Finishing Your Basement

Dealing With Basement Moisture Problems? Identify The Source First

If you constantly find yourself battling moisture problems in your basement, then you've probably considered having your basement waterproofed. But before you can make that important step, you'll have to take another important step – identifying the source of your moisture problems. The following talks about the 3 most common issues that often lead to a leaky or even flooded basement.

Cracks in Concrete Walls

Concrete is a naturally porous material, although it's not so porous as to actively allow water to come through. Instead, the water usually seeps through thanks to the hydrostatic pressure exerted on your basement walls. Cracks that form over time can also let larger amounts of water through, further exacerbating your moisture woes.

Problems can also arise from poor quality concrete used in the construction of your basement walls. Overly porous concrete is not only prone to developing multiple cracks in the wall surface, but it can also allow more water to seep through.

Porous and/or cracked walls are just one piece of the basement moisture puzzle. How your basement foundation was installed might also have plenty to do with your water woes.

Backfill Saturation

Basement foundation installations typically go like this: the planned area is excavated and the foundation is poured, followed by the pouring or building of the basement walls. The gap between the walls and existing earth is filled in with soil. Unfortunately, the soil used to fill in the gap is often looser than the naturally compacted dirt around it. The loose soil acts as a sponge for moisture, readily absorbing any water that happens to be nearby.

As this backfill becomes more and more saturated, hydrostatic pressures start to act on the basement walls, as mentioned in the previous section. But the water has to come from somewhere. In most cases, the answer involves your home's own drainage setup.

Poor Drainage

Poor drainage also plays a role in most basement moisture problems. The problem can usually be divided into the following areas:  

  • Poor grading – Water has a healthy respect for the laws of gravity, so as long as there's a downward slope, there's a good chance water will follow it. For this reason, it's important to maintain a slope that allows surface water to drain away from the basement. Otherwise, it becomes easy for water to pool around the base of your home and soak into the backfill.
  • Bad gutter design – In addition to a good slope, you'll also need a gutter system designed to move rain runoff away from your roof and your home. For instance, downspouts too close to your home can direct water into backfill areas. Gutters must also be carefully designed to allow large amounts of rainfall to be collected and funneled away from the home structure.
  • Poor gutter maintenance – A poorly maintained gutter can be just as bad as a poorly designed one. Leaves, branches and other debris can clog up downspouts and channels, causing blockages that allow rain runoff to cascade over the side and into the backfilled areas surrounding your home.
  • Poor pre-existing basement drainage – If your home already has pre-existing basement drainage (such as a French drain) and you're still dealing with basement leaks, then said drainage may be poorly designed or damaged in some way.

Septic System Problems

Your home's own septic system could be the culprit to many basement moisture problems. For instance, ground saturation caused by poor drainage can also cause problems for your septic tank, creating blockages and backups that could cause basement flooding.

Some basements rely on sump pumps to remove accumulated water. Hooking your sump pump up to your septic system is a bad idea, yet many homeowners have made such an arrangement for convenience's sake. The end result is usually a flooded septic system and a flooded basement.

Basement waterproofing can go a long way towards fixing your home's moisture problems, but only if the key causes are correctly identified and taken care of.