Drying Out: Alleviating Your Basement Moisture Problems

Do you dread going down to your basement every time it rains? Do you have to don galoshes just to stroll through the lowest level of your home? If so, you’re hardly alone: According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, 60 percent of homes in America have wet basements, and 38 percent are at risk for mold to develop.

Pardon the pun, but water in the basement can put a real damper on your day. Once you’ve stopped groaning, read on for some information about what causes basement leaks and some options for how to address them once they’ve happened.

Identify the cause

Before you can tackle the problem, you have to know its source. Do you have an internal or an external leak on your hands? Three major issues that might be causing your basement dampness or condensation resulting from differing outdoor and indoor temperatures, runoff from rain or melting snow and subsurface water seeping up into your basement from below. Figuring out the source might require a bit of dirty work, but narrowing down which spots are the dampest and examining the walls and floors around them is a good place to start.

Prevent condensation

Even if condensation isn’t your whole issue, it’s still wise to counteract it as part of your overall anti-dampness efforts. Start by airing out your basement; open up windows and doors for a dry, sunny day and run fans to help circulate air. You might also consider investing in a dehumidifier to eliminate excess moisture. If your basement has heat, turn up the thermostat during winter months. And avoid adding to the moisture by air-drying clothes in the basement; bring them upstairs to dry or hang them outside on a line instead. After all these precautions have been taken, a coat of waterproof paint on the walls can make a big difference in the long-term.

Inspect walls and gutters

Most basement dampness issues are caused by two things: cracks in the floors and/or walls and runoff from gutters. Take a walk around the outside of your house; if you find any downspouts aimed in such a way as to direct rainwater back toward your home’s foundation, that’s an issue that should be addressed immediately. If redirecting the spouts doesn’t fix the problem, you might need to assess and fix ground sloping issues. As for cracks in the walls and floors, these should be patched using a polyurethane masonry caulk.

If all else fails

If the above steps don’t alleviate your basement moisture problems, or if you’re dealing with a basement lower than the existing water table, installing a sump pump might be a good solution. Such a device can be used to eliminate excess water from your basement with relative ease. There are a wide range of options available, from manual models to automatic ones that can be attached to a battery backup system so they’re sure to operate even if the power goes out.

Following a few — or, in extreme cases, all — of these tips should ensure a dry basement for years to come. With a bit of effort and ingenuity, you can reclaim your basement as a dry and functional space in your home.

Erin Emanuel