There is Hope for Your Wet Basement
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There is Hope for Your Wet Basement authorThere is Hope for Your Wet Basement
by John Martino of LookSmart Home Inspections

A wet or damp basement is a problem but there are ways to control the problem. As warm air rises in your home it travels to the upper floors and then to the exterior. This is known as the “stack effect”. Whatever air quality problems exist in the basement will also be found in the upper floors because of the stack effect. Problems such as the distribution of mold spores and other allergens, moisture damaged wood members and flooring, moldy musty odors, condensation issues in the attic space, increased utility bills, and condensation on the interior of the windows in the home are some of the problems that are caused by a wet or damp basement. 

Water in basements originates from two primary sources: ground water and humidity. The major contributor is ground water. Water around the foundation that has saturated the soil on the exterior of the dwelling can make its way into the basement. Water can enter the basement through holes and cracks in foundation walls or cracks in the basement floor slab. Water can also enter the basement through porous foundation walls. Most foundation walls are made of cement blocks, which have natural pours and cracks that allow ground water to seep though. Poured concrete basement walls are much better at keeping water out. Humidity is a lesser cause of dampness in basements: When humid air comes into contact with cold surfaces, it makes condensation and water vapor. This condensation can roll down pipes and foundation walls leaving the basement damp and moldy. 

If you have a wet basement, one of the main corrections is to encourage water away from the exterior foundation walls. Make sure all downspouts are discharging a minimum of 4 to 5 feet away from the walls. All gutters on the home should be free flowing. Overflowing gutters will pour water against the foundation walls of the home, which can greatly contribute to basement water issues. Repair or replace any leaking gutters and downspouts to help keep water from saturating the area close to the exterior walls. Make sure that the grade/earth around the entire perimeter of the home is sloped away from the exterior walls so that water will flow or shed away from and not toward the foundation walls. Regrading the exterior around the home is a very important step in keeping water out of your basement. Remove anything against the exterior walls that can trap water such as planters and wood-tie walls. 

The next step is to plug and patch any holes or cracks in the basement foundation walls to prevent water from entering. Patching holes and sealing cracks probably will not solve all of your basement water problems but doing so in conjunction with the other corrective measures should go a long way in helping to minimize water infiltration. Try sealing the interior foundation walls using hydraulic (Dry Loc) cement. Sealer material will plug the small holes and cracks and help prevent water seepage. Make sure to apply the cement to bare masonry so it adheres properly. These types of sealers need to be applied thickly, so do not try to stretch the material by spreading it too thin. 

If basement water problems persist, consider installing a basement drain system. There are two types of drain systems. One is installed on the exterior against the foundation walls and the other is installed inside along the interior walls of the basement. If the home is not new, the only practical method is the interior drain system. This method consists of perforated tubing that is installed below the basement floor slab along the interior perimeter. The tubing empties to a sump pump and sump pit. As water enters through the foundation walls and the water table rises, the water will be directed to the sump pump and pumped out rather then enter the basement. The sump pump must discharge at least 4 to 5 feet from the exterior walls in order to avoid redirecting the water back against the exterior walls and into the home again. 

Finally, there are a number of ways to get excess humidity under control. Install a dehumidifier. Seal your dryer vent pipe so that it does not exhaust hot moisture into the basement. Install a vent fan in the basement bathroom that vents to the outside. Keep the windows closed during very humid summer days. If you have a central air conditioner, keep it on during very hot humid days so that it pulls condensation from the air. Install central air conditioning in the basement if the basement is not already part of the existing air conditioner configuration. 

Use caution when contracting with professional waterproofing companies. Some companies will provide very expensive solutions to what may be a simple problem that could be addressed with the strategies discussed above. If you do decide to use a waterproofing company, check their record with the Better Business Bureau first. The majority of basement water problems can be corrected without having to spend a fortune.

John Martino is the owner of LookSmart Home Inspections. He is an independent home inspection company and a New Jersey Licensed Home Inspector #24GI00058700. John performs home inspections in the Northern and Central New Jersey area. Visit his company website at, send him an E-mail, or call his office at (973) 407-9621 for more information.
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