What do we do about a wet basement?

Red flag alert!

We are always on the lookout for a wet basement floor or wall. This issues aways requires further investigation after the initial inspection.  

What's the cause?

Wet basements have multiple causes. The majority of them are likely going to be expensive to fix. Here are some of the most common failure modes.

  • Cracks in the foundation wall, allowing surface water runnoff (rain) to enter the interior space.
  • Cracks in the concrete floor slab, allowing surface water runnoff to enter the interior space.
  • Water pressure against the foundation and footing, seeping through the floor-wall joint or permiating through the concrete.
  • Ground water level is higher than the floor of the basement.
  • There is no sump pump or the pump has failed.
  • A leaking water pipe or fixture in the wall can cause enormous structural damage if dripping over a long period of time.
  • Water from a leaking water pipe under the floor slab will find a way to surface in the basement.

How's it look?

We look for signs of distress on the building or accomodation by the occupant if it’s been a long term issue. Here are some examples.

  • On concrete, wood or drywall there will be some staining. If it has been a long standing issue, then expect some mold, rot or precipitate on the surfaces.
  • Wood and laminate flooring may warp or swell.
  • Carpeting may have organic growth on it, incuding moss and or fungus.
  • An inspector will use an electronic meter to read the percent moisture. We consider anything over 12% as suspect and over 20% as wet.
  • If items in storage are lifted off the ground, then water infiltration is suspected.
  • If freestanding equipment such as a furnace is rusted at the base, then moisture is suspected.  

What's at risk?

Water ingress is serious and needs to be dealt with in a timely manner. The impacts to the occupant and owner are the following.

  • The most important risk is that it may be a health hazard. Air quality will be suspect as allergens such as mold may be present.
  • Damages to interior structures and finishes may be substantial, especially if it has be an ongoing issues for a long time.

Take action before 'Subject Removal' date.

Once the home inspection has been identified a wet basement, then there is work to be done to identify the source of the leak. This typically involves some demolition work of drywall and flooring, in order to establish the extent of the damage.

The next step involves the scope of repair. For example, an excavator or digging by hand may be required to reach a failed perimeter drainage system along the exterior wall. Unfortunately, the drains in this case are at the elevation of the footings, which are below the foundations. You can let your imagination run wild here to estimate the cost. It certainly will for the contractor you employ.

Finally and most important, if you are a buyer of such a property, be sure to get estimates for the repair prior to the subject removal date. You will need to know the risk to your finances that this issue can present.