Top causes of basement moisture and how to fix the issue

Posted Mar 31, 2021 in Foundation Crack Repair, Waterproofing, Sump Pump Solutions

Wet basement

Do you have a wet base­ment? Base­ment mois­ture is not an uncom­mon prob­lem. In fact, base­ments are noto­ri­ous­ly dark and damp places. Yet how­ev­er com­mon it may be, mois­ture in your base­ment can be bad news. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for home­own­ers, a lit­tle bit of mois­ture can turn into a big prob­lem. From struc­tur­al dam­age to tox­ic mold that is haz­ardous to your health, base­ment mois­ture can cause major issues for your home. So what exact­ly are the caus­es of base­ment mois­ture? And more impor­tant­ly, what can you do to fix it?

Let’s start at the begin­ning. First of all, how do you know if you have mois­ture in your base­ment? It is impor­tant to be able to iden­ti­fy the warn­ing signs and symp­toms. The signs of base­ment mois­ture may not be as obvi­ous as a pud­dle of water on the floor. In fact, there are numer­ous ways in which mois­ture can present itself in your base­ment. Here’s a quick list of a few things to look for:

  • Water Trick­ling Out of the Walls
  • Sat­u­rat­ed Base of Con­crete Walls (a ring of dampness)
  • Con­den­sa­tion on the Walls and Floor
  • Stained or Blis­ter­ing Walls
  • Damp, Humid Air
  • Stand­ing Water on the Floor
  • Dete­ri­o­rat­ing Car­pet or Wood
  • Rot­ting Columns, Head­ers, and Joists
  • The odor of Mold or Mildew

If you see any of these signs, you are expe­ri­enc­ing mois­ture in your base­ment. Now that you know there is mois­ture, let’s find out where it is com­ing from.

Base­ment mois­ture typ­i­cal­ly comes from one of three sources:

Rain or groundwater

Sim­ply put, this is out­side water that makes its way inside. As lit­tle as 1 inch of rain can bring 1,250 gal­lons of water pour­ing down onto a 2,000 sq. ft. home. With­out prop­er grad­ing, down­spouts, and gut­ters, that water might find its way into your basement.

Inte­ri­or mois­ture sources

Some­times the water in our base­ments orig­i­nat­ed or was cre­at­ed there. Such sources can include dry­ers, show­ers, cook­ing, humid­i­fiers, and even the mois­ture from new­ly-con­struct­ed concrete.

Ven­ti­la­tion with humid, out­side air

In warmer weath­er, we often open our base­ment win­dows to help ven­ti­late the space. How­ev­er, when we let humid, out­side air into our cool base­ments, it can con­dense on the walls and floors.

Now that we know the pos­si­ble sources of the water, we can deter­mine the cause of the mois­ture, and ulti­mate­ly what to do to fix the prob­lem. Check out our list of:

Six com­mon caus­es of base­ment mois­ture and how to fix them

1. An Inte­ri­or Water Leak

This may seem like a no-brain­er, but you should always check for inside leaks first when try­ing to iden­ti­fy the cause of mois­ture in your base­ment. A water leak can come from numer­ous places: a show­er, a sink, a toi­let, a wash­ing machine, a dish­wash­er, a bad pipe, just to name a few. Some­times, if the mois­ture in your base­ment is locat­ed on the ceil­ing or walls beneath a bath­room or kitchen, an inte­ri­or water leak is to blame. Find where the mois­ture is locat­ed and deter­mine if some­thing in that area is leaking.

How to Fix It: An inte­ri­or leak is typ­i­cal­ly one of the eas­i­est prob­lems to solve. Sim­ply repair the leak (or have a plumber take care of it for you) and with any luck, that was the cause of the mois­ture, and it will be gone for good.

2. Inef­fec­tive Grading

Rain or ground­wa­ter often makes its way into base­ments due to poor grad­ing. The ground around your foun­da­tion should slope away from the house, not towards it. If drain­ing in the wrong direc­tion, water will accu­mu­late against your foun­da­tion and even­tu­al­ly make its way inside. This often hap­pens when fill dirt around your foun­da­tion isn’t prop­er­ly com­pact­ed. As the dirt set­tles, the slope changes and water flows toward your house rather than away from it.

How to Fix It: Build up the dirt around your foun­da­tion, cre­at­ing a slope aim­ing away from the house. This should be a min­i­mum of one inch per foot, for at least 6 feet.

3. Miss­ing or Defec­tive Gut­ters and Downspouts

The pur­pose of gut­ters and down­spouts is to direct rain­wa­ter away from the foun­da­tion of your home. If those gut­ters and down­spouts are miss­ing, or not func­tion­ing prop­er­ly, rain­wa­ter is often direct­ed towards your foun­da­tion. As water drains toward your house, it can accu­mu­late in the soil around it. If water accu­mu­lates around your foun­da­tion, chances are, it will make its way inside into your basement.

How to Fix It: Con­sid­er adding gut­ters if there are none already in place. A min­i­mum of 1 down­spout should be placed per every 50 ft. of the roof eave. Exten­ders should be placed on all down­spouts, dis­pers­ing water at least 4 ft. away from the foun­da­tion. Exist­ing gut­ters should be cleaned reg­u­lar­ly to ensure they are func­tion­ing properly.

4. Cracks in Your Foundation

If you have cracks in your foun­da­tion, you can be sure that water will find them and make its way into your base­ment. In fact, some­times the water is even the cause of the cracks them­selves. If floor joists are not prop­er­ly con­nect­ed to the foun­da­tion walls, it can allow the walls to move, and in turn, cracks are formed. Water can actu­al­ly cause cracks in the foun­da­tion as well due to poor drainage in the soil.

If water is not direct­ed away from your foun­da­tion and accu­mu­lates against the foun­da­tion walls, and that pres­sure (hydro­sta­t­ic pres­sure) can force the water into the walls, cre­at­ing cracks. No mat­ter how the cracks formed, if they exist, water can enter your base­ment through them.

How To Fix It: Depend­ing on the cause of the cracks, your solu­tions will vary. If hydro­sta­t­ic pres­sure (due to water accu­mu­lat­ing around the foun­da­tion) is the cause of the cracks, repair­ing your exte­ri­or drainage should help to solve the prob­lem. The cracks will still need to be repaired, but the cause should have been repaired. If struc­tur­al prob­lems caused the cracks, prop­er foot­ing and con­nec­tions (straps or anchor bolts) should be put into place to seal the gaps.

5. Poor (or Miss­ing) Drain Tile and Sump Pit

Many hous­es do not have a sub­sur­face drainage sys­tem. Base­ments in old­er homes often were not intend­ed to be hab­it­able spaces, thus an under-the-floor drainage sys­tem wasn’t nec­es­sary. More mod­ern homes that do have a drainage sys­tem often expe­ri­ence prob­lems with their sys­tem. This can range from a clogged pipe, bro­ken con­nec­tion, or a bro­ken sump pump.

How To Fix It: Unfor­tu­nate­ly, prob­lems with your sub­sur­face drainage sys­tem, or adding one where there wasn’t one, are a much more seri­ous project than some of the afore­men­tioned solu­tions. If you think this is where your prob­lem lies, its best to call in the pro­fes­sion­als. It involves dig­ging up your floor­ing and adding a drain sys­tem, which leads to a pump that will expel any mois­ture. Build­ing or repair­ing a drainage sys­tem is a com­plex task, best left to experts with tools and knowl­edge to get the job done right the first time. Click here to get help with your drainage problems.

6. Con­den­sa­tion

Base­ment con­den­sa­tion occurs when warm, moist air comes in con­tact with your cool base­ment walls and floor. As the walls cool the warm air, mois­ture is cre­at­ed, just like con­den­sa­tion on a cold beer on a hot sum­mer day. You’re in luck if the mois­ture in your base­ment is com­ing from con­den­sa­tion, rather than a leak or drainage prob­lem, as these issues are typ­i­cal­ly much eas­i­er and less expen­sive to resolve.

How To Fix It: There are a few ways to deal with con­den­sa­tion in your base­ment. First off, check the exhaust of your dry­er and drain the cen­tral air con­di­tion­er. Ensure they are not clogged and are flow­ing prop­er­ly. Both can cause a sur­pris­ing amount of mois­ture to be put into the air. Next, con­sid­er one of the fol­low­ing options:

Base­ment Exhaust Fan: If you have a bath­room or kitchen in your base­ment, be sure to install (and use) an exhaust fan. Steam from hot show­ers and cook­ing cre­ates lots of mois­ture than if trapped, can cre­ate con­den­sa­tion. Be sure to use the exhaust fan any­time a show­er is tak­en or the stove is used.

Increase Air Cir­cu­la­tion: If you only have a minor amount of con­den­sa­tion, increas­ing your air cir­cu­la­tion could resolve the issue. If your base­ment does not have air con­di­tion­ing vents, con­sid­er adding some. It is typ­i­cal­ly a rel­a­tive­ly easy project. Make sure to keep vents open to keep air flow­ing. If you don’t have AC, adding a fan, and run­ning it a few hours a day, can help to dis­trib­ute mois­ture. If your base­ment is clut­tered, elim­i­nat­ing some of the junk will help air to flow more freely as well.

Insu­late Your Base­ment: Insu­lat­ing the places where con­den­sa­tion builds up can also help to elim­i­nate mois­ture. Cov­er­ing those places, such as walls, pipes, and ducts, with insu­la­tion, will help keep warm air from com­ing in con­tact with the cool sur­faces, thus pre­vent­ing condensation.

Mois­ture warn­ing signs:

If you see signs of mois­ture in your base­ment, don’t wait to do some­thing about it. The longer the prob­lem per­sists, the big­ger and more cost­ly the repairs will be. For more tips or help with your wet base­ment, reach out our team at Fam­i­ly Water­proof­ing Solu­tions today at (708) 330‑4466 or sched­ule a free esti­mate.

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