Two words should strike fear into homeowner’s heart: “water ingress”.
Water getting where it shouldn’t can cause all kinds of problems, from ruining your décor to serious health and structural complications.
That’s why it’s important to make sure your home is properly waterproofed– not just from the top but from the bottom too.
The Basics Of Basement Waterproofing
Put simply, basement waterproofing is exactly what it sounds like; the art of keeping groundwater out of your basement.
There are a few common techniques which are harnessed to achieve this. Some keep the water out through barriers, others divert it away before it has a chance to become an issue. The most common include:
- Applied waterproofing, such as paints and crystalline systems
- Semi-permeable layers, which allow vapor to pass through but block liquids.
- Exterior Barriers- most commonly applied during building.
- Sump Pumps- an electric pump moves water away before it can threaten your basement
- French Drains- offers a more convenient path of least resistance for water.
Of course, no method is entirely fool-proof, so it’s best to keep an eye on your basement. Early detection of any dampness or water ingress makes dealing with the issue much easier and likely cheaper.
The Homeowner’s Checklist For Waterproofing Issues
Dampness and Water Pooling
It sounds silly to say but the most obvious sign that something has gone wrong with your basement’s waterproofing system is…the presence of water.
Of course, puddles forming in your basement is a bit of a giveaway, but water can often take more subtle forms. If you notice that there are dark, damp patches forming on your walls or even if the place feels more humid, you might well be dealing with a serious problem in development.
There are a few potential causes for water pooling or damp patches forming in your basement. Some of the most likely are:
- Failed sealants
- Poor drainage
- Compromised exterior waterproofing
Efflorescence and Salt Deposits
Sometimes water can be more subtle.
If you find white, powdery residue on your basement walls it’s likely that you’re facing a problem with your waterproofing. These are salt deposits, created from minerals left behind as water which has penetrated the concrete of your walls evaporates.
Mold And Mildew Growth
If you’re experiencing that “basement smell”, that can be a sign that something has gone wrong and water is finding its way in.
Mold and mildew thrive in damp conditions and the smell can be the first sign that you’re developing a problem.
If you’re finding black spots on walls and in corners or around windows, that means that you’ve got mold. If left unattended this can cause serious health complaints.
Peeling Paint And Wall Coverings
If you’re finding your basement décor coming away from the walls that is a sure sign that water is getting through behind them.
Flaking paint, peeling paper and blistering are all evidence that your waterproofing has failed and moisture is seeping through, damaging your coverings as it pushes them away from the surface of your walls.
Sump Pump Malfunctions
Sump pumps are there to ensure that water is diverted harmlessly away before it becomes an issue. Not only can a malfunction create a waterproofing issue, in some cases it can also be a symptom.
If you find your pump is running all the time, making strange sounds or failing to activate at all one of the potential problems you may be facing is that there is too much water for the pump to deal with.
This suggests that one or more of the other parts of your other waterproofing system isn’t doing its job properly.
Sump pumps are meant to ensure that groundwater never finds its way into your basement in the first place, so any problems with yours should be investigated straight away.
Cracks in Walls and Floors
Not all cracks are something to lose sleep over but they’re certainly worth paying attention to.
If your house is a relatively new build, cracks can appear in your walls and floors as the building “settles” into its foundations. A little bit of movement is to be expected over the first 6 years or so. These are usually fairly easily patched.
If your home is older, it’s certainly a more worrying sign.
You should never ignore cracks that are:
- Bigger than 1/10”
- Growing or Spreading
- Wider at one end
- Go from ceiling or floor to the wall
- Seeping water
Even though smaller cracks may not be signs of major structural damage, they can present an easy way in for water and should be investigated.
Musty Odors and Humidity
You don’t always need a hygrometer to detect an overly humid basement. Often that “basement smell” that we spoke of in the section on mold and mildew will be your first sign.
Humidity means that there is an increased level of water in the air and that water must be coming from somewhere.
Not only is it a sign that something in your waterproofing isn’t working as it should, humidity makes a space less comfortable to be in and less useful for storage. A properly waterproofed basement shouldn’t feel any more humid than the rest of your home.
Professional Assessment And Repair
Needless to say, waterproofing repairs are usually best left to the pros. Not only will they be able to assess the root cause of your problem, they’ll be able to suggest and carry out any remedial work that might be needed.
It’s always best to investigate fully at the first sign of a problem. Left unattended, water ingress has a tendency to get progressively worse and can lead to serious structural issues developing and a far larger bill down the line.
Regular inspections and maintenance, even when there’s no apparent issue will ensure that your waterproofing system does its job properly for years to come.
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