What is water seepage?
Water seepage is when water moves from outside into your basement. This is usually through the tiny holes or cracks that have come up over time in your basements foundation walls and floor. Another way is if the water level has risen too high and it crosses over the top of a barrier that is trying to prevent it from going into your house.
Signs of water seepage in the basement
The first thing you should look for in your basement is a pool of water. When water begins to seep into the basement, it will naturally gather at one point and will be noticeable. If you suspect this is happening, but it is winter and water is in the ground is frozen, you may notice efflorescence on the walls or floor as a hint of where water may be coming in.
Another sign will be a musty smell coming from the basement. Water seepage is often the reason for a damp basement, and if you are noticing the smell throughout the year, water seeping into the basement could be the issue.
A third sign is humidity in the basement. If you notice that your basement is more humid than normal, it could be a sign of water in your basement. Really anything that gives a damp basement smell is a hint of water coming in from the outside.
Water in an open basement
If you have an unfinished basement, water seeping in can be very easy to detect. Look at your foundation walls and see if you notice any water coming in through your basement walls. Moisture or running water (even a slight trickle) will be evident on the walls.
Water in a finished basement
If you have a finished basement, then detecting water seepage will be trickier. This is because the outer walls and concrete floors won’t be as easy to see due to them being covered by flooring and drywall.
Look for any damp spots in the flooring or swelling in the hardwood floors, as this is often an indication of water damage.
Inspect the paint around the outer walls of your basement and see if there is any paint bubbling or cracking. Look at your floorboards and see if there is any warping of the floorboards or rust around the nails. This can also be a sign of water seepage in a finished basement.
Related: What to do if you have a wet basement with carpet.
Causes of water seepage in basements
Water in the soil
Before we get started on the main places water seepage can happen in your basement, we need to understand why this happens.
When water enters the ground, the soil expands and creates hydrostatic pressure. This expansion in the soil forces the water to go where you may not want it to go (i.e., into your house). If you live in an area with a high water table, the extra water that comes from heavy rainfall can add to the water in the soil around your house. This is why adequate drainage and proper grading around your house are so vitally important.
Look around your house for standing water; this can be an indicator of high water levels in the soil and poor drainage.
Leaks in Foundation
Water seepage often happens via your basement foundation walls. These concrete walls, over time, develop cracks from the shifting soil and other pressures. If you have a concrete foundation, water can find its way into the mortar gaps.
Leaks in Windows
Even if you have new windows, water can still find its way through. Water can gather in the window wells of your basement windows, and without proper drainage, that water has no place to go. Eventually, it finds Its way in.
For this reason, you should inspect your windows wells once a year for adequate drainage and ensure there are no cracks in the glass and that the seals are still intact. If you notice any cracks in the seal or glass, you should look into fixing them as soon as possible.
Cracks in floor
Water coming up from the basement floor cracks is a result of hydrostatic pressure. It’s never fun to have water coming up through your basement floor. But it’s even worse when that excessive water comes up and ruins your hardwood floors or carpet.
If you have noticed cracks in your basement floor, one idea is to put a wifi water sensor close by so that it can detect any water that may come up.
Gaps in footing and floor
Another place that water may find its way in is the gap between the basement wall, the footing, and the concrete floor. These are poured at separate times when the home is built. They should be properly sealed, but basements are known to shift over time, and these shifts can cause openings or gaps.
If you have one of these gaps in your for, you may not even notice it until the water begins to seep in.
Like we discussed with your window wells, you want to make sure you have adequate drainage. This means you want to make sure that your downspouts are running away from the house, that your house has proper grading, and that your weeping tile is running efficiently into your sump pit. All of these things will help keep water out of the soil around your house and reduce water pressure.
Risks of water seepage
There are several risks associated with water seepage when it comes to your basement; they are as follows:
Mold and Mildew
As water sits on any item over time, mold can begin to develop. This can make the air quality of your basement and your whole house less than optimal and cause health issues for anyone living in the house.
If the water starts to go near your electrical wiring, it can cause a fire. This may not be an issue if your basement isn’t closed up, but if the walls are finished, this can be a real threat.
Water in your basement is never a good thing. Whether it’s from water leaking from a furnace or just standing water on your wood floors, you want to make sure that you deal with the water quickly. Unchecked water damage can very quickly create expensive repairs whether your basement is finished or still open.
One of my biggest fears is having our finished basement be damaged from water. When water begins to come into your basement, it can wreck everything. From the flooring to the walls, right down to the studs. All of which will need to be treated by a professional before they start to swell and rot.
Loss of possessions
With water seeping into the basement, it’s likely that your basement will need to be gutted. All the items removed and properly treated, many items can be lost and unable to be replaced. Basements are often where we store a lot of the items we aren’t using, and many of these hold sentimental value and are irreplaceable.
How to prevent water seepage issues
The best way to fix water seeping into your basement is the following action items. These will also help you prevent future water seepage.
Repair Basement cracks
If you notice cracks in your basement walls, you will want to fix them right away. Either hire a Foundation Specialist to repair the cracks or read up on how to do it yourself and see if it’s something you are qualified to do.
Install a sump pump in your sump pit
Installing a sump pit is a great idea. The water from around the house will gather in the sump pump basin, and when it hits a certain level, the float will trigger, causing the sump pump to push out all the water that is gathered away from the house so that you don’t run the risk of extra water coming in.
This is a great option for most new houses. If you have one, make sure to properly maintain your sump pump throughout the years.
Ensure drain tile is working
If you have a sump pump already, you will want to make sure that your weeping tiles are properly draining. A good way to tell is to listen to your pump pit after a rain and listen for the water dripping.
You can also look into the sump pit and see if there is water gathering there. But make sure you don’t damage the float switch because that can cause your sump pump to run constantly, or worse, never turn on at all. When you open the pit lid, you run the risk of moving something or having something fall in; that is why I recommend listening instead.
Even if you have a proper grading and weeping tile, it won’t do you any good if the drain pipes are clogged. A clogged drain pipe can wreak havoc on your basement, so it’s good to make sure that water is draining properly every Spring.
If it is not working properly, it is because it’s clogged, which means the water in the soil can be properly dispersed away from the house, which will cause the water to seep back into the basement.
How to fix the water seepage
The majority of these items will require a professional to come in and assess the situation. Proper basement waterproofing and foundation repairs are not meant to be taken on by a homeowner. The best thing you can do is contact a specialist and see what needs to be done. To find a professional in your area, click the button below.
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