Nothing strikes more fear into the average homeowner than the thought of a flooded basement. Yet even a relatively minor leak can wreak expensive havoc in your basement, especially when you can't seem to pinpoint the source. If you've got unwanted moisture developing in your basement but don't know where it's coming from, read on. This article will present two frequent sources of the problem.
This is not only the most common cause of wet basements but also one of the most difficult to eliminate. That said, it's fairy easy to identify, thanks to the fact that basement flooding will almost always occur during periods of either heavy rainfall or spring snow melt. Once you've recognized this correlation, the next step is to evaluate the ground around your home.
Begin by inspecting the grade of your soil. Does it seem to be tilting away from your home, as it should? Ideally you want a slope that descends at least 6" in the initial 10 feet. If the ground is level--or worse still, if it is sloping towards your foundation walls--then there's a good chance that runoff is contributing to the moisture in your basement. Consider having the soil re-graded by a professional landscape contractor.
Next take a look at your gutter system. Are the downspouts leading away form your home attached properly? Ensure that there are no leaks occurring where lengths of gutter attach. Such leaks inevitably lead to pooling water. It's also a good idea to get up on the roof and check the state of your gutters. If your gutters are too choked up with leaves, the water may be spilling right down the sides of your home.
This phenomenon, also commonly referred to as "sweating," is characterized by patches of minute water droplets forming on either the walls or the floor or your basement. This is the result of the temperature gradient between the cold outside air and the relatively warmer air in your basement. While not as severe as runoff moisture, this problem can easily become an unwanted mold infestation necessitating a laborious and expensive process of mold removal.
First of all, it's good to perform a test to determine that condensation is in fact the cause of your basement's moisture problem. All you have to do is cut out a square of tin foil and tape it up over the areas where moisture tends to appear. Secure all four sides with tape.
After the foil has sat in place overnight, peel it off and inspect it the next day. If the back of the foil has moisture on it, then you know the source of the problem lies outside of the basement. This may be runoff or some other issue--but it's not condensation. If moisture has appeared on the outside of the foil, however, you may be sure that the issue is condensation forming out of the air.
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