Damp basements need to be dealt with. And just because your home is built over a crawl space doesn't mean you might not have the same problems with trapped dampness or water. Dealing with a damp crawlspace or basement will protect your home, the largest investment many of us make. Making good use of space in your basement after the dampness problem is dealt with will increase your square footage without increasing the footprint of your house. If you notice some of the telltale signs mentioned above, or if you want to utilize your basement for expanded living space such as family rooms or even storage, a professional basement inspection by a waterproofing expert can clear the way for renovations, increased property values and better health.
Rushing torrents coming through the walls or broken pipes and backed up drains are easy to spot, but the source of constant moisture, particularly in the summer, is hard to spot. While a basement inspection can tell you of problem areas and possible solutions, there is a trick you can do on your own to help determine the type of water you have, either exterior coming in or too much interior moisture. It will also help you communicate your suspicions to a waterproofing specialist.
In an area of your basement where you suspect outside water coming in tape a large piece of tin foil to the wall, such as over an area of peeling paint. Seal all edges well. Forty-eight hours later look at your tin foil. If the outside is damp your moisture is likely coming from the inside, possibly meaning too much condensation. If the outside is dry but the trapped side of the tin foil is wet your moisture is coming from the outside, in which case you have a problem with your foundation. Don't panic. Outside water coming in doesn't necessarily mean your basement is ready to crumble and the fix will be more than you can afford.
There could be several reasons for hydrostatic pressure building up outside your home and pushing water through the walls. Again, a basement waterproofing professional can help determine the reasons and best solutions. Here are a few typical problems, and how your water proofer will handle the problem:
- Grade and Footer Drain Problems: This is a very common problem, particularly in older homes. Unless your home is very old, during construction footer drains are placed around the perimeter of the house. This perforated tile sweeps excess ground water away from your foundation, relieving hydrostatic pressure. These may be plugged. Water proofing professionals will often use high pressure water to clean these out without having to completely dig up the system. At the same time they will check and correct the grade, looking for areas where you have a negative slope, or where the ground level at the foundation slopes to the house instead of away from it. Worse-case scenario will be missing footer drains or collapsed drains, in which case they need to dig and install new ones.
- Cracks in the Foundation: These aren't always readily seen, but a professional can find them and seal the cracks, solving your water problems.
- Sealing the Entire Exterior of the Foundation or Basement: This requires digging up around your foundation or basement and placing either a waterproof protective board against the block or cement, or using a spray on sealer. Of course if this is the prescription for a dry basement your water proofer will make sure your footer drains and grade are handled at the same time.
- Dealing with Water From the Inside of Your Basement or Crawlspace: Whether your moisture is coming from within or outside your home, the appropriate fix may be dealing with it from the inside. There are a number of methods professionals use to dry up moisture from the inside, and depending on the exterior of your home, basement type, footprint and materials, this may be the best option.
This is just a quick review of where that water may be coming from and possible solutions. Your professional can help you decide the correct cause and fix. (If you'd like more information on this topic you can download a fact sheet here.) The point is, for your health and to maintain the value of your home you really need to get wet basements or crawl spaces fixed. Letting this go endangers you and your home. In fact, if damage results from a wet basement or crawlspace and it was left unattended your insurance company may deny a claim based on the fact you neglected your property.