What Causes Basement Moisture Problems?

by J on April 26, 2010

Basement moisture is a tricky problem to deal with. Sometimes the source of the problem is obvious. A monster storm unleashes a torrential amount of rain in a short period of time and your basement floods, or a pipe bursts in your house and causes water damage. But other times, the cause is not so obvious. Your basement is damp or you see pools of water, but you don’t know where they are coming from.

The University of Minnesota Extension has a helpful list of the typical causes and fixes of basement moisture problems.

  1. Inadequate Grading. Check the ground around the foundation of your house. It should slope away from your house. If the ground slopes toward your house or is level, then water will be directed into your basement. To fix it, add enough dirt around the house so that it slopes away from the foundation wall one inch per foot for at least six feet.
  2. Missing or Inadequate Gutter and Downspouts. Your gutters and downspouts should direct water away from your house. Water should not stream over the sides and pour straight down your house. If this happens, check to see if they are clogged with leaves or other debris. Your downspout should have an extender that extends out four feet away from the house, otherwise the water will simply gush out of the downspout and gather in a puddle right by the basement.
  3. Improperly Designed Window Wells. The water should be directed away from your foundation, not into your basement. To fix it, fill your well from the footing to the window sill with 3/8- to ¾-inch coarse aggregate. You should also install a supplemental drain tile extension from the footing to the base of the window well.
  4. Ineffective Drain Tile and Sump Pit. Many homes don’t have an adequate subsurface drainage system. Either one was not installed or the system has stopped working. Consult with a basement waterproofing expert to determine your cause and solution.
  5. Improper Drainage with Underslab Ducts. If you have heating ducts underneath a basement floor slab, sometimes the drainage system may be installed improperly, being left at a level higher than the duct. The heating ducts must be insulated, watertight and sloped to collection points for drainage and cleaning.
  6. Structural Cracks. Quite often, concrete block and concrete foundations develop some cracks due to settling and improperly connected floor joists. Be sure that bolts or straps are anchored at the sill plate and that floor joists are nailed to the sill plate. The cracks may require some repairs.

When dealing with basement moisture, the knowledge of a basement waterproofing expert if often required because of the potential for serious problems such as mold, mildew and deterioration of carpet or wood. Consult with your friends and family for a reputable company that will determine the cause of your moisture problem and the correct fix.

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