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How to Wage a War & Win Against Water in Your Basement

A flooded basement is a story that most homeowners do not want to share, let alone experience more than once. It is a costly, disruptive and potentially dangerous occurrence that can be avoided with a few precautions and some expertise.

As with any strategic battle, it pays to know who your enemy is. When it comes to flooding basements there can be multiple sources and points of attack that need to be identified, isolated, and remedied to prevent loss in your home. We are going to lay out a strategy to help you win the war against water damage.

Rule #1: Know Your Enemy

Water is a formidable opponent because when you begin your investigation to find the source, it can be one of many possible problems.   Does your home have a sump pump? Is it operating correctly? In older homes the sealant applied to the foundation can be compromised, particularly if it was sealed improperly or with a lower quality sealant. Weeping tiles can leak or fail, sometimes becoming compressed or clogged with tree roots or other debris. Finding the source can feel a little bit like forensics, as you eliminate causes one suspect at a time.

No sooner have you isolated and resolved one area of a leak in your wall or foundation than another compromised location presents itself. It is frustrating when you stop the water from coming in through one area only to find that it has made its way to another area of your basement. It can be hard to tell where or how it is coming into your basement without some investigation.

We might be taking most of the fun out of your basement waterproofing project (we apologize) but before you run to the local home improvement store or tool rental for a jack hammer it is important to evaluate what other causes could have contributed to a wet basement. Before you demolish or begin to dig start by looking for clues that might point to a more simplified cause.

  • Does the exterior landscape gradient slope inward (or downhill) toward your walls? Natural ground water will flow with gravity toward your foundation wall and penetrate it causing a flood.

    Tip: Hire an excavator to raise the level of the ground around your home and create an outward sloping land gradient close to your foundation. You can also add gravel as part of the landscaping to channel water away from the home more effectively.

  • Gutters are an often overlooked culprit when it comes to basement flooding. It is easy to underestimate the volume of water that can travel from your roof to your foundation. Given the structure of gutters, the run off typically is discharged very close to the foundation of your home into either concrete paved areas or into the grass. Don’t count on the grass to absorb all that water. If the ground is frozen, too dry or already saturated it will not effectively channel the water away from the house.

    Tip: Evaluate options such as rain barrels (a great solution for gardeners and for the environment) or an extension of your gutter including runoff pieces that direct water away from the foundation. The further you get your gutter discharge away from your foundation, the better.

  • Does a river run through it? Evaluate the quality of the seal and insulation of your basement windows. Do you have an established window well with gravel and tile to help divert rainfall and other sources of water away from the window? When was the last time you replaced the caulking in your basement windows?

    Tip: Start by removing the old window caulking and thoroughly cleaning the window frame. Then apply a silicon based sealant (it’s flexible and will not dry and crack) at a 45 degree angle to deter water collection against the pane. Use a new unopened bottle of caulking as old latex based sealants may not be as effective.

If none of these surface causes exist to explain why your basement is leaking, you will have to progress to the next level of investigation and repair. This level includes some of the fun tools and hardware.

Rule#2: Draft Reinforcements

No man is an island and a home renovation project that is very important (such as flood proofing your home or business) takes some practice. When you are creating your plan pay close attention to the dates. If spring is just around the corner and your basement is likely to be flooded, start your renovation months ahead of time wherever possible.

Tip: Use friends, family members or associates to look aggressively for water damage that might indicate a leak. If you have purchased a resale home recently, find the water stains (if any) and damage as they will give you the best indicator or hints of where the problems lie in your basement. Remember if you find substantial pre-existing water damage in a newly purchased home, you should consult with our building inspector.

Rule #3: Win the War Not the Battle

When you are diagnosing the issue with basement flooding in your home, it’s important to resist the urge to take short cuts or apply short-term solutions rather than solving the initial problem. Everyone wants to save money.

While equipment and time are expensive to fix the issue, it is far more expensive to employ a situation that does not work properly. Don’t do it!   The long term cost of repeated insurance claims and your property damage will add up and can even lower the value of your property.

Tip: Consulting with a basement waterproofing professionals will help you make the right choices when it comes to managing water in your home. The cost of DIY for a major renovation like this can quickly get of control. We prefer to let the experts manage it and their equipment for best results.

Rule #4: Check the Parameter Regularly

Once you have made the appropriate changes to help your home manage the water more efficiently and prevent damage from flooding, remember to check those points of entry regularly. Even the best sealant job can have an error or show a weakness in the brand that can make it less effective or degrade over time, allowing water to come back in.

Tip: Be on the lookout for not only the tell-tale wet puddles or signs of leaks but dried water damage in your home that may reflect a long standing problem with water seepage that went unchecked by a previous owner.

When spring arrives if you are like most homeowners, you hear a subtle little warning that tells you to be on the lookout for basement flooding. Prevention is worth far more than the solution, so this year make a point to be observant and knowledgeable about your home and its foundation.