Homes with basements allow for more storage and provide shelter during bad weather, but they also can be a creepy space. Prior to being finished and livable they are known for cob webs, stealthy spiders, mystery debris piles, dampness and odd smells. Hollywood perpetuates basements as spine-chilling places in many of its horror movies, because that’s where the dead bodies are. No wonder basements can be so unsettling; however, they really can be wonderful additions to a home, unless basement water damage occurs.
Any amount of unwanted water that comes into a home will typically affect the basement of the house first, as that is the lowest space. If an upstairs bath room has a toilet that leaks each time it is flushed it goes into the basement. A dish washer with a leaky water supply line will deluge down to the basement. Basement water damage occurs from multiple conditions that exist in the home. Some conditions will go unnoticed for weeks while others like a sewer backup will be discovered much sooner.
Moisture Condensation in clammy basements produce air with high moisture content ideal for mold growth. Over time the moisture heavy air begins to condensate on surfaces that become wet such as wood structures and stored boxes and paper products. Many times this will go undetected for protracted periods of time, finally being discovered in the form of mold and smells.
Regularly investigating the basement can keep you informed on newly developing issues that can be corrected before becoming alarming. If you notice moisture in the basement it is advisable to purchase a small dehumidifier and run it continually to keep humidity down.
In some extreme instances a ventilation fan can be useful as it will eliminate the stagnate air that is often responsible for basement water damage. Moving air is amazing at altering the conditions that produce mold and will correct many moisture issues.
Some basements are where the laundry room is located and faulty dryer vents can be responsible for unwanted humidity. If your dryer vent becomes disconnected or loses its seal, it will not channel the humid air from the home but directly in the basement. Over time the moisture can begin to affect wood substrates or even the concrete walls compromising structural integrity.
Sometimes basement water pipes will condensate with moisture rich air and drip water to the area below. If this area is absorbent and a food source for mold, than this too can be a condition to produce unwanted mold and bad smells.
Basements have what are known as rod holes and during time of rain will often allow water into the basement. As water infiltrates the soil during rain or running water from a hose, the soil outside the basement wall can come in through these holes. Basement water proofing companies can fix these rather affordably and correct the leak.
Basement walls with cracks often are harmless and many years can go by with no water intrusion in the basement. However, eventually these compromises in the foundation can allow large amounts of water during a rain storm and should be fixed.
Make sure all gutters and down spouts are connected and channeling water away from the home when it rains. If there is a compromise and water is building up in the surrounding soil, water may get into the basement. Additionally make sure your gutters are clean and working properly so they don’t overflow and contribute to the saturation of soil adjacent the basement walls.
Grade the landscape around your home so water naturally is channeled away allowing for the soil directly around the home to not over saturate with water. In rare situations some homes may need to have a drain tile system installed in the ground to carry unwanted water away from the home.
Sewer backups in a basement are often sudden and catastrophic placing the basement in a state of extreme emergency. Buried under your yard is the homes sewer line, which may be made of outdated clay material. These older systems leak over time inviting nearby tree roots to be attracted to the moist soil. In time they will actually grow right into the system and block the water flow. Tree root intrusion, cracked or broken sections of sewer pipe and city sewer malfunctions can trigger a backup of highly contaminated raw sewage. This toxic environment is a bio hazard that needs the attention of a certified restoration company to produce a safe and sanitary environment.
Contacting a reputable plumbing contractor to do a video inspection of the sewer line will reveal the cause of a sewer backup. The remedy can be as easy as snaking out the sewer lines to remove tree roots, freeing up the system. In unfortunate situations however, the entire system will need to be completely replaced, costing several thousands. Scheduling a bi-annual inspection with a qualified plumber can be a cost effective way to limit the chances of a sewer backup.
Sump pump backups often occur when the water table under the home rises after a heavy rain. If the sump pump fails the hydro-static pressure of the water will come up through floor drains, floor joints and wall cracks. If the water backup is caught just as water begins to make its way into the basement, the damages will be limited. Other times water can violently infiltrate the basement completely flooding it in a short time. Contact your insurance agent to find out, is basement water damage is covered by insurance.
Although sump pumps are very effective at controlling the water table and keep the basement dry they can be subject to failing. If the AC power goes out or the pump burns up the property is at risk of having a flood and basement water damage.
Because AC power can fail during severe weather, it is advisable to get a water backup or battery backup system. Battery backup systems use a DC battery feature to ensure the unit activates should the primary pump not engage. There is some routine maintenance that is required to ensure the system actually engages when the float lifts, so be sure to read and follow the owner’s manual.
Making sure the sump basin is free of foreign objects annually, will make sure no obstructions will block the pump from working. Pouring about 5 gallons of water into the basin to observe the pump in action is a technique to verify the water backup is working. Make sure it fully empties the basin and turns off on its own.
Twice a year tighten all the screws on the rubber boot that connects the PVC pipe to the check valve to make sure that the regular vibration of the system hasn’t loosened the connection. If the screws become loose there is the potential for the discharge pipe to disconnect during a pumping cycle.