Why is my basement damp? How to fix basement moisture
We recently had our basement finished and everything was great for the first few months. But as we got into fall and it started to rain more, we noticed a bit of a damp basement smell. You know that awful musty smell of a wet basement? Turns out we have a moisture in the basement. Here is what you need to check and how to fix the moisture that is inside your basement.
What causes a damp basement?
The reason for a wet basement smell is caused from water vapor moisture accumulating in the basement and it having nowhere to go. Simply put there is excess moisture in your basement. You need to identify what is causing that dampness and take steps to fix it.
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Where does basement moisture come from?
Basement moisture typically comes from one of several places.
Interior water and moisture
These are the water sources that are already inside your house. They can be from a variety of things like a leaking furnace, humidity from showers and cooking and so on. Even a dryer that is not properly ventilated can cause moisture going into the air, giving a dampness feel to the basement.
Rain or water in the ground
The most common reason for moisture in a basement is water in the soil coming into your home in one capacity or another.
Standing ground water and water that is not being drained away from the house is another culprit. Water will find its way into the house through cracks and other means if it isn’t drained away from the house properly. This can also happen if the water table in your area is high from excessive rain.
Moisture from the air outside
In the summer you may open your windows to get a nice breeze crossing through to save money on air conditioning. But bringing in outside air can add to more water vapors to the overall house and especially the basement.
Another way is that the warm air from outside can cause condensation when it hits the cooler air of the basement. This combining of two different air types can cause moisture to form.
What are the signs of a wet basement?
Some of the signs of a wet basement are:
Mold and mildew on the walls and floors
Moisture on the windows (which can lead to mold)
Water stains on the floor or walls
Musty smell and other damp odors
Paint is peeling
Efflorescence (white powder on wall surfaces and floors)
Causes of basement moisture and how to fix them
The first thing you’re going to want to do is identify the moisture source. To do this you need to know the causes of dampness in the basement. These are the main causes of a wet basement and how to fix them.
Condensation on the walls
When hot air meets cold air condensation forms. You may notice this in the Winter on your windows when little water beads start to form inside on the windows.
The same principle applies to your basement. Because the basement is usually cooler when hot air comes in and water vapors have contact with cool air from the basement condensation will form on the walls causing basement dampness.
We even noticed some water on our drop ceiling tiles, which was caused by condensation from ice in the sink right above it.
How to fix condensation on the walls
The easiest way to fix this is to bring in a dehumidifier and see if you can remove the excess moisture with this. If this doesn’t do the trick, there may be air leaks in the walls of your basement and you should see about plugging them. Your concrete walls may need to be treated if they are older.
If the slope of the ground outside of your house isn’t properly draining away water when it rains that water can find its way back towards the house as opposed to running off like it should.
This can cause water to come up through the concrete block walls in the basement. Water can also come up through the concrete floor. Leaks through the cracks in the walls of the foundation are caused from hydrostatic pressure in the soil.
This pressure causes cracks and the excess water in the soil around your house and finds its way in through the foundation.
How to fix grading issues
Grading is the positive slope of the land around your house. It should be at an incline sloping away from your house so that any water that lands on it runs off away from the home.
If the land around your house is flat or sloping towards your house the water will start to run towards it causing pressure on the foundation walls around it and possibly leaking in. Standing water around the house is an indicator of poor grading.
To fix this you need to increase the grade of the land around your house so that the water drains off correctly.
Depending on how much soil you need to bring in to fix the grade, you may need to hire someone with a bobcat to move the soil around. They will ensure proper grading with a positive slope so that you avoid dampness in your living space.
Blocked gutters and lack of downspouts
If your gutters and downspouts are clogged or not draining away from the house you may have found the issue for moisture in your basement. That water coming off your roof will run right back down the side of your basement walls and into the ground in a larger quantity.
This is because the size of your home is displacing all that water to the edges of the house. This will cause the water to seep down into the soil and leak through the concrete walls. This can make already saturated soil worse.
This extra water can cause hydrostatic pressure and create cracks in your basement walls and push the water up through the cracks in your basement floor and concrete walls.
Add to the fact that if you are going through a wet season, the water table may be unusually high already and combine with this with the extra water it can start coming into the house.
How to fix blocked gutters and downspouts
To fix this issue you want to make sure you have unclogged your gutters and that your downspouts are leading the water far enough away from your house.
Exterior drainage is a key part to avoiding moisture in your basement. Inspect your gutters and drain pipes and remove any blockages. This combined with proper drainage should ensure that the water is moved away from your house efficiently when rain falls.
Shifted driveway and other concrete
This one is similar to your grading issues if you have concrete around your house over time the ground underneath it may shift, causing the concrete to lift up and slant back towards the house rather than away from it.
This means that when water comes it will drain back towards the house and cause moisture problems.
How to fix shifted concrete
To fix shifted concrete you will need to have the ground underneath the concrete get lifted up. There are professionals that do this. It is fairly difficult for a homeowner to do given that you need the proper tools and machinery to lift up the concrete and fill it in underneath.
Moisture coming up from the soil
If you don’t have a properly waterproofed basement the moisture in the soil can start to push its way into the house. This can come up through the cracks in the basement floor, the cracks in the walls or from spaces in between the foundation wall and the basement floor. This is one of the main causes of water seepage in a basement.
Related: Water come up from the ground? Here’s how to handle wet carpet in your basement.
How to fix moisture coming up from the soil
The first thing you’ll want to do is to fill in any of the cracks in your floor or basement walls.
Improperly vented clothes dryer
If you have an unvented dryer in your basement (meaning it is not being vented to the outside) then all the moisture from the wet clothing will go back into the house. This can be a source of dampness throughout the basement and even throughout the rest of the house.
How to fix an improperly vented dryer
The easiest way to fix an improperly vented dryer is to get a dryer venting kit attached to the exhaust of the dryer and have it properly ventilated to the outside. You can hire a handyman to do this or you can do it yourself if you are fairly handy.
A water leak is never something you want to deal with but it does happen. The moisture in your basement has come on suddenly. It’s a good idea to start checking around to make sure that there isn’t a specific spot that the moisture is coming from.
How to fix leaking pipes
For fixing leaking pipes you’ll need to contact a plumber and have them source the issue to make sure that it is just a single instance and not an issue throughout the house.
Broken or lack of weeping tile / drain tile
If you have a newer home you likely have weeping tile at the bottom of the foundation of your house. This is code in most places. However, if you have an older home it could be that you do not have weeping tile to take the water in the soil and move it away from the house. When the water has no place to go it will cause it to come back into the house.
How to fix weeping tile issues
It is difficult to tell if you have weeping tile issues or drain tile issues. if you have gone through the rest of this list and have determined that this must be the cause the best to contact a professional to come in and take a look at your weeping tiles and see if that is the issue.
Broken sump pump
Your sump pump is designed to take the water I’m around the house and push it further away so that you relieve the water in the soil and displace it to somewhere further away from the house so it can’t cause any damage.
A broken pump can also cause damage and lead to flooding in the basement. Check your sump pump regularly to make sure that it is properly functioning. Also a good idea to have a backup sump pump or a battery operated one in case the power fails.
How to fix a broken sump pump
The steps for doing this are more than the scope of this article but you can fix a sump pump. More than likely you will need to have it replaced. Often what happens with pumps is that they get stuck open and the motor burns out.
To prevent this from happening it’s a good idea to perform regular sump pump maintenance and test it every Spring to make sure it is properly working.
Much like your dryer not being properly vented to the outside, condensation can occur when hot water vapors in the air from elsewhere combines with the cool air of a basement and causes moisture resulting in condensation on the walls.
How to fix condensation issues
The easiest way to fix condensation issues in your basement is to exhaust the air in the basement to the outside. If you have the ability to do so you can use an exhaust fan to vent out excess moisture in the basement.
Another way would be to get a dehumidifier and use it regularly to draw out the moisture in the air and then dispose of the extra water.
We all know we don’t want to have water damage on our hardwood floors but in a basement where there is often carpet this gets harder to detect.
You will want to regularly walk around your basement and see if there is any moisture on your floors pooling anywhere. This can be a sign of a leak from one of several sources and is a likely culprit of your damp basement (a hint may be if you have had low hot water pressure, it could be leaking).
How to fix standing water issues in your basement
Standing water in your basement is likely from a source close by to determine if the water is trickling from another location and pulling in the area that you have found it or if it is coming from somewhere immediately in the vicinity of the water. Once you have found where the water issue is coming from you can then better deal with it.
Final thoughts on moisture sources in damp basements
While moisture in a basement it’s not something to panic over. Take some time to identify what is causing the moisture. Then see what steps you can take to correct it and you will be good to go.
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