9 min read

Basements offer unique potential as living, entertainment, and storage spaces. Unfortunately, they are prone to water damage because they are sub-level and often have poor natural lighting and ventilation. Even if everyone in your household rarely uses the basement, you cannot afford to neglect and leave it water-damaged for too long. Otherwise, you’ll risk facing a bigger structural problem that could jeopardize your entire house’s integrity.

Understanding the causes of basement water damage and knowing its signs and preventative measures will spare you the expense and stress of repairs.  

Causes of Basement Water Damage

  1. Foundation cracks – Foundation cracks can form due to freeze-thaw cycles and shifts in the soil. They are a menace because they allow water to enter the basement, often leading to bacterial build-up and mold. Worse, the excess moisture penetrates the very structure of your home, making it deteriorate faster. Foundation cracks, therefore, can compromise your home’s structural integrity in various ways.
  2. Poor soil grading – One of the leading causes of basement water damage is poor grading around your home. Soil grading is leveling the ground on which a structure is built. If the soil slopes toward your home instead of away from it, rainwater runoffs will pool towards the foundation instead of draining away, which is how it should be. If it rains hard, all it takes is a substantial crack or opening – like a basement window or exhaust vent – for water to enter and flood your basement.
  3. Poorly maintained gutters systems – Gutters control the rainwater’s path from the roof down to the drains. If clogged or damaged, gutters overflow and send gallons of water into the soil around your foundation. The excess moisture can soften the ground around your property, potentially causing structural damage not only in your basement and also to your exterior walls.
  4. Leaking appliances – Undetected leaks from appliances connected to the mains, like washing machines, dryers, and dishwashers, can cause water damage in the basement. If they are installed above, the leaks can reach the basement area and wreak more havoc because water takes longer to dry here.
  5. Building envelope leaks – Water and air leaks in your house’s building envelope can lead to high condensation and direct leaks (i.e., water entering through an egress window) in the basement. Building envelope leaks are often due to faulty design, poor construction, and low-quality insulation and sealing materials.
  6. A malfunctioning sump pump – A sump pump and a sump basin are commonly built into basements to collect water that enters its perimeter drains. It pumps water from the sump basin out of the house. If it malfunctions, the basin could overflow and eventually flood the basement.
  7. Busted plumbing – Finally, one of the most common causes of basement flooding is busted indoor pipes. Cracks from freeze-thaw cycles and corrosion are common culprits, and so is accidental damage when renovating or drilling holes through walls that conceal water pipes.

Signs of Water Damage in the Basement

Depending on the cause, you will notice signs of water damage in the basement gradually or immediately. For example, damage from slow-dripping leaks is gradual, while a punctured main pipe will instantly flood your basement. 

Regardless of the cause, immediate action is crucial to limit the damage to your basement and avoid costly repairs. Here are some signs of water damage in the basement to look out for:

  1. Visible fuzzy mold or mildew – Mold and mildew are both a result and indicator of water damage. The fact that they’re already present means your basement has cosmetic damage from excess moisture. Acting quickly can help prevent further damage from both water and mold infestation.
  2. Damp, musty smell – Water-damaged rooms have a distinctive damp odor, and this is usually one of the first signs of decay in wooden construction materials, i.e., the drywall, ceiling, and flooring.
  3. Discoloration and warping – Saturated wood is evident because it changes color and warps when it dries. Porous surfaces like marble tiles and composite wood panels also show signs of discoloration and deterioration with prolonged exposure to moisture.
  4. Peeling wallpaper or cracking paint – You’ll know if a section of drywall retains significant moisture if the paint cracks or the wallpaper develops air bubbles and peels off in random areas.
  5. Efflorescence – Efflorescence is the white, powdery salt deposit that forms on a wet porous surface after it dries out. If you often find efflorescence in your basement, this could be a sign that the affected area often gets wet, whether by leaky pipes, leaks through the foundation, or condensation.
  6. High water bill – Perhaps the most obvious sign of water damage is when your water bill surges inexplicably. If your water consumption stays the same, but your water meter will show a different story, there must be a leak somewhere in your home. Your basement is one of the places to check first. 

If you find one or more of these signs of water damage in your basement, consult a property restoration company immediately as a precaution in case your house’s foundation is also damaged. More than restoring the cosmetic damage to your basement, you want to ensure your home is safe and structurally sound.

How Can You Prevent Basement Water Damage?

Preventing water damage in your home is essential to avoiding expensive repairs that will inevitably disrupt your everyday life. If you want to avoid the stress and expense that comes with repairing structural water damage, observe these preventative measures:

  1. Check and seal your house’s foundation – Get in touch with a professional to inspect your basement and seal cracks in your foundation, no matter how small. Sealing foundation cracks early on will prevent them from getting bigger and causing more problems in the future.
  2. Check your property’s soil grading – Consult an engineer to assess the grading done on your property. If a flooded basement is a recurring problem, you might have to regrade the soil around your house to ensure rainwater and street runoffs flow away from the foundation.
  3. Regularly inspect and maintain your gutter system – Have your gutters and downspouts checked by professionals regularly to ensure they are always in good condition. Clean the gutters regularly to prevent blockages, which can lead to water damage in other parts of the house besides your basement.
  4. Regularly check your sump pump – Ensure your sump pump works properly at all times by testing it often and checking for possible defects. Consider installing a battery backup system to ensure it continues to operate during the rainy season even if the power goes out.
  5. Regularly inspect indoor plumbing systems – With damaged pipes being one of the top causes of basement water damage, regular inspections and maintenance of exposed and concealed pipes should be in order. Call a plumber at the first sign of trouble (i.e., you hear rattling noises from your pipes, fluctuating water pressure, persistent leaks, freezing pipes, and damp flooring or drywall next to pipework). The earlier you address pipe problems, the lesser the risk of them causing a flood in your basement.
  6. Check your building envelope – Ensuring a sealed building envelope is just as important as sealing your foundation. Water and air leaks invite excessive moisture into your home, much of which can pool in the basement. Replace worn-out weatherstripping and re-caulk windows and exterior doors as needed. Consider installing window well covers to prevent rainwater or runoff from entering your basement.
  7. Install basement waterproofing – If humidity and moisture are recurring issues in your basement, consider investing in basement waterproofing solutions such as:
  8. Damp-proofing the foundation wall – This technique is similar to damp-proofing exterior walls, except the waterproof coating is brushed on the basement’s interiors. Cement-based coatings, epoxy, polyurethane, and membrane covers are examples of interior foundation coatings.
  9. Installing interior foundation coating – This is similar to damp-proofing exterior walls, only the waterproof coating is brushed on the basement’s interior walls. Cement-based coatings, epoxy, polyurethane, and membrane covers are examples of interior foundation coatings.
  10. Use dehumidifiers and turn on the AC – If you don’t have the budget for new installations or inspections by professionals, there are tried and tested techniques you can fall back on, like dehumidifiers and air conditioning. You can use electric dehumidifiers and keep them running in your basement until it is sufficiently dry, then place dehumidifying beads all over the place to prevent moisture from building up again. Turning the AC on dry mode will also help as it can lower the relative humidity indoors.
  11. Plant trees in your yard – As an extra precautionary measure to prevent outdoor water from penetrating your foundation and backyard, you can plant trees and shrubbery that absorb lots of water, like red maple trees, ash, birch, black gum, white cedar, ferns, mulberries, cranberries, and Indian grass. Flowering plants like daylilies, irises, and hibiscus are also excellent at soaking up water in your yard.
  12. Improve your landscaping – If you still have drainage problems despite good soil grading, landscaping your yard can help keep water out of your basement. A landscaping company can design a natural water management system using soil elevations and rock and plant arrangements to manage runoff flow in your yard.

Why You Need Professionals To Help With Basement Water Damage

Basements require a different approach compared to rooms on the upper floors. Removing water and drying it out once flooded is often logistically challenging, and calling water damage restoration companies like Restoration 1 of Fairfield is the best choice. 

For starters, we have equipment to pump water out of basements and ventilate and dry these rooms quickly. We are also certified to provide other services like mold remediation, disinfection, and sanitization. If we find mold, mildew, and odor permeating your basement, we can quickly deliver these services in addition to water removal, cleanup, and repairs. 

Attempting repairs without sufficient knowledge or equipment can result in costly mistakes. You can have a bigger problem in your hands instead of solving the one plaguing you right now. It would be wiser and more cost-effective to consult a professional from the beginning to contain and fix the damage as quickly as possible.

Restoration 1 of Fairfield is just a phone call away. Contact us if you have water damage in your basement, and our restoration specialists will immediately get to work.