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FAQs for Basements
How can you tell if you have basement problems?
Symptoms of basement problems include cracks in the walls, floor or ceiling. Other evidence may be water stains on ceilings and floors, dampness in the air near the foundation, excessive humidity on exterior wood surfaces, musty odors and mildew on drywall or on painted walls. Leaks can also cause damage to foundations above basements.
What causes cracks in my basement walls?
There are a number of causes for cracks in basement walls. One common cause is that the foundation has settled, causing stress on the surrounding soil and the building structure. This may be due to poor design or construction, or because of ground movement such as sinking or expansive soils.
Why do I get water coming up through my basement floor?
Water coming up through the foundation of your home may be caused by poor grading or drainage, which is usually a problem on sloping sites. It can also be caused by cracks in the foundation wall that let water seep through. If you have a sump pump and it's constantly running, this could indicate that there's too much ground water, which could be caused by heavy rains, poor grading or blocked drains.
Why do I get musty odors in my basement?
Condensation can cause musty odors in your basement because of the temperature difference between the inside and outside walls. Warmer air rises to the upper floors, creating a temperature difference that encourages condensation on the walls. To correct this, you can add insulation to basement walls and reduce air leakage in your basement.
Why is my basement always moist?
If your home has a damp interior wall, this may be caused by leaks of outside water getting into the structure through cracks in masonry or poor ventilation. A dehumidifier can help reduce the humidity in your basement.
What should I do about cracks in my foundation?
There are several different types of foundation cracks, but most can be fixed fairly easily. The first step is to stop the source of the problem, either by repairing outside water leaks or by adding insulation or caulking to inside walls to stop air leakage.
Are there any problems I can fix on my own?
Basement waterproofing products are available at many hardware stores. These easy-to-use products actually work by stopping water leaks by creating a barrier between the foundation and soil. Some basement waterproofing products also contain mildews, which help reduce musty odors when applied to the inside walls of your basement.
What are interior drain tile systems?
Interior drain tile systems are porous, corrugated plastic tubes installed against the interior basement wall. They work by allowing water that comes into contact with the foundation to flow through the tubes and into a sump pump below ground.
How does a sump pump work in my basement?
A sump pump is a submersible system placed in the lowest part of your basement. It pumps water away from the foundation through an underground drain tile system installed along the exterior walls.
Why use interior drain tile systems?
Interior drain tile systems are less expensive to install than exterior wall drainage systems, because they require less excavation and no exterior drains.
What is an exterior foundation drainage system?
It's a two-part system of waterproofing and drainage systems that put a final protective seal around your basement walls before water can reach them from the ground outside. It consists of vertical drainage pipes along the sides of the foundation, which are connected to a sump pump with a large, watertight basin. The sump pump is connected to an underground drainage system through perforated drain tile that encircles the exterior foundation walls.
Why use exterior foundation drainage systems?
Exterior foundation drainage systems are more expensive to install than interior systems, but are more effective at keeping your basement dry because they have fewer accessible seams and joints, which are potential points of water entry.
Does a sump pump and drainage system completely protect my basement from water leaks?
No. Although a pumping system greatly reduces the chances of water damage, it's important to regularly maintain your basement so you can ensure that it's working properly.
Does a new sump pump or drainage system require maintenance?
Yes. You should regularly inspect these systems to ensure that they're working properly. A well-maintained system will be more dependable and durable, and may last longer. There are a number of good references at your local library or book store that explain how to clean a sump pump pit and perform other maintenance tasks.
How can I keep my sump pump from freezing in the winter?
The most important thing to do is keep the top of your sump pump free of ice and snow. If the surrounding soil freezes, however, it may be difficult to keep the top of the pump clear. You can solve this problem by running an electrical or plastic-sheathed heating cable under the floor around the outside perimeter of your basement.
What do I need to know about waterproofing?
Waterproofing is a process by which the basement walls are made impervious to water entry. There are several different types of waterproofing systems, but the three main methods used to waterproof basements include interior drain tile systems, exterior foundation drainage systems and mudjacking.
How do I know if my basement needs waterproofing?
The best way to find out is t ootake a flashlight and go down into your basement when it has been raining outside. If there are puddles of water on the floor, you probably need to waterproof. Look for cracks in the foundation, which may allow water to enter your basement; or at low spots in your yard where pooled or standing water is located around the exterior of your basement. These areas of water entry point to openings in your foundation that allow water to seep through and into your basement walls.
What types of problems can water intrusion cause?
Leaky basements can lead to many problems such as cracks in the structure, discoloration on the walls and ceilings, mold or mildew growth, rotting of the floor joists and structural beams, wood warping, electrical problems from water vapor in the air shorting out circuit breakers, unpleasant odors from mold growth, humidity build-up and other issues.
What do I need to waterproof my basement?
It depends upon how much work must be done and what type of system needs to be installed. The cost of a basement waterproofing system varies dramatically from region to region, and it's best for you to get price quotes from several companies in your area before you make a decision.
Why should I consider exterior basement waterproofing?
Exterior basement waterproofing is more effective at keeping your basement dry than interior systems because there are fewer seams and less accessible joints, which can become points of entry for water.
Can basement waterproofing be done in any season?
Yes, interior basement waterproofing can be done in any season. Exterior waterproofing, however, is normally only performed from April until October because the ground must be dry enough to excavate and make repairs.
How long does a basement waterproofing job take?
The length of time it takes to complete a basement waterproofing job is typically determined by the size of the area being waterproofed. On average, a small basement takes about two days to complete and a large basement can take as many as five days.
What is involved in having a basement waterproofed?
The first step in having your basement waterproofed is to have the floor excavated so that it's even with the exterior grade level. Then professionals dig holes about 3 feet deep around the perimeter of your home. They place a pipe in the hole and fill it with gravel; this gravel is covered with bentonite clay, which forms a seal around the pipe to prevent water from seeping under your foundation.
A sump pump and pumping system is then installed and connected to drain tiles, which are placed in the ground at the lowest points around your home. The system is tested after it's installed and to ensure that the basement stays dry.
What basement waterproofing systems can remedy a wet basement?
Interior systems are your best bet for keeping water out of your basement. Interior systems include drain tile, French drains, sump pumps and other systems that collect the water before it has a chance to seep into the walls of your foundation. Exterior systems are more complicated, but they're better at sealing off access points where water enters the basement.
What other practices can help keep my basement dry?
In addition to a proper drainage system, it's also important to reduce the humidity in your basement wherever possible by improving ventilation and installing an exhaust fan. If you're having problems with mold growth in your basement, be sure to use a fungicide that kills mold on contact.
My basement wall is bowing - how can that be fixed?
In some cases, if the bowing is not too severe, mudjacking can actually straighten a foundation wall. Mudjacking involves drilling holes in your basement floor near the wall and injecting a grout material into the ground beneath your foundation until it fills any voids found there. Then a steel rod is inserted into each hole and then forced up vertically to fill the void. Once it's reached about 10 feet high, the rod is removed and then a concrete mixture is poured into the holes and allowed to cure.
Can cracks in my basement wall be fixed?
If the crack is small enough, minor cracks in your basement wall can be repaired with a urethane foam sealant that will fill in any voids and then expand to form a tight seal. If you have larger cracks, however, these tend to need more major repairs which might involve removing part of the foundation wall and replacing it with new poured concrete.
How can I find a qualified waterproofing, foundation repair or other contractor?
You should always check the credentials and qualifications of any contractor. Find out if they're licensed and what types of warranties they offer on their workmanship and materials. You should also get more than one estimate for the work that needs to be done; this will give you a better idea of what you should expect to pay for a particular project.
You will want to choose a company that has been in business for at least 5 years and performs work all over your state or region, not just in one town. They should be able to provide a list of happy, satisfied customers for you to talk to regarding their work.
How does winter weather cause leaky basements?
In winter, you may notice that your basement leaks when it rains or snows. Water will seep in through your foundation and leak into the walls and floor of the basement - a problem that's made worse by a frozen ground. When water freezes, it expands, which can lead to cracks in concrete foundations and dirt floors. It also exacerbates the possibility of basement flooding.
What can I do to prevent my basement from leaking during winter?
There are a number of things that you should take care of before the first snowfall, as well as throughout the winter months.
Before winter begins, it's important to ensure that all cracks and holes around your foundation are properly sealed with a waterproofing product, and that you have a drainage system in place that's capable of rapidly removing water from your basement before it has a chance to freeze.
If you already have a drainage problem, this is a great time to fix it.
It's also important during winter to test the effectiveness of any dehumidifiers or air movers that you're using - if they're unable to remove enough humidity from your basement, the problem will only grow worse as you enter the colder months.
How can I prevent my basement from leaking during heavy rains?
The best way to ensure your basement does not leak during times of heavy rainfall is to make sure it's properly waterproofed before any problems arise. As we've discussed, even a waterproofing system that's less than one year old can fail if the basement is exposed to constant moisture. There are several ways you can do this:
- Install gutters and downspouts near your house foundation to divert precipitation away from your home; make sure the drainage system around your foundation slopes away from the house and uses at least a 5/8 inch per foot grade.
- Seal cracks and holes in the exterior foundation with a high performance sealant; this also includes gaps around pipes, doors and windows.
- Remove any foliage by your house that's close enough to the walls to allow moisture to collect against them. Keep grass at least 12 inches away from your foundation walls. After the first snowfall, clear snow away from the exterior of basement walls.
- Purchase an interior drainage system if you fail to address any of these issues. This kind of system will collect excess moisture in the floor and direct it outside through a hose or sump pump. You can also purchase waterproofing paint and apply it to any exposed concrete walls to protect them from moisture.