Wet Basement, Repairs and Guide to

LEAKY  Foundations

About Basement

Over half of the houses in North America are more than 30 years old. The attics and basements in these older homes are often significantly underutilized spaces. They stand hollow and empty or become cluttered storerooms where years’ worth of broken furniture and boxes of old clothes gather dust. Even in new construction, basements often are left unfinished so that the new homeowners can determine for themselves how best to incorporate the space.

What is the basement?

A basement is also referred to as a cellar, vault, or undercroft and is the part of a building partly or completely poised below one or more floors at the ground level. The basement is used to serve different purposes depending on the type (Walk-out, sub-basement, finished and crawl space) and stage of development (partly or finished). For example, a finished basement can be used as a maintenance room, living space, or garage depending on the need, crawl space is typically a type of basement in which one cannot stand up,  with height as little as 30 cm. However, the use of basements depends largely on factors specific to a particular geographical area such as climate, soil, seismic activity, building technology, and real estate economics.

What Do You Need to Know?

Finishing your attic or basement is the easiest way to add living space to your home. With the basic structure already in place, there’s little heavy construction or outdoor work required, and the project probably won’t disrupt your daily life the way an addition would. Best of all, the potential square footage to be gained is significant.

Remodeling a basement or attic can also be accomplished for a fraction of the effort and cost of building an addition. Additions not only require a new foundation, but they involve erecting an entirely new structure. Basements, on the other hand, are already enclosed, framed, and roofed, and the services are already wired and plumbed into the walls. It typically costs 50% less to refinish your basement than to construct an addition, but the additional livable space greatly increases the value of your home.

Guide to a Leaky Basement

Keeping Water Away from your Basement 

Most basements today are built with tile drains around the outside of the building foundation to trap any seeping groundwater before it gets inside the vault. Water captured by the drain tile is sent back outdoors utilizing either a tile line that downslopes or a sump pump that lifts it up and out.  

Care must be taken during this process by making sure the outlet is covered with screens to keep small animals from crawling into a place where they can’t fit in or penetrate to build-up clogs in the pipe. Houses that are decades old may not have a foundation drain system installed, or sometimes tile lines were added as an afterthought and set too shallow. 

Bad Concept

✓  Downspout too close to the building foundation.

✓  Tile too high or sloping in the wrong direction

✓  Connecting the tile line to the sanitary sewer, doing this may add to the tax burden for sewage treatment and connection may be illegal.

Good Concept

✓ Basement tile drains should discharge outside on the ground, into the street, or a stormwater sewer but NEVER into a sanitary sewer

✓ Connecting the tile line to a sump 

✓ A drain tile line should go around the building foundation and must be connected to an outlet to drain the collected groundwater.

Sump Pump

A sump pump is a pipe that is usually about 2 feet in diameter placed on the basement floor. It is set vertically so the upper end is at the floor level. When the water level rises in the canister, the pump is turned on by a float-actuated electric switch. Below the floor level should be one or more large holes connecting to a foundation drain tile, sometimes, homeowners may not find a connecting tile line, a possibility that the line may have been installed after the house was built, so do not panic. 

A house with sump pumps installed can still have the basement wet, this may be due to the loss of electric power usually occurring during a storm or when it rains. Another reason is rising groundwater levels higher than the pump would normally have to discharge. The best solution is to have a standby generator running to keep a sump pump pumping if you have an electricity blackout.

What Do You Need to Look Out for?

Homeowners are oftentimes confused on what to watch out for as a potentially signs of wets and sweats in their basement

✓ Take a look around downstairs and check for  dampness, mold and discolored paint on lower part of the walls 

✓ Look at the bottom to see if the plywood is stained or coming apart

✓ Check the corners for water stains, and for stains running to a floor drain

Do These During Condensation

Sometimes in hot, humid weather, basement walls become damp from condensation of water coming out of the air and not through the wall. If you are experiencing something similar to what is described above, do this

✓ Set a portable refrigeration-type dehumidifier over a floor drain

✓ Do not open the basement windows to let hot, humid air infiltrate, allowing this may cause an addition of moisture into the basement to condense on the cool walls.

✓ Tape a piece of clear plastic wrap or aluminium foil on the wall and check in a few hours to see which side is fogged up. If the taped side exposed to the air gets wet, this is a clear indication of condensation not water seeping through the wall.