Working as a MA realtor for almost twenty five years, I can say without a question that one of the greatest fears of any home owner is having a water problem in their basement! When buying a home, the uneasiness of having a water issue will be magnified ten fold if the intention of the owner is to finish the basement as additional living space. Having a little bit of water in a 200 year old colonial with old stone foundation walls and a dirt floor is far more acceptable than seeing even a drop of water in a luxurious finished lower level that you find in many high end homes today.
When you have a beautifully finished space with plastered walls, fancy wood work and plush carpeting the last thing you want to deal with is a water issue. Not only will a wet basement have a serious impact on a homes marketability and value, it can create health risks due to the possibility of mold. When you have mold you also have another very costly problem to fix as well! I won’t even mention the fact that where there is water there are also insects not too far behind. Water issues can lead to termites and carpenter ants…two things you want to avoid!
If you own a home, solving a basements water problems boil down to how and where the water penetration occurs.
Fixing surface water
One of the easiest fixes to a basement water issue is when the water is coming from improper drainage around the home. Some wet basements are easy to cure just by unclogging the exterior gutter system. It is amazing how many times I have come across a home that has a couple years of leaves that have become lodged in the gutter system completely rendering them useless. When it rains you see the water just pouring right over the gutters into the ground below causing a serious back up where the water has nowhere to go. Another possible issue with basement water problems occur when the downspouts of the gutters are not extended far enough away form the foundation again causing the water to pool. One solution besides extending the downspouts is permanent underground piping that is capable of moving larger quantities of water further from the house.
If the gutters have been cleared of all debris and the water from them is taking the intended path it may be that the yard is improperly sloped back towards the house. Most experts recommend that your yard slope at least 6 inches to a foot away from the house. In other words there should be a crowning effect that carries the water away from the foundation. Correcting a drainage problem such as this can usually be fixed by consulting with a professional landscaper. Be careful that you do not add too much soil close to the foundation of your home. After listening to numerous home inspectors over the years the recommended amount of concrete showing from the ground to the siding should be six inches to avoid insect and water damage.
Repairing water penetration through a crack
If the water penetration into the basement can be seen coming through a crack this is generally an easy fix as well. There are times where a home owner could fix this themselves if the crack is small enough. If this is the case mixing up some hydraulic cement and plugging it into the crevice should suffice. When the crack is on a large scale the recommending treatment is through an epoxy injection. The process of epoxy injection closes the crack and restores the structural integrity of the wall.
Repairing/cleaning footing drains
If water is leaking into the basement at the bottom of the wall or at the seams where the wall meets the floor, the issue probably isn’t surface water but hydrostatic pressure pushing out water that is in the ground. If this is the case, check to see whether you have footing drains. A footing drain is underground pipes installed when the house was built to carry water away from the foundation. There should be a drain or manhole in the basement floor or a clean out pipe just above the floor line. The drains could be clogged, in which case you can just flush them out with a garden hose. Another avenue to try if you don’t have footing drains is to create what is called a curtain drain. A curtain drain is a type of French drain system that is underground in a trench with gravel that diverts the water away from the house before it gets there. This type of drainage system would be far less expensive than either an interior or exterior water proofing method.
Interior drainage system with sump pump
An interior drainage system can be a less costly fix than an exterior drainage system as long as the basement is unfinished. If you can’t keep water penetration occurring from the outside this is the way to go. An interior drainage system is one of the most common you will see. An interior system is created by sawing out a channel of concrete around the perimeter of the foundation. Perforated pipe is put in the dug trench. The pipe drains to the basements low spot where a sump pump will remove the water.
Outside water proofing system with French Drains
An outside water proofing system can be one of the most effective means of keeping water out of a basement but also one of the more expensive solutions. With an exterior system a French Drain is installed around the perimeter of the home. The reason why this is the most costly method is because some serious excavation work has to take place around the entire home. It is possible you may have to remove brick patios, walkways, decks and mature landscaping! You could easily spend ten’s of thousands of dollars with this method but if you have water penetrations from multiple locations it could be the best solution. Keeping your basement free of water will go a long way in making sure you are able to get top dollar from your home when it is time to sell!