Moisture Problems in Basements

by J on October 22, 2010

If you’re considering a basement finishing project at your house, you’ll need to address a major issue before you start this project: basement waterproofing. If your basement has obvious moisture problems, such as moisture visible on the walls or the floors, you need to fix this. Otherwise, the water will ruin your refinishing efforts and possibly cause mold problems.

Whether or not your home will have moisture problems is dependent on several factors that can occur both inside and outside the house. In this post, we’ll consider sources from the ground that may contribute to moisture problems in the house. Much of this information comes from a handout by the Oregon State University Extension Service called “Home Moisture Problems.”

Proper foundation drainage is critical to keeping moisture out of your basement. You need to be sure that the land around your home drains away from your home. If the land slopes toward your house, then you need to have your property graded to reverse this. If you suddenly develop indoor moisture problems when you haven’t had them before, check two things:  your downspouts and your foundation footing drain. If either of these become plugged, water can pool into your basement. Always remember to check your downspouts and clear them out, especially in the autumn when the leaves are falling.

Check your splashback. If the siding on your house is closer that one foot to the ground, you could have a problem with capillarity. Basically, raindrops splash up soaking the bottom of your siding. This moisture can then spread into the wall through the process of capillarity.

Allow the air to circulate around the perimeter of your home. Be sure that you don’t have piles of firewood or heavy shrubbery that are touching the sides of your home. All of these things can trap moisture and prevent proper air circulation. Allow space between the side of your home and anything your are storing around the edges of it.

Another factor is the type of soil you have and the height of the average water table in your area. If you live in an area with heavy, clay soil, then realize that this type of soil holds water for longer periods of time. If you also happen to have a high water table, then this could pose a problem with moisture levels, and you may need to look into basement waterproofing. A visit to your county engineer’s office should prove helpful. They have detailed maps of the soil and groundwater conditions of the area you live in and can help you figure out if groundwater could be a problem at your location. They may also be able to guide you on what methods of waterproofing will be best for you.

Ultimately, taking the time to figure out if moisture is a problem in your basement just makes sense. Do this before you start your home improvement project to be sure that your new basement will be one that you can enjoy for years.

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