If you have a wet basement you’re not alone. Over sixty percent of homeowners in North America share your dilemma. And given Toronto’s age and climate, that number is probably higher. Attempting to dry out a basement without fixing what’s causing it is like filling a bath with a badly-fitting drain plug. Problems come before solutions. Tackle root causes first.
No. 1 – First Principles
The water’s coming from someplace, but where exactly? The first clue is where damp is found. If the ceiling’s stained there’s a leaking pipe upstairs. If it’s on the upper walls say down to four foot from the top it’s surface water filtering down in rainy periods. If it’s lower down you may have a ground water problem.
Water working its way through walls and floors usually arrives through cracks and fissures. These may be through the material itself, around pipes penetrating it, or at the junction where walls and floor meet. It’s worth trying first aid by raking out loose dirt, maybe opening up a bit and caulking with an epoxy filler designed for underwater use.
No. 2 – Surface Water
Surface water comes from rainfall, and there’s no way to stop the rain from falling. King Canute couldn’t stop the tides and you aren’t able to do so either. The secret is to keep it away from the area above your basement outer wall, and this is how you go about it:
After making sure your garden is below the level of the house damp-course, slope it away to a gradient of ½” per foot and pave an area at least three feet wide Make sure there’s someplace to accept the runoff or you may just have moved the problem.
Next time it rains heavily go outside and see what happens to the roof water. You can’t look up through an umbrella so you need wet weather gear. Are the gutters coping with the rain? It the water gushing through the downpipes. Hopefully it’s not discharging directly on your paving! Install prefabricated open surface drains as needed.
No. 3 – Openings to the Outside
In some areas, the law requires Canadian basements to have emergency escape routes independent of the house. These can be doors or reasonable-sized windows. Open them and inspect them carefully. Are the seals in good condition? Is there a point that shows up clean compared to the rest? If in the slightest doubt replace the seals and run a bead of silicone around the frames on the outside and the inside too.
No. 4 – Window Wells
It’s easy to overlook the possibility of an ineffective window well storm-water drain. This may have been inadequately installed, but it’s more likely to be a blockage. Clear it out. Remove the grill and flush it with a hosepipe until it discharges clear water freely. Make a habit of this every time you’re doing gardening.
Hopefully these measures will suffice and you can open up the doors and windows on a sunny day and allow your basement to dry out. If not, you have a more serious problem and you need a waterproofing specialist to advise you. This is no task for a jobbing handyman. You’ve already performed that task yourself. Ask a local specialist to take a look for you.