Some steps to help reassure your basement is a dry usable space.
‘Tis the season for leaky basements. Actually, some basements leak in every season, but many others stay relatively dry until heavy spring/summer rains expose their flaws.
Anyone who has lived in a home with a leaky basement knows how frustrating it can be. Besides damaging anything stored in them, wet basements lead to musty odors, mold, insects, rotting wood, rusty metal, and many other headaches.
Part of the frustration lies in sorting out the multitude of “solutions” on the market. Inside systems, outside systems, floor drainage systems, wall covering systems, injected sealants, hydraulic cement patches, tarpaper skirts – how do you determine what will solve your problem? And, what should it cost? The cost of solutions often ranges from “really expensive” to “horrendously expensive,” and each specialty system claims to be the only one that really works.
As one with no axe to grind – that is, no one specialized system to sell – I can make a few suggestions:
- Problems with gutters and downspouts often show up in the form of basement leakage. Gutters or downspouts that are damaged, missing entirely, or clogged with debris will often lead to water cascading against the house, and some of it finding its way inside.
- Gutters and downspouts often work together with in-ground drainage tile systems which can also fail, for the same or different reasons – from debris, roots, getting crushed from driving over, etc. Clearing these, or even replacing them, may help.
- Improvements to grading – the slope of the ground outside a home – can often reduce the amount of water that finds its way into a basement. Over the years, changes to grading from factors such as settling soil, erosion, landscaping, additions, and more can create funnels that channel runoff toward a foundation. That can hold true with walkways and concrete landings as well. Changing slopes to get water running away from the house can do wonders.
- Some weaknesses in a foundation can be fixed without undergoing massive expense. Windows can be replaced and/or sealed. So can area wells around windows. Small cracks can be sealed with injected sealants. Some foundations can develop problems right at ground level, or just above it, which can be fixed from the outside without major excavation.
- Baseboard systems to channel away water after it enters the basement can be very effective, if the layout and finish of the basement accommodates it. It’s generally preferable to stop water from entering the basement in the first place, but if that’s not possible, handling it cleanly is the next best solution.
After examining the surface drainage and potential impact of less drastic foundation repairs, you can more on to more substantial repairs if necessary. Excavating down to expose the entire foundation, and then cleaning and sealing it, is generally quite costly but can provide a permanent solution if done correctly. If you go to the expense of excavating, an underground drainage system should also be incorporated, and don’t cut corners on the sealing system – the last thing you want to do is pay a high cost for excavating and then not solve the problem once and for all. It’s also possible to make great improvements to insulation as well as waterproofing, once the foundation is exposed.
To try to get to the bottom of a basement water problem, you may want to consult with a general residential remodeling contractor – one who holds a strong reputation for ethics and quality. With so many different possible factors and solutions, an in-depth consultation with a trustworthy professional is a wise start. Basement water problems can be solved.