Most Foundation Problems Are Caused By Water
As strange as it may seem, most foundation problems are caused by excess water in the soil around and under the foundation. Here are a couple of ways this could happen:
Soils with a lot of clay are called “expansive soils” because they swell as they soak up moisture and shrink when they dry out. If your home is built on expansive soil – and there’s a lot of expansive soil in the US – this swelling-shrinking cycle which is usually seasonable creates movement in the soil under the foundation. Over time this will lead to “differential settlement,” where sections of the foundation start sinking into the soil. Once that happens, you’ll start noticing various problems, including windows and doors that don’t open and close properly, uneven floors, wall cracks, floor cracks, stairstep cracks in brickwork, and more.
Another common way excess water in the soil can cause foundation problems is when hydrostatic pressure pushes against the foundation wall and causes it to bow inward and even crack.
Hydrostatic pressure builds up when water in the soil around the foundation can’t drain off. If the pressure isn’t relieved, it will eventually push against the foundation with enough force to make the foundation wall bow inward and even crack.
While there are other ways basements can become damp – for example, warm, humid air flowing in through open windows and condensing on colder surfaces – you want to make sure your basement isn’t damp because of a drainage problem around the foundation. Excess water in the soil always means trouble for foundations.
Why Wet Basements Are a Problem
The number one reason a wet basement is a problem is the possibility that the dampness is being created by excess water in the soil under and around the foundation because this can cause structural damage if left unattended.
Damp basements caused by other things are a problem as well, though, because moisture breeds mold, and that means the air in a damp basement is likely to be full of mold. Since a certain percentage of air from the basement flows up and into the home’s living area, this could mean allergies and respiratory issues for anyone living in the house.
Of course, you can’t live in or store things in a damp basement. Just about all you can do is use it as a laundry room. That’s a lot of wasted space.
Why Do Basements Get Wet?
Basements get wet for various reasons. However, the main reason is poor drainage around the foundation. Basements can also become damp when open windows allow hot, humid air to flow in and condense on colder surfaces. Cooking, showering, or using an unvented dryer in a basement can also create a damp basement.
As we noted above, it’s essential to determine why your basement is damp. If it’s damp because of poor drainage around the foundation, you need to have that fixed right away because it could lead to structural problems.
For more information see Don’t Make These 6 Mistakes When Landscaping Around Your House’s Foundation.
Signs You Might Need Basement Waterproofing
Signs your home might need basement waterproofing include:
- Water stains
- Musty smell
- Pooled water
- Mold growth
- Water trickling down foundation walls
Benefits of Basement Waterproofing
- Protects your home’s structural integrity – Proper basement waterproofing ensures that water can’t build up in the soil around the foundation. This prevents bowed and cracked basement walls.
- Saves you money in repair costs – Differential settlement (we spoke about this above) and hydrostatic pressure can cause significant structural damage, which will be expensive to fix.
- Improved air quality – Since some of the air in your basement flows up and into your home’s living area, you want it to be clean and dry.
- Increased property value – Buyers like clean, dry basements they can live in or use for storage.
How Are Basements Waterproofed?
Proper basement waterproofing means installing either an exterior or an interior drain tile system. A drain tile system works by preventing excess water from building up in the soil around the foundation. A drain tile system is a gold standard when it comes to basement waterproofing. If you want to live in your basement or use it to store valuables, you need to install a drain tile system.
Drain tile systems are easy to install during construction. Today, most new homes come with either an exterior or an interior drain tile system. However, drain tile systems can also be installed in existing homes. Here’s how they work:
Exterior drain tile system – An exterior drain tile system is installed around the outside perimeter of the foundation at the footing level. (Therefore, installation in an existing home means excavation down to the footer.) After a shallow trench is dug and lined with gravel, a drainage pipe is placed and covered with more gravel, and then the excavated soil. Now, excess water in the soil will flow into the drainage pipe and be directed toward a sump pit. When the sump pit fills with water, the sump pump turns on and ejects the water away from the foundation.
Interior drain tile system – An interior drain tile system is installed around the inside perimeter of your basement, which means using a jackhammer to break up the floor and create a shallow trench. After the drainage pipe is placed in the trench and covered with gravel, excess water flows into the pipe and gets channeled toward the sump pit. When the sump pit fills with water, the sump pump turns on and ejects it away from the foundation.
DIY Basement Waterproofing: Yes or No?
Installing a drain tile system in an existing home is a major construction project. It means either excavating down to the footer or tearing up the basement floor with a jackhammer. Therefore, we don’t recommend homeowners take it on as a DIY project. Leave this one to the pros.
How Much Does Basement Waterproofing Cost?
What can we say here about cost? Read more – basement waterproofing costs.
So, Is Basement Waterproofing Worth it?
Basement waterproofing is most definitely worth it. Think ROI (Return On Investment). A properly waterproofed basement protects your home’s structural integrity and can be used as a living area or for storing valuables. If you’re selling your home, you want to be able to show buyers a dry, clean basement.
If you’re dealing with a wet basement and wondering if basement waterproofing is worth it, contact us for a free inspection and waterproofing estimate.