Diagnose And Fix A Wet Basement

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A wet basement can harm your home, your possessions and sometimes your health. Learn how to determine the source of the water and keep it out of your house.

Whether your basement is consistently damp or is currently holding a foot of water, you’ll need to take aggressive action to first dry and clean your basement and then waterproof it to eliminate the problem.

How to dry your wet basement

The measures you take to dry out your basement will depend on your situation. If you find yourself knee-deep in water, you’ll need a pump—or a professional—to get the water out. (You can rent pumps at many tool rental and home improvement stores.) If puddles are your problem, a wet-dry vacuum should due.

Once the water is cleared, you’ll want to run a dehumidifier for several days. If the weather is dry (and not humid) and your basement has windows, open them. And run some fans.

Be sure to remove any items from your basement that were damaged by the water, including flooring, floor underlays and drywall (the entire sheet). Toss the carpeting, drywall and any floor underlays as these are prime suspects for mold and mildew, and likely cannot be salvaged. (If you have wood floors, you might be able to save the planks by drying them out.)

How to diagnose the cause of your wet basement

Beyond leaky pipes, the top three large issues that can cause a wet or damp basement are condensation from air temperatures, water runoff from outside, or a rise in groundwater.

  1. Condensation: To check if you’re dealing with a condensation issue, tape foil over the wet area and check it in a day or so. If moisture is still forming on the outer part of the foil, you’re dealing with condensation. (If it’s pooling below the foil, then you likely have runoff or groundwater issues.)
    Condensation forms because warm air from the outside is hitting cold-water pipes or the cool walls of your foundation, resulting in water droplets, wet spots or puddles.
  2. Water runoff: If you’re noticing water in your basement after a rain storm or snow melt-off, you likely are dealing with runoff, which infiltrates through gaps and cracks in your walls and foundation.
  3. Increase in groundwater: Groundwater issues can occur when the water table in your area is high. This problem acts much like runoff, except your basement will be constantly wet.

How to waterproof your basement

Now that you know what you’re dealing with, you can fix it:

  1. Condensation: Insulate all cold-water pipes and apply a waterproof coating to exposed walls. If your clothes dryer is in the basement, be sure it vents properly to the outside; if you air-dry your clothes, be sure to hang them in another location.
  2. Water runoff: Patch any cracks in the foundation, and seal your basement walls. Also patch any cracks in your driveway or sidewalk as water can seep through and find its way into your home. Clear your gutters and add downspout extensions to direct water away from the house. Don’t plant trees with large root systems near the foundation of your home and, finally, check the slope of the ground around your foundation—it should slope away from the house at one inch per foot for at least four feet.
  3. Increase in groundwater: A professional is your best bet to fix this issue. Solutions can be complex and expensive, so you’ll want to be sure it’s done right. See these tips for selecting a contractor for the job.
Source: This Old House, DoItYouself.com
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