Dark, damp, and dreary – these three adjectives usually describe basements. Basements were previously seen as a separate space in the house, only used to store items that will never see the light of day again or to hold the motors and mechanisms that help the home function.
In recent years, however, the three words above have become less applicable to this part of the house as more and more people discover the potential uses of basements, especially in expanding one’s living space.
Basements have long been connected to and considered part of the other areas in the home in some areas of the country. For homes with functional and connected basements, anything that can happen in there will have a significant impact on the safety and integrity of the whole structure.
Unfortunately, basements are very much vulnerable to moisture and flooding – two things that can lead to disaster when left to fester. The good thing is that homeowners can do many things to deal with these issues and prevent them from happening ever again. The first step is to diagnose the cause of the problem.
Diagnosing the Problem
To understand where the moisture and flood are coming from, one must first determine the ways water can be introduced into the basement. In most basement cases, water can come from these sources:
- Rain or groundwater
- Humidity from the outside that condenses inside the basement
- Interior sources (e.g., washing machines, dishwashers, humidifiers, leaks, the bathroom, and the kitchen)
Understanding where the moisture or water is coming from will help you identify the problem areas that need fixing and the measures that must be taken to prevent them from reoccurring. Sometimes, it’s not readily apparent that your basement is already gathering excess moisture; thus, you must proactively inspect and watch out for warning signs that the area has more moisture than it should have before the problem can go out of control.
Some signs of excess moisture include the following:
- Water dripping from the ceiling or walls
- Puddles of water on the floor
- Paint blistering
- Concrete spalling
- Damp, musty odor
- Growing mold and mildew
- Excessive humidity in the air
- Condensation on the walls and floors during hot weather
- Decaying of wooden materials, including sill plates, columns, joists
Diagnosis is the first step of solving the moisture and flooding problem in your basement. With the right diagnosis, you can come up with a targeted solution and address the root cause of the issue. Later, you can fortify your basement to keep it dry no matter the weather.
Keeping Your Basement Dry
After you have found the source of the moisture, the first order of business is to remove it or keep it from letting in more water into your basement. Next, you can apply your targeted solution to fix the problem. In any case, here are the steps you need to take to ensure that your basement stays dry throughout the seasons:
- Remove all internal sources of moisture in the basement. The usual culprits are humidifiers, washers, unvented clothes dryers, and basement bathrooms. If it’s not possible to remove all these sources from your basement, take steps to reduce the moisture they produce. You can manually dry damp areas after using these amenities or facilities and ventilate the room to remove excess moisture.
- Keep water away from foundations. Rainwater or melted snow can bring a deluge of water into your basement. Water that has built up in the soil can seep into your basement walls from the outside.
- Install a tile drain system in your basement. Water tables can increase and decrease depending on the season. You need to guard your floors against rising groundwater. Using tile drainage is one of the best ways you can prevent groundwater from seeping into your floors.
- Building a drainage system under your basement. This solution is the costliest and most backbreaking measure you can take to ensure that your basement stays dry. Installing a drainage system entails digging the area around your foundations and under your basement to add a layer of free-draining membrane or board on the wall and to install drainage tubing and slump basket and pump to effectively control water in your basement.
- Seal cracks and waterproof walls to prevent water from leaking into the basement. Hydraulic cement sets very quickly and is ideal for stopping water and leaks on cement and masonry structures. Then you can apply waterproof coating to further guard the walls against moisture.
- Insulate plumbing pipes in the basement. If your basement is home to the inner workings of your plumbing system, there’s a huge chance that the pipes are bringing in more moisture into the room. Guard against condensation and leaks by covering the pipes with foam insulation.
- Reduce humidity in the basement. Avoid opening the windows during summertime. It’s best if you have an exhaust fan to pull out the hot air inside the room and expel it outside.
- Consider installing an upflush toilet in your basement bathroom. Normally, you’d have to dig a deep hole under the toilet to install a 30-gallon tank to hold the waste from the fixture, but doing it this way in the basement can introduce more moisture, especially for basements with a high water table. Plus, you would need to open the cover to clean underneath every few years.
On the other hand, an upflush toilet connects to the main sewage system or septic tank through a powerful macerating pump that will further break down the waste propel it to the main drainage line using strong water pressure.
You can easily control this problem by installing proper gutters, extending downspouts, and tilting down the grade away from the house. It also helps to add a layer of 6-mil polyethylene sheeting under the soil near the wall so water doesn’t penetrate the surface.
Excess moisture is a huge problem in every part of a house. Due to its location, the basement is more prone to having this problem. Rainwater, groundwater, interior moisture sources, and humidity are the common sources of excessive moisture and water in the basement. You need to safeguard your basement against these elements before they result in certain symptoms, like blistering paint, dripping walls, and rotting wooden frames.
The key is a holistic solution to address the problems, which means installing interior and exterior measures, like remove moisture sources, adding a drainage system, and insulating the walls, to stop moisture from seeping in your basement.