Discovering moisture in any part of your home produces a sinking feeling. Not only is it unsightly, odiferous, and potentially hazardous to your health (should mold populations explode as a result), but it also has a high potential for costly repairs associated with addressing the cause of wetness. But when it comes to your basement, if you have moisture beading on concrete walls, or worse, standing water, chances are good that you’re in for some major expense. However, this may be somewhat alleviated by understanding the most common causes of wetness in the basement area and the solutions to such problems. With this knowledge you may be able to spot signs of leaks early on, identify the source, and remedy the situation before too much damage has been done. Or you could perform inspections and maintenance beforehand to prevent future moisture issues. So here are just a few common problems that lead to wetness in the basement, as well as how to deal with them.
- Vapor barrier issues. The foundation for the average basement is concrete, which happens to be a porous material, meaning that moisture in the ground can seep in and cause water damage in your basement. It is for this reason that most homes feature some kind of vapor barrier that prevents such issues from occurring. However, if you have an unfinished basement, you might not have this measure in place. And if you’re noticing water in a finished basement, your vapor barrier may have been pierced. The obvious solution is to install a new vapor barrier once you have determined that this is the root of your moisture problems.
- Humidity. Since basements tend to be far cooler than other floors in the home, many people don’t bother to add air conditioning to this area. But air conditioners perform a function other than simply cooling the interior air; often they also reduce humidity levels. So if you notice humidity issues in the basement, you may want to extend your AC to this area. Or it could be that increasing insulation will do the trick. Also handy (and potentially less expensive than other options) are portable dehumidifiers.
- Faulty pump. Since the basement is mostly underground, you might have some issues when it comes to carrying away waste water (from toilets, sinks, showers, and other drains). For this reason, many basements come equipped with pumps that carry the water up to the pipes at ground level (or just below) in order to drain it properly. If you start to notice standing water in sinks or showers, or the toilet doesn’t seem to be flushing properly, it might be time to repair or replace pumping mechanisms.
- HVAC condensation. Some homes house the HVAC equipment in the basement, including the furnace or boiler and the AC unit. Because of refrigerants used in AC units, it’s not uncommon for condensation to form when the equipment is in use. And if you see pooling under the unit, the easiest solution is generally to install a drain pan to collect the moisture. Just as you clean evaporator coils to keep cool air pumping out, you need to make sure that there are measures in place to reduce the likelihood of water damage.
- Improper grading. An unfortunate but all too common cause of wetness in the basement revolves around a property that has been improperly graded, carrying water towards the house instead of away from it. There are a couple of potential solutions here, but your best bet is to make sure that gutters, downspouts, and drains are in good working order, and then have your yard graded accordingly.