Part of my home inspection process is determining if there is moisture or has been moisture in the basement. Musty smell, mold growth, peeling paint, etc are just one of the ways I can check for water damage when inspecting a home. I’ve listed some tips below on how to prevent water from getting into your basement and some remedies on how to get back to a safe and dry basement.
First, let’s determine how the water got into the basement.
- Have you checked your plumbing? Replace an old tank-type water heater before the interior rusts out and causes a major basement flood. Rubber supply hoses for your washing machine should also be replaced if they show signs of cracking. Check water supply and drain lines for leaks, and protect water lines from freezing and bursting.
- Check your windows and water wells. Old window wells can fill with water, which then leaks into the basement through gaps and cracks in old basement windows. This problem can be eliminated by installing new basement windows along with a new window well with a matching well cover. Clear acrylic well covers allow light to enter, even as they keep out rain, leaves, and pests. These upgrades will do more than prevent water leaks; they’ll also make your basement more attractive and more energy efficient.
- Inspect the exterior foundation and your basement's walls and floors. Use epoxy to fill any foundation cracks and if warning signs are detected, apply masonry sealer indoors.
- Sump pump failure is the most frequent cause of basement floods. If your home has a sump pump, you’ve already got a great defense in combating mold, water damage, and flooding. If you know a huge storm is headed your way, check to make sure your sump pump is working properly and is plugged in. Also, consider investing in a generator for your sump pump and a replacement to keep on hand, just in case you lose power or the pump fails when you need it most. Keep in mind, if your basement floods as a result of a broken sump pump, your homeowner’s insurance may not cover the damage.
Steps to get back to a safe, clean and dry basement. What do I do and when should I call in a professional?
Priority #1: Stay safe
A wet basement is a safety hazard. Standing in water while handling any electrical device can cause shock or electrocution. If you must go down into a flooded basement, wear rubber boots and make sure you can stay dry. Don’t touch wet electrical wires or devices. Don’t try to vacuum up standing water unless you can plug a wet-dry vacuum into a dry electrical outlet and operate the vacuum according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Have standing water pumped out as soon as possible.
If your basement is only partially flooded, you can suck up standing water using a wet-dry vacuum. Otherwise, you’ll need to call in a plumber or a disaster mitigation specialist to pump the water out. After pumping the basement, it may be necessary to run a dehumidifier to help dry out the area.
Determine the cause before you call a contractor.
It’s important to distinguish between a plumbing leak and water leaking into the basement from outside. A plumbing leak –from a water heater, a bad boiler valve or a frozen pipe— means that you need to call a plumber. If water is leaking in through your foundation or through basement windows, call a basement waterproofing contractor.