walls and the foundation, have them repaired. Check your gutters and downspouts to ensure they are properly installed and free of clogging. Ideally, you should use extensions at the foot of any downspout to ensure that it discharges water not less than four feet from your house. If you have broken water lines, find a plumber to fix them. If the problem arises from the sewer system, find someone to unclog it or contact your city’s sewerage department