Solving Basement Water Problems
By Monte Burch
From East to West, North to South, flooding has been a major problem across much of the United States. You can’t do much about major catastrophic floods, but you can solve many basement flooding or dampness problems. First, determine if the moisture is simply dampness caused by condensation or if water is seeping inward. Some problems are a simple fix, others require major work. In examining the problem, look for sources of water, water containment and water drainage.
To check for condensation, use duct tape to fasten a piece of aluminum foil to the basement wall that typically has dampness. Make sure the foil is taped solidly in place around all four edges. Wait a couple of days and then check the foil for moisture. If moisture is present on the outside of the foil, the problem is condensation and installing a dehumidifier will do the trick. If moisture is on the inside of the foil facing the wall, then seepage is the problem.
If you only have water in your basement after heavy rains or snow melts, the most common source of water intrusion is at the crack between the basement walls and floor, although cracks in the floor can also be a source—as can cracks in the walls, or around openings for pipes. When an excess of water builds up against the basement foundation, hydrostatic pressure forces the water into the basement. In this case, the first step is to eliminate the source. Two common problems create excess water around the basement foundation—faulty guttering (or no guttering) and poor ground slope around the building.
Gutters are Key
Check the guttering and repair, replace or install gutters where needed. If the building has trees hanging over the roof where leaves and twigs can collect in the gutter, use gutter guards to keep out debris. And, keep the gutters clean. You might wish to check into Rainhandler (www.rainhandler.com), a self-cleaning gutter system that eliminates clogged, over-flowing gutters and downspouts. For more information on gutter repair installations, check out the free online articles at www.extremehowto.com.
Effective downspouts are also important. Another product, called The SpoutOff, makes it easy to clean one-, two- and even three-story downspouts from the ground (www.thespoutoff.com). Concrete, plastic or even wooden splash blocks should be installed at the bottoms of downspouts at a slope of one inch per foot to direct water away from the foundation. In areas with flatter grades, the downspouts should ideally discharge rain water eight feet from the foundation. This can be achieved in a number of ways. Some systems utilize above-ground dispersal, others in-ground. The latter are the least obtrusive, but the most expensive. One alternative that is regaining popularity these days is the old-fashioned rain barrel. With everyone going “green,” collecting rooftop rain for gardening and other watering chores has become popular. Check out www.simplyrainbarrels.com.
Get a Good Grade
The second most common problem is a poor grade. Ideally, the lawn or grade should slope away from the house, as should any attachments, such as concrete patios, walkways, and so forth. The slope should be about one inch per foot on lawns, with the slope extending at least 10 feet from the building. A common problem with older homes and even some new ones is that the ground settles, allowing the surface to slope back toward the foundation. Rebuilding the slope is the best answer for serious problems, but can be costly, and the heavy construction equipment may do more damage than good. Keep the lawn well seeded to prevent the soil washing away or back against the building. If grading the slope, the best choice is to sod the area. If a large area of watershed slopes toward the building, you may need to intercept the drainage and redirect it away from the building. This can be done with open ditching that is sodded or seeded with grass or “French drains,” which are basically rock-filled ditches. In some instances, you may need to install drainage tiles with concrete catch basins in low areas.