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Standing water isn’t the only sign that your basement needs to be waterproofed. If you notice dampness in your basement, a musty odor, condensation, staining, mildew, mold or peeling paint, you may have water issues that could get worse over time. While it’s a good idea to address problems and leak repair in the early stages, you don’t necessarily need to call a plumber for assistance, especially if you're willing to take the time to do it yourself. Related: Mildew vs Mold: Do You Know the Difference?
When it comes to leaks, every structure and situation is different, but there are general steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that they will cause you future headaches. If you’re interested in how to waterproof a basement, here are some basics:
• Start with the roof and work down. Many people don’t realize that gutters and rain spouts can be the biggest cause for leakage. When gutters are clogged, water can soak through materials and travel down the house to pool around the foundation and basement perimeter. Downspouts that don’t direct water far enough away from a home’s structure can cause the same issues. Keep gutters clean and clear year ‘round. Make sure that downspouts are properly installed and that they transport water far enough away from the home’s foundation. Add extensions to the downspouts if needed. It’s recommended that mechanisms should carry water at least five feet away from the house.
• Inspect the soil around the perimeter of your home. The ground should slope away from the foundation, not toward it. Even if it was properly graded when your home was built, soil can shift over time and may need correcting.
• Ideally, plants and landscaping should be at least a foot away from your home’s foundation. Move overgrown shrubs and trees that may be crowding structures and • restricting water flow or absorption. Tree roots, in particular, can cause basement water issues when they penetrate the foundation of the home causing cracks or pipe obstructions.
• Fix any cracks in your driveway and patio. If either slopes toward your home, it can lend itself as yet another source for water intrusion. You can correct the slope or install a curb to restrict or redirect water flow.
• Pay attention to any standing water in your yard after heavy rainfalls. Low areas in your yard, soil quality, and other factors can prevent proper drainage and lead to complications with the home's structure. It's important to identify problems areas in your yard and take the necessary steps to control standing water.
• Correct any water that may be flowing from a neighboring property and causing problems, especially if houses or structures in your area are built close together or if your property sits lower than other areas.
• Inspect and repair any damaged plumbing pipes that run in the walls around the basement. Check floor joints for leaks, too. It's important to take special notice of any obvious features that may contribute to unwanted water in your basement. Not only does this save you from problems in specific areas of your home, but it could be a sign of precautionary measure that need to be taken elsewhere.
• If your basement has concrete walls, patch any holes or cracks as soon as you notice that they might become a problem. When the patches are dry, you can apply a concrete sealer for extra reassurance. If you notice any large cracks or any problems that are worsening, you may want to consult a structural engineer, a builder, a plumber or a basement waterproofing company for professional advice.
• There are many waterproof coatings on the market specifically made for interior basement walls. Ask your local home improvement or hardware store for advice about which one would be the best choice for your needs. These waterproof coatings are usually effective for minor dampness and condensation issues. If you're experiencing greater problems, other precautionary measures might need to be taken to ensure more damage doesn't occur. You might consider an exterior waterproofing treatment, but this may require professional help and can be costly.
• Keep any floor drains in the basement clear and unclogged.
• You might need to install a sump pump in your basement to carry water outside. Exterior French drains can also be installed at the foundation, which works in conjunction with a sump pump.
• A dehumidifier may remedy minor condensation and humidity issues. You can purchase a hygrometer at a hardware or home improvement store to see if your basement’s humidity levels are too high. If they are, installing a dehumidifier may help mitigate the problem and restore moisture levels to normal. These units require some maintenance, so make sure you read and understand the manufacturer’s operating instructions.
Basement waterproofing isn’t always an exact science, and there may be several things that need adjusting instead of one obvious remedy. If these steps don’t work or if you can’t seem to find a definitive source for your basement water problems, call a professional plumber, basement-waterproofing contractor or building contractor for help. This is one of those times when it’s best to get several opinions and estimates to compare your options. Be sure to ask the professionals you consult, whether the plans they propose are short-term fixes or long-term solutions. Find out if there is a warranty or guarantee that comes with the work, and always ask for references that you can check.
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