How to Fix a Leaky Basement

The most common basement problem is moisture, and that moisture doesn’t have to be the result of a flooded basement to cause trouble. A damp basement can ruin items stored, can cause mildew and other fungal growth, and can make conversion of the basement into living space a little iffy.

A basement may be damp from condensation or from seepage. How can you tell? An easy test is to dry a spot on the wall or floor and cover it with a sheet of clear plastic. Even a trash bag will do. Use duct tape around all the edges. Leave it on overnight. If there is moisture on the outside of the plastic, you have a condensation problem.

leaking basement How to Fix a Leaky Basement

Condensation

Better ventilation can help. You can also use a dehumidifier. You may be amazed at how often you have to dump water the dehumidifier takes from the air.

If you have exposed pipes in the basement, it’s good to insulate them completely with pipe wrap to stop dripping. Wrapping would also be a good idea for air-conditioning ducts.

Seepage

There are waterproofing compounds available that can be painted on the inside of the basement walls. Some can be sprayed but most require rolling or brushing. Be sure to follow all label directions as to drying, curing, and number of coats.

Leaks

If the basement is flooding you will probably see cracks, gaps, or holes. These can and should be patched. Water can also come through the concrete or concrete block walls. After all, concrete is very porous. The inside coating mentioned above is certainly worth trying. However, the real place for waterproofing is the exterior wall, and that means digging down to gain access to the actual wall. Since this is usually done with excavating equipment, it’s probably a job for a pro. In addition to waterproofing the exterior walls, it might be good to add a drain system below ground.

High water table

You can try all of the above, but this situation probably calls for the installation of a sump pump. Since this involves digging a sump pit, a hole has to be cut in the concrete floor, and this is generally a job for a pro. The sump pump is activated when water rises in the pit. This causes a float to rise, turning on the pump. The unwanted water is pumped out to a drain line. It’s a good idea to have battery back-up power to the pump.

In picking out a professional for waterproofing, be sure you select a company that has been around, has a good reputation in the waterproofing business, and stands behind their work.

Other structural problems

Sometimes a rafter in the attic will crack. It could be from shifting or maybe even from faulty lumber. Usually you can prevent a worsening situation with a little reinforcement in the form of “sister rafters.” These are two boards of the same width and thickness as the rafter. Cut them to a length that will cover the crack and extend a couple of feet beyond the crack. Nail one piece to the rafter using nails long enough to go through both the sister and the rafter and stick out an inch or so. Clinch the protruding points, then attach the second sister on the other side. It’s not a thing of beauty, but who is going see it?


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