Many times a homeowner doesn’t realize they have a basement leak until it’s too late. They discover the lake when the basement floods, when material possessions are ruined and memories are destroyed. While it is possible sometimes that basements suddenly flood when they’ve never leaked before, often there have been symptoms and signs that are overlooked and, had they been acted upon, could have saved money, belongings and aggravation. There are even some things a homeowner can do ahead of time to minimize their risk.
Looking for Leaky Basement Signs
Most of the time a leaky basement isn’t your first symptom. If you have cinder block walls in your basement you may see a white powdery substance begin to appear on the walls, this is efflorescence, and many homeowners ignore this symptom and don’t realize the association with water leaks. Efflorescence comes from minerals in the water and if it’s working through your basement wall, that most often means there is water sitting on the outside of that wall, against those blocks and your foundation.
Protecting Your Walls
Painting your walls may visibly make the efflorescence disappear but it isn’t really going away. Water may start seeping through that wall soon after.
In addition to a waterproof sealer that can be applied to the walls, putting up a vapor barrier or basement wall panels designed to inhibit the moisture soaking through to your basement.
Getting Rid of Odour
Another symptom that is overlooked is that damp, musty, moldy smell. That smell can permeate the belongings in your basement, damaging them. At the first sign of odors consider a whole house or commercial grade dehumidifier.
Water Heater Flooding
Flood rings are another proactive measure you can take. Many homes have hot water heaters in their basement; they can leak or stop working and flood your basement, causing just as much damage as water leaking from the outside. Flood rings are designed to warn homeowner about a leak and also containing the water temporarily until the issue can be solved.
Routing Away Roof Water
One of the most common causes of leaking and future structural issues is misdirected roof water. Take a walk around your home and visibly check where your downspouts are routed to. Do they stop at the corner of your home, right up against your foundation? If so, they need to be routed away from your home by adding extensions to them. It is even possible to bury the extension only leaving an exit spot 10 to 20 feet away from your home. Placement really depends on how large your lot is as well as landscaping and proximity to other homes. Downspout extensions are a fairly inexpensive way to prevent future issues with your home.
Adjust the Grade
Do you have water that drips down from the top of your basement wall or creeps over and leaking through your ceiling? Then you’ve probably changed the landscaping outside your home by adding shrubs, flowers and flower beds. Worse yet, your neighbour may have done landscaping changes that has caused the new leak. Check where the grade is in relation to your basement walls. If the grade sits above the top of your basement wall, it’s eventually going to come in up at the top of the wall and no matter what else you’ve done to address leaks, it will still come in and run down into your basement. The same can be said for your crawlspace.
Adjusting the grade can also refer to the slope of the land outside your home. Is your lot sloped down towards your home? This can be a cause for leaks as well. If you have a basement level garage its common for water to leak in under the garage door and you may need to consider having some trench drain installed just outside the door and have the water routed away.
Don’t Finish Your Basement Without…..
It easy to lose count of the number of homeowners who tell us they finished without proactively waterproofing. Wet sheetrock, ruined paneling and carpeting are no fun and a costly loss. Don’t finish your basement without making sure your home is safe from leaking. Call a professional waterproofing company and have them check your home to see if they notice signs of past water leakage.
Probably the best advice in terms of being proactive about your basement is not to wait. Don’t wait until you have a huge problem and your basement floods completely. You’ve probably seen signs or symptoms or even had a little water in some time in the past but it doesn’t happen often or it’s only leaking in a storage area so you’re not concerned. As professional in the business, we can tell you that these situations never get better, they tend to get worse over time and more expansive to repair.
Repair the whole area; don’t just address a portion of it that is most worrisome. Water follows the path of least resistance so stopping only one or two areas will only send that water to another area to come in.
A small leak can turn into a bigger one and letting the leak go can not only cause damage to your belongings, it can damage the structure of your home through erosion and hydrostatic pressure as well as through mold growth. Address the problem before they become a major inconvenience.
Have questions about a leak in your basement? If you live in Toronto or the GTA, feel free to contact us here for a free in-home inspection and estimate.