Basement leakage is one of the most common problems found in houses. While structural damage caused by leakage is very rare, water in the basement can be a major inconvenience and often causes damage to interior finishes and stored items. In addition, odors caused by mold, mildew, and lack of ventilation are particularly offensive to some people and can even be a source of allergic reaction.
It has been documented that at least 98% of all basements will leak at some point.
Unfortunately, wet basements cannot always be assessed for the severity and frequency of leaks during a one-time visit. There may or may not be clues that indicate a history of basement dampness. Even if visible, the clues do not always give an indication of the severity or frequency of the leaks.
Basement water leakage is very often the result of improper exterior grading, settled/cracked or otherwise improperly sloped exterior paved surfaces, a lack of proper gutters, etc., and sometimes a combination of more than one of these. Very often, the cure can be as simple as correcting one of the above mentioned deficiencies.
Diagnosing Water Problems
The first step in curing a basement water problem is to determine the source.
- Surface Water – A flow of water from run-off, rain, lot drainage, etc. can be exacerbated by poor soils. This type of water problem is generally restricted to the top four feet of soil. This is an “external water source.”
- Ground Water – Water from high water tables, springs, etc. can be exacerbated by poor soils. This type of water problem can extend from the surface down past the level of the basement floor. This is an “external water source.”
- Other Water – This category includes all other potential sources, whether they are inside or outside (i.e. condensation due to temperature differences, inside plumbing leakage, outside plumbing leakage, etc.). This can be both an “external water source,” as well as an “internal water source.”
Start asking yourself the following: “When does the leakage manifest itself?” Does it show up immediately after only heavy rains or every time it rains? Is the leakage usually confined to one specific area? If so, can I associate an external source with this area (such as a window well, a poorly sloped driveway, etc.)?
It is very common to misdiagnose a basement leakage problem as being from an “external water source” (surface water or ground water), while it is actual coming from the “other water” category. A leaking water line inside a basement wall, sewer backup through a floor drain causing basement flooding, condensation on water pipes & walls during summer months, all can make a localized area very wet. This can easily be mistaken for basement leakage. Look for some of the signs that indicate leakage. They can indicate what type of problem you are having and can also help in locate the source of leakage.
Some typical indicators are:
- Dampness/Staining On Carpets – Indicate past leakage. Identify when and in which locations in the basement this occurs
- Efflorescence – A whitish mineral deposit that many times is visible on masonry surfaces. Usually the result of water passing through the wall.
- Mold/Mildew – Usually located on or near an area that has seen prolonged moisture, giving the mold a chance to grow. Often associated with an unpleasant odor.
- Rust Stains – Sometimes seen on concrete floors and carpet, usually due to rusted metal feet on furniture. Rusty nails on baseboards, electrical boxes, etc., all indicate evidence of past moisture.
- Stained/Darkened Wood – Can indicate past water absorption due to leakage.
- Dampness/Staining Around Floor Cracks – Can indicate that water is forcing itself up through the cracks due to pressure, water table, etc.
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