Water/Moisture Damage in Your Basement or Foundation
Water Kills Houses
Part 2 in Series – Basement/Foundation
As an experienced home remodeling contractor, we see many homes damaged by water leaking into structures. In Part 2 of our series, we will discuss how water damage affects the basement and foundation of your home.
Your roof may be the first line of defense against the elements, but your basement/foundation is holding everything up. It is extremely important to keep water moving away from your home and not toward your foundation. Too much moisture in constant contact with your foundation walls can cause premature deterioration of the cement and unnecessary settling. Also, basements are a great place for mold to grow when they are damp. If you have a finished basement it creates another place for moisture to hide behind the walls and destroy your framing, not to mention what it will do to that lovely new carpet or hardwood flooring you just installed if it seeps through. There are several things you can do as a homeowner to keep moisture away from your foundation.
- Inspect the bottom of your downspouts to make sure that all of that water is flowing away from the house. This is a common problem area. While it’s very important to make sure that your gutters and downspouts are flowing properly (I’ll address this in #3 of this series), It’s equally important to make sure that the water flowing out of your downspouts is flowing away from your house! Too often the downspout ends with a simple elbow that directs the water a couple of inches from the wall, or there is a misaligned splash guard that might move some of the water a foot or two away from the house. The best thing a homeowner can do in this case is to add a flexible drain pipe or a gutter extension piece to the bottom of the downspout that carries the water AT LEAST 3-4 feet away from the foundation wall and into an area where the ground is sloping away from the house. Make sure that any pipes or extensions are properly fastened so that they don’t come off easily by using stainless steel or aluminum screws (so they won’t rust). Sometimes folks don’t like the way these pipes or extensions look, or they are an annoyance when mowing or even a trip hazard. If that’s the case then another solution may be adding an underground drain pipe, which when working properly is terrific. However, sometimes a downspout goes directly into an underground drain pipe but now one knows where it actually ends up or if it is clogged. It is vitally important that underground pipes are flowing freely. If they aren’t then often the downspout is simply directing all of the water from the roof directly against the foundation. It’s very important to KNOW that the water going into an underground drain is coming out at the other end. If you’re not sure it would be a great idea to insert a hose into the drain pipe and see what happens! Fixing these pipes can be difficult work but it is worth every bit of effort to make sure that you’re getting all of the water away from your home!
- Make sure that the ground contacting your foundation is sloping away from the house. It’s not uncommon for the fill around a home’s foundation to settle over the years. When this happens a “bowl” is created that funnels water directly toward your foundation. Even if your foundation is properly sealed this water then runs down to the footing of the foundation and often ends up seeping into the basement floor. It’s best for the ground to slope away from your house, at least, an inch or two in the first 4-6 feet. If you see that your home does not have proper slope it’s important that you fill those areas with topsoil to create the slope you need. The newly covered areas should be planted with grass or covered with mulch or landscape rocks to prevent it from washing away. Overall this is generally an easy fix but there is an important factor to be aware of which I’ll address in letter “C”.
- DO NOT fill the soil so high that it comes in contact with the wall above your foundation unless your foundation is a masonry finish, like brick, that extends below the soil line intentionally. There should always be at least an inch or two between the top of soil/mulch and the bottom of the wall. I’ve often seen/repaired rotted wall plates that got wet because they wicked in moisture from the non-draining soil that was up against the siding. Also, termites are often introduced into a house when the soil is over the top of the foundation. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to maintain a little bit of space between the soil and the siding! If you’re in the unfortunate situation where you need to add slope around your house, but can’t do so without taking soil above the foundation, or you discover that you already have soil/mulch extending above the foundation, please don’t ignore it. At that point, it would be a great idea to call an excavator or landscaper to discuss ways to get the water moving away from your house. This may be expensive but it is absolutely necessary for the long-term stability of your home.
This entire concept of keeping water away from the foundation is overlooked by many homeowners because there often aren’t easily identifiable problems. People don’t know their wall plates are rotting away until it’s too late, or they can’t see the mold growing behind their finished basement walls. If you’re in any way uncertain as to what you’re seeing or what might be going on with your home, it’s always a good idea to call a building/landscaping professional to give you an assessment. With the foundation, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure!