Picture the scene; you go down to get something out of storage and instead you find pools of water in the basement. You could be forgiven for panicking, but don’t worry, we’re here to help.
When you find a leak in your basement wall or water intrusion coming from the floor it’s important to know what to do immediately and what you can do to stop it from happening again.
Understanding the Problem
There are a few potential reasons you might find water seeping through the basement floor or walls. Understanding the various processes involved will help you deal with the immediate problem and ensure that you can get the right repairs for your wet basement. All of these are likely sources of water in your basement, especially after heavy rain.
The earth around your basement contains water. When it becomes saturated, say after heavy rain, it exerts greater pressure on your basement walls and floor. This can lead to cracks and water intrusion as the water is forced through.
Cracks in foundation walls
Water follows the path of least resistance. A crack offers less resistance than the hard-packed earth around your property, leading to leaks in basement walls and floors.
When water doesn’t have the opportunity to drain harmlessly away, it will eventually find its way where it shouldn’t. It’s important to ensure that your property’s drainage is clear and properly positioned.
It may seem odd to worry about your gutters when you’re facing water in your basement, but your home’s waterproofing is a holistic system. If water from your roof isn’t being diverted away properly, it can end up putting stress on your basement.
Bad Window Wells
If you’re finding water on your floor or leaks in your basement wall, it’s possibly coming through your windows. If window wells aren’t kept clear, they can be an easy path for water to collect and force its way through.
Immediate Steps To Take When You Discover Water In Your Basement
Upon discovery of water intrusion, it’s important to act quickly. Finding water in your basement is not just an annoyance, it’s a sign that something has gone wrong in your interior basement waterproofing and needs repair.
Before you can effect a more permanent solution, there are some steps you should take straight away:
Basements are a great place to put all kinds of bulky or noisy appliances and a common place for breakers and other electrical equipment. Unfortunately, water and electricity don’t mix. If you suspect that there might be water interfering with your electrical systems and it’s safe to do so, turn off the power.
Basements are also great storage spaces. If there’s a leak in the basement that’s gone undetected for any length of time, there’s a chance that anything stored down there might have gotten wet. Mold and fungus thrives in damp spaces, so if you’re sorting through anything which has gotten wet, it’s a good idea to wear a mask.
In any event, you should always ensure that you’re wearing the appropriate gear for the job.
Identify The Source
If you find water in your basement, it must be coming from somewhere. Knowing where water is leaking into your basement from will help with any long-term solutions which might be necessary.
Check along walls, the floor and around any windows for signs that might show you where water is getting in.
When you find the source of the water in your basement, make sure to take lots of pictures and videos. These will make it much easier for your waterproofing professionals to advise you before affecting any repairs on your wet basement.
Regardless of how bad the water intrusion is, removing the water is never a bad idea.
If you’ve got a fairly light case of wet basement, towels and mops are probably the order of the day. However, if you’re facing pooling or flooding, these aren’t going to cut it.
When you find more water in your basement than can be easily mopped up you might have to turn to:
- Wet Vacs: some vacuum cleaners are designed to deal with water as well as dust. If your problem is mild to moderate, this might be the ideal solution to a water leak in your basement.
- Pumps: If your basement is more heavily flooded, you might need more specialist equipment. Pumps will remove large amounts of water if you find your water intrusion is more extreme.
Of course, there are professionals who specialise in dealing with flooded homes. Calling a disaster mitigation specialist who will have all the equipment and know-how is often the best call to make.
Unfortunately, water leaking into your basement produces the ideal conditions for mold growth, meaning that even after everything is dried out, you can still be facing problems.
There are certain items that you’ve probably got stored down there that do not mix with water and, if they’re showing signs of having gotten wet, you’ll probably have to throw away.
Once it takes hold, mold has a tendency to spread and the spores that it produces can be hazardous to your health.
Of particular concern are:
- Paper: Paper holds water and provides a great surface for mold to grow on. Old magazines, books and artworks are all, sadly, potential havens for black mold once they’ve been exposed to water.
- Fabrics: Much like paper, wet fabrics offer the perfect habitat for molds and fungi.
- Carpets: Mold likes dampness and dark crevices. A carpet that’s been in a wet basement is almost certainly the ideal breeding ground for molds.
- Ceiling Tiles: Old fashioned polystyrene tiles are incredibly porous and offer lots of nooks and crannies for mold to fester in.
If you’re facing a mold problem, it’s almost always a good idea to call in a specialist. Not only can mold be really dangerous to your health, they might be able to help you save items of sentimental value.
Long Term Solutions For A Dry Basement
Of course, if you’ve found water in your basement once, it’s bound to happen again unless you take action.
There are a range of steps which can be taken, both inside and out, to ensure that water doesn’t leak into your basement again and we recommend talking to a professional to see which the best options for your particular situation are.
These range from the fairly simple and undisruptive to the nuclear option of major earthworks.
Interior Basement Waterproofing
- Crack Repair: As mentioned above, cracks are a sure source of leaks in basement walls. Patching and repairing them is usually fairly straightforward.
- French Drains: Often diverting water before it can leak into your basement is the best solution. French drains are effectively horizontal drainpipes which allow water to flow harmlessly away before it threatens to seep through your basement floor.
- Sump Pumps: These simple mechanisms sit in a pit (the sump) below your basement floor. When groundwater levels start to rise, they switch on and pump water away from your basement.
- Dehumidifiers: If you’re experiencing problems with dampness a dehumidifier can help protect your basement space from mold.
Exterior Basement Waterproofing
- Proper Grading: The first thing that any homeowner should know about water is that it flows downhill. If your home isn’t located on the highest part of your property, remedial work can be undertaken to ensure that water has an easier path to follow rather than coming through your basement walls.
- Downspouts and Gutters: Though they’re designed to take water away from your roof, proper guttering is vital to waterproofing your whole home, basements included. If they’re damaged, blocked or misplaced, gutters and downspouts can allow water to pool where it can start to threaten your basement.
- Window Wells: Windows are effectively holes in your walls and, unsurprisingly, can be an easy way in for water. Perished sealants, cracks or even an accumulation of debris can all lead to water intrusion if left unattended. It’s important to ensure that window wells are able to drain harmlessly away from any windows, especially ones in your basement.
When you find water leaking into your basement, it’s important to not fall into the trap of “out of sight, out of mind”. Any sign of water in your basement, especially after heavy rain needs to be dealt with quickly and decisively.
Once the immediate problem has been dealt with consider your options to ensure it doesn’t happen again.