...and Ways on How to Prevent It
The slightest of water damage, if it seeps through the microscopic framework of the supporting structure of any home or building, can render it structurally weak and unsafe to live in.
Such is the gravity of water damage that it needs to be addressed head on. Most homeowners and/or business owners will agree that the last thing they have in mind is to live in a place whose structure is unsound and weak that it might just cave in on them while they are sleeping.
The thought of such an experience is indeed ghastly, to say the least.
The Anatomy of Basement Systems
Basement systems are built in such a way that they provide a sturdy and reliable foundation upon which the whole building or house rests upon. More often than not, basement systems are composed of many layers of reinforced concrete and other durable construction materials that lend it its strength. Furthermore, steel bars of varying sizes provide the additional framework upon which the cement aggregates adhere to.
For the most part, the foundation of the home or business is made up of steel reinforced concrete. Since cement is mostly made up of calcium, sodium, and potassium hydroxides, constant and prolonged exposure to water and moisture will weaken the chemical bonds among these molecules. Unless the cement has been pre-treated with additives that lend it structurally sound, cement systems may eventually crumble under extreme pressures.
Some basements are made up of wood beams and other foundations. The foundation of such houses or building structures are relatively weaker compared to those made of reinforced concrete. As such, the damage brought about by water and moisture may be readily evident in these homes.
The Water in the Basement Phenomenon
A flooded basement is just an indication of a much more serious problem that affects the overall structural uprightness of a home or building. Basically, the structural foundations of a home or building should be based on the principle that the home or building is able to provide an effective and sturdy barrier between its surfaces and contents and that of the outside environment. When this principle fails, flooding in the basement thus occur.
The basement is commonly affected by flood because of its inherent design. Basements are places that are located below ground level and are closer to underground water sources. This characteristic makes make basements very vulnerable to flooding. Flooding in the basement therefore is brought about by the seepage of groundwater through the basement floor surfaces. This almost always occurs when the underground water pressure rises to a level which is greater than the air pressure found in the basement.
The pressure difference between the two opposing sides of the basement floor and walls favor the movement of water from the outside of the home or building and into the basement. Of course, basement flooding does not always occur this way. Other causes of unwanted water in the basement include sump pump failure, leaking water and sewage pipes, and or simply massive flash floods.
Water Damage in the Basement
Water damage in the basement presents an entirely different kind of problem to homeowners and business owners alike. Considering that water damage can greatly vary depending on the type of affected article, the common denominator is a weakened structure.
Moisture can render the structures of support foundations in the basement weak. Mold and mildew growth can also increase the risk associated with structural weakening. Mold and mildew has been associated with a host of medical and health related problems especially among the highly susceptible persons. Mold and mildew feed off organic materials such as wood, further weakening them.
Ensuring Structural Soundness
The only way to render a home or a building safe for its occupants is to make sure that the basement is structurally sound. This means that the basement should be free from all signs of water and moisture that can make it weak.
We have already learned that extreme water pressures on the outside of the basement favour movement of environmental water to move in and flood the basement. We have also learned that leaking pipes, a failed sump pump, blocked drains, and busted water pipes can contribute to the presence of water in the basement. Furthermore, we appreciated the role of moisture in the weakening of the foundations of basements, especially those made of mostly wood.
Having known these, here are a few tips on how we can make sure that our basements are strong and solid.
· Remove all standing water and moisture from the basement. Identify signs which can indicate water problems such as water stains, mold and mildew growth, and that distinct earthy smell.
· Make sure that the sump pump installed in the basement is working efficiently. Look at the manufacturer’s manual for frequency of servicing. If you have the chance, call for authorized representatives of the sump pump so they will perform the maintenance themselves.
· If you do not have a sump pump installed, installing one now is not only a sound idea but a practical one at that. Having a sump pump significantly lowers your worries about having water accumulate in your basement. If a primary sump pump is deemed expensive, perhaps a secondary or back up sump pump is a better alternative.
· Perform periodic and frequent inspection of your basement especially in those areas where water pipes run. Also look under the tiles, in corners, and in places where the floor meets the walls for signs of water seepage or stains.
· Use electric fans and other ventilators to improve the circulation of air in the basement. If you can afford one, installing a dehumidifier can help hasten the drying of water and water vapor or moisture. If the basement has an access to a small window, open this as well.
· Inspect the walls for cracks and signs of water seepage. Mark these spots where potential water problems may arise. Patch them up with appropriate water-proofing materials even before they start to worsen.
· Ask for professional help in making a structural inspection and analysis of the basement. Professional services can include thermal imaging and other state-of-the-art diagnostic processes to evaluate the structure of any kind of building. These may come at a cost but, in the long run, you will ultimately enjoy savings by preventing disasters which can result from a weakened structure.
Managing Water Damage
In cases where you have already performed all that is needed to prevent the entry of water and moisture in your basement, yet there are still signs of flooding or water damage, here are a few tips to ponder on.
· Never go in a fully flooded basement because the structural foundation may have already been weakened by this time. Call for professional help and let them assess and evaluate first the structural integrity of the whole house or building.
· Make sure that the sump pump is working. More often than not, in cases of massive basement flooding, the quantity of water is significantly greater than the capacity of the sump pump to remove it. As such, flooding occurs because of a mismatch between the inward and outward movement of flood water. In this case, having a secondary or back up sump pump can greatly increase the rate of water removal. This will minimize the resulting water damage.
· Use wet vacuums and wet vacuum shops to remove water left by the sump pump. Do not use your ordinary household vacuum because it is not strong enough to suck in water. Furthermore, it was not designed to hold water in its catchment bin.
· If you do not have a wet vacuum, manual mopping will always do the trick. Although more tedious and time consuming to perform, mopping should always employ a variety of processes. These processes can include mopping with blot drying using a sponge and any other absorbent material.
· Use electric fans, ventilators, and heaters to hasten the speed of drying. Turn on your dehumidifiers (most modern air conditioning units now have one) to help in the process and further reduce the buildup of moisture.
· Remove all articles, soiled or not, and dry them under the sun or according to package directions. Remember that not all articles are advisable to be dried directly under the sun because some degree of warping can take place. If this happens, restoring them to their original state might be more difficult than they would otherwise have.
· You can always call in professional services if you think restoring water damaged articles will be a tough job for you. The value in these professional services is in the thoroughness of their cleaning and restoration jobs. Some companies also go to the extent of giving you a few extra tips on how you can maximize your insurance claims from the damage to your property.
Ensuring the structural soundness of your home or building always starts with the appreciation of the role of the basement. By understanding how water and water damage can weaken this foundation, we can come up with a lot of ways to ensure structural integrity.