A common problem that we encounter in Canadian basements is moisture. In fact, many of us may have grown used to the idea that basements are “dark and damp” places. But did you know that with persistent moisture in your basement, there’s more at stake than musty odours? Not only can moisture cause structural damage and bring down the value of your property, but it can also lead to the development of mold that triggers respiratory allergies, asthma attacks and skin infections.
In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the typical tell-tale signs of wet basements, what causes them and how simple alterations can remedy the problem and help you save money down the road.
Red Flags Indicating a Wet Basement
The warning signs of wet basements include:
- Excessive condensation on windows
- Paint and wallpaper peeling off the walls
- Mold and mildew growth; efflorescence on floors and walls
- Cold, damp or wet walls and floors with or without water trickling out
- Damp patches at the base of the wall going upwards
- Deteriorating carpet or woodwork
- Rotting columns, headers, and joists
- A stale and damp scent that lingers in the air
Causes of Dampness in Basements
From our years of experience working in Canadian basements, we have identified six common causes for basement moisture. After reading this article and ascertaining the cause of your wet basement, you may be able to resolve the situation yourself by making simple changes. However, some instances may need professional intervention and DIY solutions may worsen the problem.
1. Dried-out and Leaky Taps
Unused sinks, toilets, and tubs in the basement can cause basement flooding and moisture buildup. When the sewer or septic gets overwhelmed, water can seep out slowly, evaporate into the air and make the environment damper. There could be many sources of water leaks in the basement: a shower, a sink, a toilet, a washing machine, a dishwasher, a leaky pipe, and so on.
A dry faucet can lead to the same pressure and flow problems as a leak or a dent. If your pipes are old, they could get clogged with lime and heavy metal deposits, corrosion, or rust. As a result of this sediment buildup, your pipes may not have enough water flow.
How to fix it
- Leaky taps are the simplest to fix as it’s easy to identify the site by the telltale pool of water near the faulty line. Calling a plumber would be your most straightforward solution.
- If you suspect that a clogged pipe is causing moisture issues, have the clog cleared or replace the lines.
- If your basement has unused taps, make it a point to seal off the water supply or allow the faucet to run occasionally. Use screw caps to seal off all unused connections and keep unwanted moisture out.
2. Foundation Cracks and Cracks in Basement Floor
A crack in the foundation can act as a conduit for moisture and water. Other causes of dampness include French drains, rain gutters, and sewage overflows. The floors and walls of the basement are often wet as a result of these issues. Foundation crack repair begins with identifying the cause of the crack.
How to fix it
- If the crack was caused by hydrostatic pressure (water accumulating around the foundation), repairing the exterior drainage will resolve the problem.
- If the crack was caused by a structural issue, you will need to put proper footing and connections (straps or anchor bolts) into place to seal the gaps.
- Waterproofing your foundation and injecting urethane into the cracks are also effective options.
3. Basement Laundry and Equipment
If you do laundry in your basement and use a dryer, the moisture from the clothes will be absorbed by your walls. As the water condenses, your walls will become damp. Showers, furnaces, ovens, humidifiers, other appliances, and newly-constructed concrete can also be sources of moisture.
Two other factors leading to condensation are:
- Ventilation-related condensation: Ventilation is an effective way to remove stale and musty odours. Opening the basement windows can therefore be helpful in ventilating the space. However, when you shut the windows, the humid outside air finds itself trapped in a cool basement, and it can condense on the walls and floors.
- Temperature differences: There is a significant difference in temperature between the basement and the rest of the house. Cool air cannot hold as much moisture as the warm air in other rooms. When air from a warm upper room mixes with colder air from the basement, the warm air condenses on the basement walls.
How to fix it
Basement condensation can be fixed in a few ways. Start by making sure that the dryer exhaust and central air conditioner are working correctly, as they can both release a surprising amount of moisture into the atmosphere. Below are some easy options to consider:
- Install an exhaust fan: Steam from hot showers and cooking can condense and create moisture. Installing an exhaust fan is a quick and effective way to expel this damp air.
- Improve air circulation: If the condensation is minimal, increasing air circulation can resolve the issue. Leave the AC or fan switched on for a few hours every day, so the moisture gets dispersed or eliminated. You can also try clearing out the junk in your basement to allow air to flow more freely.
- Invest in basement insulation: Insulating spots where condensation builds up will prevent warm air from coming in contact with the cool surfaces and reduce condensation.
4. Rain or Groundwater
If the grading is incorrect or the downspouts and gutters are not draining correctly, an inch of rain can bring in over 1000 gallons of water into your home. Ideally, the ground around your foundation should slope away from the house, not towards it.
When water consistently drains in the wrong direction, the dirt will settle down, and the natural slope can change. The water that accumulates against the foundation will inevitably make its way inside.
How to fix it
- You must compact the dirt around your foundation. Hire an architect and aim to create a slope away from the house. This should be a minimum of one inch per foot, for at least 6 feet.
- Gutter systems should be maintained regularly to ensure proper functioning. If there are no gutters, you might want to consider adding them.
- Every 50 feet of the eave on the roof should have at least one downspout. All downspouts should have extenders to channel water at least 4 feet away from the foundation.
- Another option is to dig a trench alongside your house where rainwater collects or create a barrier around your home with rocks to prevent groundwater from entering.
5. Moisture rising from the soil
Without waterproofing the basement, moisture could slowly seep into the foundation and reach the walls. You are more likely to face this problem if your home has been built with old and porous bricks. Moreover, many houses lack a functional subsurface drainage system that helps expel moisture.
How to fix it
- Waterproofing the basement is one of the easiest ways to handle moisture coming in through the foundation.
- Problems with your subsurface drainage system will require digging up your flooring and adding a drain system.
- Alternatively, you can install an internal weeping tile system and a sump pump to expel moisture rising from the ground.
6. Basement Leaks Resulting from Cove Joint Seepage
Your basement wall meets your floor at the cove joint. It is a small gap between the floor and the walls, which is an essential part of structuring your foundation and ensuring alignment. However, under conditions like rain which causes the groundwater to rise, water will begin to flow into openings in your foundation due to hydrostatic pressure.
While sealing the cove joint may seem like the obvious solution and may seem to work in the short term, it will inevitably fail in the long term. This is because eventually the sealant will be forced off or penetrated by the water, just like the wall was, or, the hydrostatic pressure building up will cause cracks in the foundation.
How to fix it
- Exterior drain tile system
- Interior drain tile system
- Exterior waterproofing membrane
We provide all three solutions and will advise you on what will work best for your basement.
Why Fix the Problem Professionally
As mentioned above, having your basement repaired by a professional can increase the value of your property. A clean and dry basement can be much more than “the dark, damp place.” It can be an opportunity to increase the living space of your house.
At Crackmasters Basement Waterproofing, our team has over 18+ years of professional experience with cutting-edge basement waterproofing and foundation crack repair systems. Our foundation repair services are backed by a lifetime guarantee. For a free estimate and inspection, contact us today.