What You Need to Know About Basement Water Problems

Oseye Boyd
Written by Oseye Boyd
Updated June 5, 2014
Water in a basement
In addition to hiring the best waterproofing contractor and having a great warranty with your project, it’s important to have flood insurance as well. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Shawn H., Bellevue, Ky.)

Water, a basement’s archenemy, does more than cause a foul odor in basements, but can cause serious damage to walls, windows and floors, as well as your health.

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Water. It’s the archenemy of basements. Much like Wolverine and Sabretooth, the two work well together at times, but are usually fighting for dominance.

Basements are located below the water table, which makes water — whether from condensation, vapor or an actual leak — the root of all evil for underground living spaces.

And don’t be fooled into thinking an obvious leak is the only warning sign of water. Musty or mildew smells, peeling wall paint, or water bugs are also indicators of water issues. Below are some other symptoms of water damage and things to consider to keep your basement dry.

What to watch for:

Buckling and bowing walls: Hydrostatic pressure weakens cement block walls over time. Long horizontal cracks signal broken mortar and bowing walls. Hire a highly rated foundation repair company to examine the problem and fix the wall.

Humidity: Water vapor in the basement often leads to a musty, foul odor and muggy feeling. Unchecked humidity also causes mold, rot and attracts dust mites. High humidity levels will chip paint and create efflorescence, a loose mineral salt that looks like white powder, on masonry walls. Install a dehumidifier or air conditioner down below to remove excess moisture.

Leaks: Be sure basement windows are well-sealed as leaks are common. Weepy windows can result in wood rot, mildew and mold. Keep window wells free of debris.

Leaks from cracks in basement walls and floors are also common. The water freezing and thawing causes small cracks to grow. Call a basement waterproofing professional before going the DIY route as sealing cracks from the inside could lead to structural damage later. Outside, ensure the slope or grading of your landscaping, as well as your roof downspouts or gutters, move water away from the house. Repair all plumbing leaks within the home, such as a soggy water heater or trickling toilet.

Sump pumps: Most likely, you don’t know there’s a problem with your sump pump until, well, it fails, leaving your basement flooded. Regularly check the power switch, discharge line and sump pump for clogs. It’s also a good idea to keep a backup or a battery-powered pump on hand.

Mold: Besides creating that stinky “basement” smell, mold is hazardous to your home and health. It grows when objects are exposed to moisture for extended periods. Mold can damage photographs, clothing and books as well as walls. Since mold starts in damp, dark places, it’s hard to spot. Have mold checked by a professional remediation company.

Sources: basement-repair.com, homerepair.about.com, Rightway Waterproofing Co., DSP Inspections

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