According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, 60% of homeowners in the United States have problems with water in the basement. It’s easy to underestimate the power of water, especially when the foundations of your home (and therefore the walls of your basement) are made from concrete.
However, you need only to think of the Grand Canyon at 277 miles long and 18 miles wide to understand the power that water can exert – even on solid rock. So if you notice water in your basement, what does that mean? Well, there are a number of potential sources. Work your way through this guide to troubleshoot causes, risks, and solutions.
Is the water caused by rain?
The first question to ask from a diagnostic perspective is whether the water is caused by the rain. The following should be your first checklist to ascertain whether the rain itself actually is the source of the water (rather than something like a burst pipe or an overflowing appliance).
Here is what to look for:
- Standing puddles when it rains
- Doors and windows become swollen in their frames
- Basement walls are buckling
- If water leaks during hard rain
If any of the above is true, then rain is likely the cause of water in your basement. The bad news is that it’s not likely to be an easy (or cheap) fix. The good news is that you’re closer to diagnosing the actual root cause of the problem.
Water is seeping into your basement from the outside, meaning that there is a leak somewhere in your basement. The next step is to find out the root cause of the leak.
There are several reasons why water may be leaking into your basement. The most common of these are listed below:
Hydrostatic pressure refers to water pressure in general. During times of heavy rain, the soil around your home becomes saturated.
This hydrostatic pressure effectively ‘pushes’ water through the walls of your basement and into your home.
Lateral pressure is a different form of water pressure and often results in structural damage to your basement. During times of heavy rain, the discharge of water from your gutters (or in extreme cases, from the rain itself) will cause the soil immediately around your home to expand. This presses against the walls of your basement, leading to cracks in the foundation that water can seep through.
Problems with your window wells are usually more straightforward to diagnose since the water entering your basement will do so around the frames of the window.
However, basement windows are a common source of basement leaks, since they often lie below ground level; even the smallest crack or gap will lead to water entering after rain.
Cracks in the Wall
If your home is older, there is a strong chance of some damage to the basement walls. Not only will water enter through a crack, but it will also exacerbate it. If water is staining the wall or floor in a particular spot (and repeatedly does so after rain) it’s likely that there’s a crack.
The cove joint is also a common source of water leaks. Because of the way foundations are poured, there is a small gap between the basement walls and floor. If your home is more than 10 years old, then there is a very strong chance there is a gap in the cove joint of your home.
WATER IN THE
If you don’t use your basement often, and if there are only small patches of water after heavy rain, the temptation may be to ignore the problem. However, there are several long-term limitations to this option, both structural and financial.
Fixing a leak quickly will almost certainly save you money in the long run – potentially thousands of dollars. Below are some of the most common problems with water entering your basement.
Even if your basement doesn’t experience a great deal of water leaking in, a damp basement can provide ideal conditions for mold to enter. It takes 24-48 hours for mold spores to enter your basement, and once they have done so, they can cause extensive damage to:
- Pieces of furniture (especially wood)
- Your family’s health (particularly in the case of respiratory illnesses)
Damaged fixtures and fittings:
If water enters the walls of your basement, it can cause major damage to the electrical wiring. In most cases, the basement is home to large appliances such as a water heater and HVAC unit, all of which can be damaged by water in the wiring. On top of the financial risk, it’s also extremely dangerous for electricity to come into contact with water.
By far the most dangerous type of damage – both in terms of the safety of your home and your wallet – is structural damage. If water is seeping into your home, it can cause and grow cracks in the foundation. This naturally requires extensive work to fix. If you catch it early, however, the cost to repair is often far less.
So, depending on what are the specific causes of water in your basement, you have a range of solutions available. Some you can do yourself, and some require professional help.
REMOVE THE WATER
Perhaps the most obvious solution is to remove the water, particularly if it is standing water, rather than just staining the walls. This is a temporary solution (i.e. it doesn’t address the cause of the leak), although it may help to prevent lasting damage to furniture, either through water or mold.
PUMP IT OUT
If the water is ankle deep or higher, then sweeping it out won’t work. Instead, you’ll need to hire professionals to remove it or rent a pump ($250 for four day’s hire) and drain the water outside of your home that way.
Be sure to place the hose at least eight feet from your home, or you will just be pumping the water into the soil where it will leak back into your basement.
Renting an industrial dehumidifier is a good option to remove the moisture from the walls of your basement. To rent one, prices range from $200-$250 for an industrial model for the week. If you think you could use a dehumidifier for longer than a week, then purchasing a standard dehumidifier will cost between $200 and $300.
Standard dehumidifiers typically dehumidify around 70 pints of water per day. For our dehumidifier recommendations, check out our best dehumidifier guide. This will prevent the conditions for mold to develop and may prevent long-term structural damage.
DO IT YOURSELF
There are also solutions you can take to address the problem at source (again, depending on the actual cause of the leak).
Keeping your gutters clean, and ensuring they drain more than eight feet from your home will ensure that rain is not pooling immediately around your home.
Re-Seal the Window Wells
If water is leaking in through gaps in the window wells, then fixing the sealing yourself is relatively straightforward and can be done with tools you have around the house already.
Create a Slope in Your Yard
Although more labor-intensive than the other options, landscaping your yard so that water runs away from your home may be a good long-term solution. You may need to combine this with adding a waterproof sheet around your basement, but sending rainwater down a slope away from your home will relieve the pressure on your basement walls.
Depending on the scale of the damage, it may be necessary to hire a professional to undertake the work. This has the benefit of maximizing your chances of success and efficiently and effectively solving the problem, but this peace of mind will cost you more than DIY methods. You can assume a rate of $50 per hour for any skilled laborer, on top of any potential call-out fee in case of an emergency.
The three most common solutions for basement leaks are:
Interior Drainage System
This involves drilling a hole in the floor of your basement and installing a guttering system. This prevents water from remaining in your basement and will most likely be the cheapest option, with the piping coming in at roughly $50 per foot.
Exterior Waterproof Membrane
This option has the benefit of being a robust long-term solution, although will involve excavating around the entirety of your home and installing a waterproof sheet around the basement. The cost for this is likely to be at least $2,000.
Exterior Drainage Systems
An exterior drainage system will siphon off the rainwater before it gets close to your home, preventing it from pooling or saturating the soil. This solution may be used in conjunction with other solutions. On its own, this will cost between $60 and $75 per foot for the piping, as well as the labor cost of installation.
Ultimately, there’s never a good time to find water leaking into your basement. However, finding water after rain means that there is a leak somewhere in your basement, which means the bills to solve the problem can easily run into the thousands of dollars.
As with most home issues, however, there’s a chance that your insurance company will cover some or all of the cost. What’s certainly true is that the sooner you identify and address the problem, the better it will be for your home and your wallet.