Waterproofing Your Basement Against Costly Damage
September 14, 2010
Basic basement waterproofing can be done for a relatively low price; much cheaper than the eventual cost of long term water damage that can result in your foundation and finished basement walls and carpet.
Basement water damage can take several costly forms and often the wet basement isn’t caused by water from a roaring flood but rather the slow and steady rain storms and thawing snow of the spring. The reason water can be such a nasty enemy to your home is that it’s relentlessly wearing away at the base of your house without you even realizing it. The good news, as I mentioned at the start, is that you can make some relatively cheap changes to help protect your basement walls and floor.
Start off by routing the water from your downspouts away from your house to help maintain a dry basement. Splash blocks aren’t good enough, they still dump the water pretty much at the base of your foundation and it runs right back down to your basement. You can use metal guttering (around $9 for 10 feet) or plastic extenders (about $7 for 4–5 feet) to run the water at least 4 feet away from your house.
Ideally the area around your house was graded at the time it was built so that water runs away from your home. If you have areas where water pools near your house during a heavy rain you’ll want to get out there with a shovel or maybe a Bobcat and give the water a place to flow away from your house. Water that collects around the base will eventually find it’s way down into your basement. You can also add soil all around the base of your house to help prevent water from creeping down between the dirt and the foundation.
Another weapon you can use to try and keep a dry basement is a sump pump. This is basically a pit in the floor of your basement with an electric pump in it. Since the pit is a low spot, the water collects there and the pump pushes it up a pipe through your basement wall and out into your yard.
Make sure the water from the pump isn’t being emptied right outside the wall of your house, run it at least 4–5 feet away so the water doesn’t run directly back down into the sump pit. If your basement is finished and carpet water damage is a concern you’ll also want to install an alarm on the pump to let you know if it stops working, and possibly even a backup, battery operated pump.
Newer houses are often built with a drain around the edges of your basement floor to channel the water all around the foundation into the sump pit, where it’s pumped up and away from the house. If you don’t have this drainage in place you might be able to add it but the sump pump and additional drains have left the “cheap solution” range and entered the expensive zone.
Next lets look at the cost of not waterproofing your basement and how that compares to the cost of prevention.
Your foundation is your main barrier against all the water that wants to seep, or rush, into your basement. If you don’t route your downspouts and water run-off away from your house the soil in those areas can become pretty saturated during extended weeks of rain. Since your foundation is resting on that soil, if the ground shifts, that puts can put pressure on your foundation.
For example, if you have downspouts dumping at either end of your house and those corners get soaked during spring rains, the corners of your house can shift down and cause stress and cracking at weak points in your foundation. Once cracks start to form, then it’s even easier for water to creep into your basement. Cracks in the foundation are certainly not cheap to patch, the cost depends on how large they are, which direction they run (horizontal vs vertical) and whether they’re on the inside of the wall, the outside, or go all the way through.
While keeping the soil moisture levels consistent around your foundation can help combat stress and cracking it can’t prevent it. As the ground freezes and thaws the soil will shift, which can also cause cracks. So the best way to keep the water out is to keep it away from your house.
If water does get into the basement one of the biggest concerns is mold. Mold just needs a little moisture and some organic material like wood, wallboard, or even dust particles to start growing. Getting rid of mold is not cheap if you have to hire professionals. When I called mold remediation companies for price quotes it was going to be $600 just to get an air quality sample done in the basement. Then if the sample comes back with high mold levels then you’ll have to pay even more to take care of it.
Wet carpet, pad, and wallboard are all prime places for mold to grow so even a tiny leak in your basement can be enough to start feeding a mold colony. Even if you divert the water on the outside, basements can be damp so running a dehumidifier is a good idea. Ventilation and the exchange of air in a damp basement can help keep the mold at bay.
Prevention is Cheaper
Problems with water leaking into your basement and basement mold don’t just pop up overnight. If you keep an eye on the sneaky moisture trying to soak its way into your basement and do what you can to prevent it you’ll certainly save yourself money in the long run.
All posts by Ben Edwards