What to Do With a Wet Basement

Wet Basements Top Homeowner Complaints

signs of a wet basementWet basements are top of the list for complaints by homeowners. According to The American Society of Home Inspectors, over 60% have moisture seepage of one kind or another and 38% have a molds problem. The three primary ways that basements collect moisture are leakage through cracks and openings, seepage through concrete and condensation.
 
Signs of Moisture
If you are purchasing a new home, these are some of the signs of moisture you should be watching for:
  • dampness at the base of walls
  • rust at the base of steel posts or the heater
  • stains, discoloration or decay on wood partitions, paneling, drywall, wood posts
  • efflorescence (“white powder”) on the concrete
  • peeling floor tiles or mildewed carpeting
  • stains or mildew on objects stored on the floor
  • damp smell in the carpeting and finishes
  • musty smell indicates that molds or mildew have already taken hold
  • condensation on windows and concrete
  • plugged or damaged rain gutters
  • improper grading, pooling of water, and the growth of moss.

Concrete is Porous

Concrete is naturally porous. And while the pores are too small to see, they are huge when compared to water molecules. Under normal circumstances, concrete will keep water out, however, pressure – for example, from a rainstorm – can push it through. In addition, condensation on the interior can cause the wall to get wet causing sorption. The pores then draw in water from outside by wicking action.
 
If you have a wet basement, it is important to rule out sources within the house such as a leaky plumbing system, water heater, washing machine, or malfunction of the cooling system. During the summer months, condensation on cold water piping and on cool foundation walls can also be mistaken for leakage. It is important to address these issues. For example, water piping can be wrapped with the appropriate insulation.
 

High Humidity Can Contribute to a Wet Basement

High humidity in the home can also contribute to a wet basement. This can give molds, mildew, dust mites, and other biological contaminants the moisture they need to grow. Ideally you will want to keep the humidity in the home within certain limits. The recommended target is 30% relative humidity in winter or 50% in summer. To measure humidity, you can purchase an inexpensive hygrometer.
 
If the problem is your foundation, it may be due to its initial construction. Most residential foundation walls are damp proofed but not waterproofed. Damp proofing is usually done at the time the building is constructed. In many cases, an asphalt coating is painted on the exterior of the foundation to prevent seepage. However, this does not always work.
 
The cure could be an expensive one, however, before spending money on your foundation, ensure that water does not get near your foundation in the first place. Water from the roof should be directed away from the house with proper gutters and downspouts, and any pooling should be redirected away from the home through proper landscaping. Even houses with porous foundation walls and no drainage tiles will not leak if the surface water flows away form the house and is not allowed to saturate the soil around the building. Also check for obvious cracks in the foundation wall. Often these can be repaired from the inside.
 
A damp basement is something to be avoided at all costs. Inspect a new home carefully before your purchase. If you do have to deal with a damp basement, make sure to take a careful assessment of the situation and eliminate the simplest causes first. Do your research and get professional advice. In the case of advice, get three opinions from reputable contractors before you invest in costly remedies. 

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