A damp or wet basement, at the very least, can be an extremely inconvenient problem to deal with. If not acted on right away, the results can be just plain disastrous. Because of the nature of the basement being built lower than the rest of the rooms, it is more prone to flooding than any other part of the house. And it doesn't take a major flood, a powerful hurricane, or an overflowing river, to wreak havoc in the basement; even just water build up in the surrounding soil can do the "trick".
Dealing with water damage in the basement doesn't come cheap either. For one, even an inch or two of water flooding in one's basement, can already set a homeowner back a few thousand dollars in restoration expenses. Moreover, a damp basement means wastage of valuable space which could have been used for storage or any other venture. Additionally, if moist basements are ignored, mold and mildew may also spread throughout the house, reducing the value of your home. Lastly, a moist basement is sometimes just an indication of a more serious problem elsewhere in the house. It is imperative therefore that a regular inspection of the basement be made as inattention could lead to more severe consequences.
How then should a homeowner prevent water from damaging his property? Here are some steps to take on beating water damage that, if put to practice, will guarantee a dry, comfortable and flood-free basement.
To begin with, possible sources of humidity in the basement should be immediately checked out.
Walls and Ceilings
The walls and ceilings of the basement should be free from any signs of dampness. The presence of water stains on basement walls could point to problems related to leaks in internal plumbing. In cases where the stains are quite visible and form some sort of trail, follow the path to the source of the leak, and have it fixed straight away.
Aside from leaking pipes, another problem associated with plumbing that would in turn lead to water penetrating the basement is pipe condensation caused by pipe sweating. If ignored, this problem could result in the rusting and decay of the pipe molds. You may want to insulate your pipes to minimize condensation.
The plumbing system is also quite at risk for clogs and congestions, leading to overflowing kitchen sinks, toilets, and even appliances such as washing machines. Needless to say, all that water would end up dripping down into the basement.
Any sign of leaks in the basement must be remedied immediately. Include in your scrutiny the openings made to accommodate dryer vents, electrical outlets, phone lines, and cable connections as these are usually made to pass though the basement. These openings require proper waterproofing, and failure to have this done would make them likely sources of water intrusion.
Another common home maintenance system based in the basement is the HVAC, or the Heating, Ventilating and Cooling system. The HVAC system is made up of various components, including chilled water piping and condensation drains, which could definitely contribute to moisture content and if left unmanaged, may also cause water-related problems. If you suspect that that any of these systems is not functioning right, have it fixed immediately. Regular maintenance of your HVAC system protects against potential deterioration not only of your basement but of the equipment as well.
The major areas for inspection covered, turn your attention now to other sections of the house that could also be possible sources of water damage in the future.
The foundation of the house plays a major role in preventing water from seeping into the basement. Even the best defenses against water put up when a house is first built, loses its effectiveness over time because of the natural shifting of the house and the soil beneath it. The landscape around the house also changes slowly and unknowingly, may bring too much water in the soil surrounding the house foundation. It is best to consult a professional when planning to make some landscape improvements or major renovations that involve the foundation.
Digging a trench about a foot away from the house's foundation all around should also help in keeping water away from the foundations. Embed tile tubing in the trench, which should ideally be around 3 feet in depth, and cover with dirt. Holes are located on top of the tile lines which trap water going towards the foundations. The tubing would then bring the water far and away from the direction of the house.
Next, it is important to set up gutters on the roof along the house perimeters. Properly installed gutters prevent rainwater from falling all around the house and instead, allow you to drain the water to a specified area, preferably one that is far from the foundation and basement. A sure sign of a faulty gutter system is if the water is draining in soil that's pushed against the basement walls, thus causing seepage and eventually, damage.
In addition, gutters should be cleaned regularly, removing debris and fallen leaves which could cause it to overflow. As part of the homeowner's maintenance program, gutter cleaning may be done several times a year, depending largely on the number of trees within the vicinity of the house.
Let your downspouts extend several feet away from your foundation, and ensure that the number of downspouts is sufficient to accommodate heavy rains. Water overflowing from gutters goes directly down into your house foundation, and even if the water is not actually leaking into the basement, it may be eroding soil from under the house.
If your house is made of block walls, using a waterproof coating is a must. And use the manufacturer's spread rate specifications --- skimping will not do at all. In fact, if necessary, apply a second coat if water seepage is still observed after the first application. It is also recommended that you make use of a waterproof coating that is purposely designed for blocking water coming in due to hydrostatic pressure. Hydrostatic pressure in laymen's terms is pressure brought about by water in the soil. In the context of residential homes, this could include groundwater in water-saturated soils, or the water table.
Lastly, if all these home renovations and equipment maintenance work are still not enough in your opinion, here are a couple more handy equipments that will further enhance your prevention efforts against water damage in the basement.
Window Well Covers
Another simple yet extremely useful tool in preventing water damage in the basement is the installation of window well covers over basement windows on the outside. Aside from keeping out lawn debris and little creatures, the use of window well covers is also a practical way of putting a stop to water seeping through the basement windows in cases of steady downpour. Well covers are available in various shapes and sizes, and different materials such as steel, vinyl, and polycarbonate.
For many homeowners, a sump pump is the best option there is to prevent a flooded basement. Technically, a sump pump is a type of pump utilized to remove water from the sump pit, which is simply a hole in the basement floor used to accumulate water. The sump pit should be located low enough for the water in the basement to drain to it. The pump is then positioned in the sump and a hose or pipe is attached to the output and diverted strategically far away from the house's foundations and basement.
Most sump pumps operate using a "float" device similar to the one found in a toilet tank which activates the pump when the water is at a "critical" level. Upon reaching a designated low level, the unit is automatically turned off. In smaller flows, the pump will operate only when necessary, but is continually in motion when the water volume is large.
Most sump pumps come with a "check valve", to prevent water from flowing back once the pumping has stopped. In the absence of this valve, pumped out water might come right back in, setting off the pump, and producing a continual pumping cycle.
In the past, sump pumps were used mainly as a solution to an already flooded basement. These days however, sump pumps are more of a preventive tool, and come with various features catering to different homeowners' needs. Some are meant to work underwater, while others should be kept dry. Sump pumps may be powered either by water or electricity, and are manufactured using a variety of materials such as cast iron or plastic, which factors into the pump's price and eventually, its long term performance.
As with any equipment of significant importance, sump pumps should be maintained and checked regularly. Being mechanical in nature, many of the pump parts will eventually fail, and the consequences could be severely damaging.
On the whole, water, while being a necessity to life and living, can also be one of the most powerful damage-causing forces to reckon with. The good news is that, the destruction that water may bring about is not unavoidable. In this day and age, there is a lot of information on precautionary measures that we can institute to ensure the wellbeing and safety of our property, our homes, and our lives.