6 Causes of Basement Moisture (and How to Fix Them)
Got 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 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
- 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
Basement moisture typically comes from one of 3 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 in to 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:
6 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 you 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 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. Click here to learn more about ways to fix cracks in your foundation.
#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 subsurface 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.
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 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, do not 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 Triad Basement Waterproofing.