Basement Water Damage: The Signs, Common Causes, and Cost of Basement Water Damage Restoration

Basements are one of the most common rooms for water damage in your home. Most of your water pipes and drains run through your basement. Hot water tanks and HVAC units are usually there too. Washing machines and dryers are often in the basement as well. Even a small malfunction could leave your basement flooded. In addition to all of the internal systems, there are many external factors that could lead to basement water damage.

Basement water damage? Call 1-888-443-3110 for a free estimate from a local restoration company.

Signs of Basement Water Damage

Standing water or sewage are the most obvious signs you may have water damage in your basement. However, flood waters or a sewage backup aren’t the only causes if basement water damage. Water damage from a slow leak or poor drainage can be just as devastating. We recommend that you inspect your basement once a month for water damage.


Water from poor or improper drainage, heavy rains, and winter thaws can easily enter your home through cracks in the foundation, window seals, walls, or floor. Extreme temperatures, water, or ice put pressure on the structure of your home and may cause cracks over time. Hairline cracks are unlikely to cause damage, but you should repair cracks wider than one-sixteenth of an inch as soon as possible.


Mold requires water to grow and is often a sign of water damage in the basement. If you see mold, there must be a consistent source of moisture or water. Common causes are slow plumbing leaks and condensation from HVAC systems, but mold may also be a sign of a larger problem. Bleach and water will clean surface mold, but it will return if the source of the moisture isn’t fixed. Contact a mold remediation specialist to fix the cause of the moisture and ensure the mold is properly removed.


Basements are often prone to odors, but take note of persistent and abnormal odors. Clean and inspect your basement thoroughly. Look for other signs of water damage, especially mold, stains, and deterioration. If you are unable to locate a source of moisture or water damage, but the odor persists you should contact a professional restoration specialist.


From leaky pipes in the ceiling and walls to cracks in your foundation, yellowish-brown stains are a common sign of basement water damage. Look for stains or discoloration on walls, paneling, carpeting, and ceiling tiles. While you can cosmetically repair some stains with a new drop ceiling tile or a fresh coat of paint, you should contact a water damage restoration specialist to prevent further damage.


Like stains, deteriorating or crumbling building materials are often a sign of water damage. Drywall, plaster, and wood will break down after consistent exposure to excess moisture or standing water. While flaking or peeling paint and wallpaper may be a sign of age, it may be caused by basement water damage as well.


Efflorescence is a sparkly, white, powdery coating that forms on foundation walls and other surfaces in the presence of persistent moisture. Often confused with mold, efflorescence has a distinct shimmer like thousands of tiny crystals. Commonly associated with poor waterproofing, efflorescence is also a sign of other water damage.

Basement Water Damage: A stained and deteriorating basement ceiling caused by a leaky water supply line.

Causes of Basement Water Damages

Any source of water can cause damage to your basement. The longer the water sits, the more damage it can do.

Broken or Leaky Pipes

In most cases, all water enters and leaves your home through the basement. Clean water comes in and pipes branch off to the rest of your house. Drain pipes all flow down into your lateral sewer line and out to the street. Whether it’s an issue with a supply line or a drain, a broken or leaky pipe can cause significant water damage in your basement.

Malfunction Hot Water Tank

Most hot water tanks hold 30 to 50 gallons of water and last 3 to 12 years. While a properly maintained unit may last longer, hot water tanks do wear out over time. Not only could your hot water heater cause a significant flood, but it’s possible that the supply line could allow water to continue to flow.

HVAC Systems

HVAC systems produce condensation and require proper drainage. Service HVAC units regularly to keep them in proper working order. Check drain pipes and tubing to ensure they are working properly as well. While your furnace is unlikely to cause a huge flood, it can cause mold or damage drywall and carpeting over time.

Malfunctioning Sump Pump

Sump pumps help prevent water from collecting around your foundation. Channels along foundation walls direct water to a well where a pump pushed it out of your home. If the pump malfunctions, water can eventually flood your basement. Service your sump pump at least once a year to keep it in proper working condition.

Sewage Backups

A blockage in your sewer line can cause a sewage backup into your basement. Grease, hair, and other items can clog your sewer line, tree roots can crack and grow through them, and even municipal sewers can back up into your home. Not only is it unsanitary, but sewage can cause damage to flooring, walls, and personal items if not cleaned up quickly.

Improper Drainage

It’s important to properly channel rainwater and snowmelt away from your home in order to prevent flooding and basement water damage. Clean gutters and downspouts regularly and either channel water away from your home or connect to storm sewers. Connecting them to your sanitary sewer can cause sewage backups during heavy rainfalls.

Leaky Windows and Foundation Walls

Cracks in window seals and foundation walls can cause basement water damage during heavy rains or winter thaws. Cracks and other problems with windows and foundations are easy to detect in unfinished basements. In finished basements, check for stains, discoloration, and deterioration of drywall, paneling, and carpeting as well as the other common signs of water damage listed above.

Basement Water Damage: Water damage to a foundation after a sewage backup.

Categories of Water Damage

There are three categories of water damage that indicate the health risk they pose to your family and pets.

  • Category 1: Clean water comes from a supply line or sink overflow. It poses no immediate risk to your health.
  • Category 2: Greywater has some risk and is usually from a washing machine, dishwasher, or source outside your home.
  • Category 3: Blackwater is high risk and contains sewage or other contaminants.

While the water source may start out as category 1, it will allow contaminants to grow over time. If not cleaned up, clean water will become greywater in as little as 48 hours. Greywater will become blackwater in 48 to 72 hours.

Steps to Restoring Basement Water Damage

Whether you call our professional restoration specialists or choose to do it yourself, the steps to restoring water damage in the basement are the same.

Repair the Source of Water

The first step in restoration is identifying and repairing the cause of the moisture. Whether it’s a burst water pipe or a malfunctioning sump pump, you can’t begin cleanup until the source of water is fixed.

Extract the Water or Sewage

The standing water or sewage is extracted after the source of moisture is fixing. In most cases, the water is pumped out or vacuumed up.

Remove Damaged Materials

Materials like drywall, carpeting, padding, insulation, and personal items that cannot be salvaged will need to be removed and discarded.

Dry Out the Area

You need to properly dry materials that can be salvaged. Commercial air movers and dehumidifiers are used to quickly and efficiently dry out affected areas. Depending on the extent of the water damage, the process may take several days.

Sanitize and Deodorize

Once dry, structural materials and salvageable furniture, fabrics, and personal items are sanitized and deodorized to prevent mold and smells from developing in the future.


Finally, the area is rebuilt to the original condition. This typically includes hanging new drywall, installing new carpeting, and painting.

Basement Water Damage: Flood water from a hot water tank malfunction.

How Much Does Basement Water Damage Restoration Cost?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to how much basement water damage restoration will cost. The key factors to consider are:

  • Cause of the Damage
  • Category of Water Involved (Clean, Grey, or Black)
  • Size of the Area Damaged
  • Kind of Materials Affected
  • How Difficult it is to Extract the Water
  • The Amount of Reconstruction Necessary

Your homeowners’ insurance may even cover some or all of the cost for basement water damage cleanup and restoration. Review our water damage insurance claims guide for more details on the types of water damage covered by standard insurance policies.

Call Now for Basement Water Damage Restoration

As the nation’s largest network of restoration contractors, we will connect you with a local water damage restoration company to clean and dry the damage. They will remove the affected materials, prevent mold, and restore your home or business to its original condition.

Locate a qualified water damage restoration company near you now. For immediate services, call 1-888-443-3110 to speak with our on-call restoration company in your area. They will provide a free, no-obligation estimate, 24-hour emergency service, and a 30 minute response time.

Author: Jeff Rooks

Jeff Rooks writes restoration content that helps homeowners restore their lives after a disaster or accident. Most days, you can find him cycling through Tampa. He also enjoys exploring new and delicious food and beverages around the world.

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