Unfortunately, water in the basement is extremely common. From leaky foundation walls to open floor drains, there are a number of ways for water to enter your basement. In order to prevent water in your basement, you need to identify the source first. We look at the 4 signs of water in the basement and the 14 ways water enters your basement. Plus, we offer steps on how to keep water out of the basement for the most common causes.
4 Signs You Have Water In Your Basement
The biggest sign of a problem, as you might guess, is standing water in the basement. Aside from standing water or sewage, there are several other signs that you have water in your basement. Be proactive and check your basement several times a year, especially after heavy rains or quick winter thaws.
- Efflorescence – Do your basement walls sparkle? This sparking is called efflorescence and is caused by evaporating water leaving minerals behind.
- Musty Odors – Does your basement smell? Whether the odor is persistent or just after heavy rains, it’s likely a sign of water in your basement.
- Mold – Do you have mold? Many building materials will support mold growth once they get wet. If you see mold, you have water too.
- Stains – Are your carpets, walls, or ceilings discolored? Yellowish-brown stains are a common sign of basement water damage. Stains may also be green or black depending on the material and if there is mold as well.
Why Do I Have Water in the Basement
Unfortunately, water in your basement is common for a number of reasons. As the lowest point in the house, it is the most likely place to collect water. Also, water supply lines enter and sewage lines exit your home through your basement walls or floor. In addition to those internal sources, water can enter your basement through your foundation walls, up from the floor, or from around windows and vents
Rainwater and melting snow runoff can enter your basement over the top of your foundation walls. Typically this is the result of poor drainage. If the ground around your foundation is level or slopes toward your home, water will pool around your foundation.
Over time, water can work its way through the joint between your foundation wall and the floor joists. While older homes that have settled are more prone to over wall water issues, any home can develop this problem. To prevent water from entering over the top of your foundation walls, make sure the ground slopes away from your home.
Window wells are designed to allow natural light into your basement. They are usually filled with gravel or other material that improve drainage and are usually effective at preventing water in the basement.
Unfortunately, leaves and other materials can fill the wells and prevent them from draining properly. Issues with gutters and downspouts can also cause window wells to fill with water. If the window well fills up, water will eventually reach the window itself. Old or damaged window seals allow water to enter your basement.
Cracks in your foundation walls are a serious issue and can cause a significant amount of water in the basement. Whether you have a poured concrete or a brick and mortar foundation, cracks are typically caused by a buildup of pressure.
Too much water can put pressure on the walls as the soil around your foundation expands. Conversely, a drought will cause the soil to pull away from your foundation walls, allowing them to move and sway. Older homes are likely to develop cracks over time, but new homes may develop cracks due to rushed timelines and poor construction practices.
The larger the crack, the more water that can enter your basement. The location of the crack is also a factor. If your home is located on a slope, cracks in the foundation wall on the high side of the slope are more prone to leaks. If the water in the cracks freeze, it can make them larger.
If you have a poured concrete foundation, wood and metal tie rods were used to build forms when your foundation was poured. These forms are removed after your foundation sets up. Removing the tie rods left small holes approximately every one and a half feet.
Over time, these holes increase the chances of water in your basement. Typically they allow water in from above, but they may also allow water in from below as well. If you have cracks in your foundation, they can also form channels for water as well. Cold water can cause water in holes to freeze, increasing pressure that may cause cracks.
If you have a poured concrete foundation, poorly mixed concrete can lead to air pockets that resemble a honeycomb structure. As water presses against these honeycombs, they can cause holes or even cracks in your foundation that allow water in the basement. If you live in cold weather climates, repeated freezing and thawing may lead to foundation cracks as well.
If you have a brick and mortar foundation, your walls are assembled brick by brick with mortar forming the glue that keeps them together. Over time, the mortar may deteriorate. If this happens, it becomes less water-resistant and will slowly allow water into your basement.
Diagnosing a water leak in a brick and mortar foundation can be especially challenging. There are hundreds of mortar joints that could be the issue. Additionally, most bricks used in foundations are partially hollow. This creates channels for water to flow through. While the leak may appear in one location, the cracker mortar could be in a completely different location. There could also be several different leaks at the same time.
Joint Between Floor & Wall
In most home construction, the floor of your basement is poured first and then foundation walls are built second. Regardless of whether you have poured concrete walls brick and mortar walls, they cannot form a perfect seal with the basement floor.
Although sealants are used, your basement floor and walls are still two separate pieces. Over time these sealants will deteriorate or even crack, leaving small gaps in your foundation that result in water coming up through the basement floor.
Pressure from the water below your home can cause your basement floor to crack, which results in water coming up through the basement floor. This pressure is usually caused by poor drainage and clay soil.
Heavy rains compound the issue, rapidly increasing the pressure and causing water to seep through your basement floor. Floor cracks are often the issue if you have water in the basement after the rain has stopped, even as long as an hour or two after a major rainstorm.
Also called French drains, footing drains, perimeter tile or weeping tile, your drain tile follows the perimeter of your basement. Not really made from tile anymore, drain tiles are perforated piping or tubing that is wrapped in a cloth or mesh fabric that improves drainage around your foundation. The drain tile often connects to a sump pump or other drainage pipe.
In proper working order, your drain tile keeps water away from your foundation. However, they can get clogged or collapse over time, allowing water to sit against your foundation. As a result, water will seep through basement walls or come up through the basement floor.
Sump Pump Failures
A sump pump is a well with a pump that is permanently installed in your basement or crawl space floor. Water drains into the sump basin and the pump forces water into storm sewers or another drain once there is a certain amount of water in the well.
While it’s against most plumbing codes and municipal regulation today, many older sump pumps are connected to the main sanitary sewers. However, they are not designed to handle the volume of rainwater produced by severe storms. Connecting your sump pump to sanitary sewers is likely to cause a sewage backup in the basement.
In proper working order, a sump pump is an effective way to keep your basement dry. However, a power failure, poor sump pump maintenance, or clogged discharge lines can allow water in the basement.
Floor drains are especially common in older homes, but some newer homes may have them as well. Open floor drains are usually near utility or laundry sinks and allow wastewater to flow away from your home into the sanitary sewers.
If an open floor drain becomes clogged, the wastewater from your washer or sink will not be able to drain away, causing water in your basement. Additionally, floor drains are one of the easiest places for sewage to back up into your basement.
Sewer pipes can let water into your basement in several different ways. Whether your sewer line goes through your foundation floor and wall, the seal may weaken over time and allow water in. The joints between your drain pipes and your main sewer line may also wear out, allowing wastewater to seep into your basement.
The worst-case scenario is that your sewer lines back up, allowing sewage to flood your basement. A blockage in your main sewer line is the most likely cause of a sewage backup. However, heavy rains are also likely to cause a problem.
Routing gutters and downspouts in sanitary sewers can lead to an overload of water flowing through the system, leading a backup. Whether due to a blockage or heavy rains, municipal sewers can also back up too.
Water Supply Lines
Similar to sewer lines, water supply lines can also result in water in your basement. The seals around your water supply line may weaken over time. While a supply line issue is likely to cause catastrophic water damage, it’s more likely the valve on your supply line will develop a slow leak.
Leaky plumbing is another common cause of water in the basement. Many pipes run through the basement, carrying clean water to sinks, toilets, and bathtubs and carrying wastewater away from drains. A frozen and burst water pipe is also possible during extremely cold weather.
How to Keep Water Out of Your Basement
There are a number of ways to keep water out of the basement. Some of these are general precautions you can take on your own, but others may require professional diagnosis and installation.
Maintain Your Gutters and Downspouts
Your gutters and downspouts channel away all the water than lands on your roof during a rain shower. However, dirty or clogged gutters will cause water to pool around your foundation, increasing the chance of water in your basement.
Clean your gutters and downspouts at least twice a year to prevent clogs. Also, check that your gutters are in good condition and held firmly in place. Make sure that downspouts direct water away from your foundation and add extensions if necessary.
If downspouts connect to a drainage system, such as a sump pump, check that system as well. If you have a sump pump, make sure the discharge pipe connects to the storm sewers and not the sanitary sewers to prevent a sewage backup.
Check Your Landscaping
Another way to keep water out of your basement is by checking the landscaping around your foundation. Soil should always slope away from your foundation for at least three feet. If the soil around your foundation is level or slopes back toward your home, add enough fresh soil to allow water to flow away.
Allow at least six inches of clear space between your foundation and your landscaping. Plant bushes at least two feet from your foundation, with trees at least three feet away. Make sure that your landscaping doesn’t retain water or impacting the slope of your soil.
Repair Cracks and Gaps
Fix cracks and gaps in your foundation and floor as soon as possible. Hydraulic cement is the best for patching cracks in the walls and floor because you can apply it even if there is water in the crack. While polyurethane caulk is an alternative for plugging foundation cracks, it doesn’t form as good of a seal.
For the best results, use a chisel or an angle grinder with a masonry blade to carve a v-shape into the crack. Then apply an even layer of hydraulic cement to crack with a trowel, pressing firmly into the crack to form a good seal.
Fix Your Drain Tile
If water is already coming into your basement, you may need to have your drain tile fixed. A damaged drain tile is usually the issue if the water is from coming up through the basement floor.
A professional waterproofing company will be able to assess the situation and determine if that is the issue. In some cases, it may be possible to flush or snake your drain tile, but it’s more likely that a section will need to be repaired.
Install a Drainage System
In addition to repairing a damaged drain tile, there are other types of drainage systems that can keep water out of your basement. Installing a sump pump creates a channel along the inside of your foundation, allowing water to fill a basin called a sump. A pump then forces water into a discharge pipe, typically connected to the storm sewers.
Another common drainage system is a curtain drain. While your drain tile is mainly for keeping groundwater away from your foundation, a curtain drain is typically designed for dealing with surface water. Contact a professional waterproofing company to discuss other drainage options.
Waterproof the Walls
Waterproofing the walls is an effective way of keeping water out of your basement. You can paint the interior of your basement walls with a waterproofing product, while a professional waterproofing company will need to waterproof the exterior side of your foundation.
If you choose to waterproof your walls yourself, make sure you clean the walls thoroughly before beginning. Apply these products directly to clean, dry masonry and avoid putting them over existing paint or other materials.
Strip existing paint first, then use a wire brush to remove loose material and other debris. You should also patch all cracks first. When applying the waterproofing material, brush in all directions and work it into every pinhole and avoid spreading the waterproofing to thin.
Waterproofing the inside of your foundation walls will keep water out of your basement. However, it still allows water into your foundation, which can weaken it over time. For a more complete solution, have the exterior of your foundation walls waterproofed by a professional.
Maintain Your Plumbing
While most of the hazards that lead to water in your basement come from outside water, water and drain pipes inside your home could also cause an issue. Plumbing maintenance begins with using your drains properly, including sinks, bathtubs, showers, and toilets.
Even if you have a garbage disposal, avoid putting anything larger than a pea down your kitchen sink and never put fats, oils, starches, or coffee grounds down the drain. In the bathroom, only flush toilet paper and normal waste. Avoid using so-called flushable wipes, as they don’t break down the same way as toilet paper. Also, use a hair catcher in the shower.
Next, tighten the packing nut on your water supply shutoff valve as well as the supply lines on your toilets. Visually inspect all accessible plumbing fixtures in your home to ensure they are not leaking. Replace old or damaged parts immediately. Snaking your sewer lines every few years will prevent sewage backups. Most water departments provide free snaking services.
Call 1-888-443-3110 Now To Remove Water From Your Basement
If you have water in your basement, we’ll connect you with a local water damage restoration company to extract the water and repair the damage. Choose a water damage contractor near you now. Our listings include independent companies and popular brands like Paul Davis Restoration and Stanley Steemer. For emergency water removal, call 1-888-443-3110 for a free estimate and immediate response from our on-call contractor in your area.