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As every homeowner knows, one of our biggest fears is that we will find
water in our basement. We tend to forget that older homes were not built
with the understanding that the basement would be used as family living
space or as a rental unit.
With the high cost of acquiring living space in our cities,
residential basement use is on the increase. Every homeowner should be aware that
the possibility of having water penetration in the basement is fairly
high. Over 60 per cent of basements have moisture seepage in one form or
another, while 38 per cent experience mould and fungus growth due to the
presence of an elevated moisture level in the air or basement surfaces.
High moisture levels in the basement are not desirable for the
- they impact on our quality of life (i.e. usability of living space)
- they can lead to damage to the basement's construction, finishes and
personal effects stored there
- they can adversely affect the health of the occupants through the
growth of mould or fungus.
Learning to recognize the symptoms of high moisture content or dampness
in your basement starts with examination of the obvious places. Check the
base of the exterior walls for any sign of visible dampness, use your nose
to smell for dampness in the finishes or carpeting and run your hand along
drapes and windows checking for any surface condensation. If you should
find any evidence, your next step is to identify the cause of this
dampness and to see if it only happens occasionally, periodically or if it
This article will only deal with basement dampness due to the presence
of water in its liquid form and not with an elevated moisture vapor count
in the house.
on the image to the right to see an enlarged view of a typical basement
with DDWC retrofitting applications used to solve water infiltration
issues in most basements.
If you have determined that moisture seepage is present in your
basement then an internal and external examination of your property is
required. This time when performing the internal inspection, you are
looking for the causes of moisture as compared to the signs or effects of
moisture penetration. Pay attention to items such as: visible cracks in
the foundation wall or floor slab, any separation between foundation wall
and slab, any obvious hole in the wall or slab; and any separation between
the wall/slab and any protrusion through them such as plumbing, electrical
or structural members or fittings.
All of these are potential sources for water entry and some may reflect
other problems with the property which may not be evident to you. If any
structural problem is suspected, then a professional should be brought in
for further evaluation.
During the external inspection, evaluate the foundation walls for any
sign of cracking, heaving or deterioration of any nature. Observe the
slope of the earth or walkways that abut the foundation walls. Any sign of
water ponding, dirt or earth accumulation and any moss growth is
indicative of improper grading and should be rectified as soon as
possible. You should always have a positive slope away from the foundation
walls to assure all water flows away.
(Note: The mistake most people
make is adding soft un-compacted earth against the home's foundational
walls to achieve this "positive grade". In reality this
type of grading only increase the problem by allowing this new added earth
to act like a sponge. It would be better to remove earth to achieve the
Look at your eaves-troughs (gutters)
and downspouts. Are your
eaves-troughs full of
debris? This can cause water to overflow and pond next to the foundation
walls. Are your downspouts heading into the ground by your foundation
walls or are they discharged above ground six to nine feet away from the
house? Older homes will generally have their downspouts discharge below
ground into the storm/sewer system and in some cases into the weeping
tiles. Any one of these set-ups can lead to localized basement leakage as
these systems age, crack up or become occluded with leaves and other wind
blown debris. Newer homes, whose downspouts are usually directed away from
the house, will often have splash blocks which are sunk into the ground or
downspouts which end next to the house. Surface drainage is only effective
if the downspouts or splash-blocks divert rainwater at least six to nine
feet away from the house.
Do you have any window wells or basement windows that face a driveway
or are sunk below ground? Either one of these, if improperly executed and
maintained can collect and direct water into your basement instead of away
Do you have any vegetation (flower beds or gardens or bushes) that
require regular watering right next to your home? Be aware that every time
you water your roses you are directing water directly to your foundation.
Over-watering, which you might believe effective for plant growth, will
cause your basement dampness levels to increase.
The above will give you an idea of what to look for. This is not an
exclusive list and sometimes all causes are not obvious to see. . .
An inspection by one of
our estimators can uncover those underlying causes, that are not so
apparent to normal visual inspection. A Desert Dry Waterproofing
Contractors (DDWC) estimator will spend enough time to thoroughly
check for the cause of water infiltration, moisture, mildew, mold and
other associated undesirable conditions. Then they will give you a
written estimate, at no obligation, based on their deductions and your
mutual collaboration, designed to fit into your budget.
Two means of
combating moisture in the basement are available (in addition to the
preventative maintenance work) and your estimator should be able to
discuss them with you.
You can either choose to deal with the problem through exterior
waterproofing methods or through interior waterproofing means.
The method you choose will depend on the nature of your basement
dampness/leakage, its extent, the physical characteristics of your site
and the cost of each option.
Sometimes, radical means may not be necessary and you may be able to
eliminate the dampness through proper water control on the perimeter of
your property and the use of various homeowner applied masonry sealing
compounds. Information on these can be found at your local hardware
DDWC estimators will often spend the
time with one of our prospective clients, telling them how they may fix
their problems personally and as economically as possible.
Whichever route you pursue in combating your basement moisture
problems, the first step is in identifying the problem and then, dealing
with it. Take the time to educate yourself prior to bringing in a
professional for an evaluation and you will profit through a higher
quality solution. Always remember that your comfort is important, safety
paramount and that quality is priceless.