Your basement is much more than just a place inside your home to store items. It’s the foundation on which most, if not all, of your home rests, which means it’s responsible for your home’s structural integrity. Water in your basement is more than just a nuisance, it’s a thief that can rob you of money and your possessions causing damages to the structure you may not know about, until it’s too late. Therefore, it’s in your interest to keep your basement dry and to take basement waterproofing methods seriously, at the first signs of water infiltration or moisture.
Why Water Must be Kept Out of Your Basement
Basements become wet for a number of reasons. For one, building foundations are made of concrete, which is porous and allows moisture to wick through the surface. While concrete does keep most water out of the area, water vapor can migrate through it, contributing to humidity levels.
Another factor is ground settling. Foundations built over expansive soils are prone to settlement as are foundations built on soil fills that have not been compacted.
Another problem involves hydrostatic pressure. This phenomenon, which involves water coming up through drains or cracks in the floor, occurs when water does not drain away properly from the foundation. This is especially true if your gutters are not installed properly, cleaned regularly or other sources of water are allowed to puddle near the foundation of your home, versus being properly drained away from it.
In short, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to basement waterproofing methods. The solutions depend on several factors, which include:
- Soil composition
- Presence of gutters and drains
Keeping your basement dry as a number of advantages. For one, it’s essential if you want to expand the living space in your home. Having a finished basement means you’ll have furniture, flooring, electronics and other sensitive items below grade. All of these can be adversely affected by too much humidity and/or water. Secondly, a wet basement can affect the stability of your home. In addition to cracked walls, a wet basement could cause your foundation to start crumbling, which in turn can wreak havoc with the rest of your house.
Additionally, if you store items there, or even if you have the area partially finished, the humidity and the mold and mildew growth that occurs because of excessive moisture, can destroy your furniture and your possessions.
Signs of a Wet Basement
Your basement will definitely talk to you in no uncertain manner to let you know that it’s too wet. Look for these common signs that tell you measures need to be taken.
Mold, Mildew or Musty Odors
Musty smells indicate the presence of mold or mildew, even if you can’t readily see the problem. Both of these substances can cause extensive damage to your belongings and to structures inside your basement. Smells are often the first sign that your basement is too wet. Musty smells tend to be more prevalent in spring and summer when the weather is warmer and wetter.
If you notice musty smells, look for signs of mold and mildew, both of which thrive in dark, damp environments. Mold generally appears as a black or greenish substance, while mildew is white or greyish and fluffy. Both will appear on organic substances such as wood, cardboard and the like.
Signs of Water
If you have cracks in your basement walls, look for dampness around the cracks. Other signs include unexplained standing water, which can rush in from cracks following a heavy rain or from hydrostatic pressure in the floor.
Check your basement walls for signs of condensation. If your walls feel damp or are outright wet to the touch, you could have a problem with excess moisture migrating through the porous parts of your concrete foundation walls or inadequate venting from appliances such as clothes dryers.
Even if you don’t have a basement bathroom or laundry facilities, you may still have a conventional tank style water heater along with lots of plumbing pipes. If you see standing water on your floor, check the plumbing pipes. Leaky pipes can develop slowly, so you may not notice the problem at first. Check the joints first, as this is the most common are for leaks to happen, however, leaks can occur anywhere along the line. Call a plumber if you feel excessive wetness.
Don’t ignore that damp, humid feeling that occurs every time you walk into your basement. Also, you may not definitively “see” water, but you may see other signs that include a saturated base near concrete walls, stained or blistering walls, deteriorating carpet or wood, rotting columns, headers or joists.
Cost of Waterproofing or Repairs
When it comes to reducing water and humidity you have several areas in which to look to determine what you need to do when attempting to fix excessive water in your basement.
Fixing the issues may not be a single fix, but a combination of several. For example, if you have water under the foundation, you might need to install a french drain system in the basement, or outside around the foundation, as well as install a sump pump or some other removal method to drain the water out.
Broken Plumbing – $50 to $2,000
The price depends on how complicated the situation is. Most plumbing issues will trend toward the lower end, especially if you can fix the leak yourself. If you find the leak and can manage a do-it-yourself repair kit, the cost may be even less, but more complicated problems will require the services of a licensed plumber.
The cost of fixing leaking pipes depends on a number of factors. The tenet is, the more difficult the leak is to reach, the more expensive the repair will be. In most cases, plumbing repairs are factored at the cost of the materials, plus an hourly rate for the plumber and his apprentice.
Ineffective Grading – $100 to $4,500
Water should always move away from the foundation of your home. The soil beneath your home will settle, sometimes excessively so if the fill was not compacted properly before the foundation was poured, water can pool near the foundation.
If rain runoff is running toward your home, regrading your yard may be the answer. The more complicated the problem, the more you will pay. Expect an average of about $1,500 for regrading to move water away from your home, and more if an exterior french drain system is needed.
Missing/Defective Gutters and Downspouts – $200 to $10,000
Gutters and downspouts help direct rainwater away from the foundation of your home. If they are missing or functioning improperly, rainwater could end up affecting your foundation and the soil around it. If water accumulates there, it will most likely make its way inside your basement.
Downspouts should be placed at least four feet apart and should move water away from the foundation. The ultimate cost of repairing or installing gutters depends on how many lineal feet need repair or replacement.
Foundation Cracks – $450 to $11,450
Repairing visible cracks is what people generally consider to be basement waterproofing. Cracks without leaks will generally cost less than $1,000 to repair. Look for cracks that are wider than 1/8-inch wide. Even cracks that don’t appear to leak are cause for concern as they will eventually emit water.
Poor Subsurface Drainage – $500 to $5,000
Costs here can vary widely depending on whether you need new subsurface drainage or if a more powerful sump pump will do the trick. Make sure that your basement has adequate subsurface drainage so water does come up through the drains or sump pits.