As a property owner, you have many responsibilities you need to focus on, which can be pretty daunting. You need to stay on top of your house maintenance routine and perform repairs on time. Not to mention the bills and landscaping. Amid all this stress, it is critical that you don’t neglect any part of your home, especially the basement. Keeping your basement neat and dry might not seem like a priority, but it should be. A wet basement can lead to mold problems around your entire house, causing a wide range of health effects.
So, how can you keep your basement dry? Luckily, there are many things you can do to keep your basement dry. Start by insulating your cold water pipes, then ensure your landscaping isn’t damaging your house foundation. Seal your interior walls and floors, patch any visible holes/cracks in your basement early, fix gutters and downspouts, waterproof the basement, and install a dehumidifier. You can also surround your basement with rocks or gravel to keep moisture out, install exhaust fans, and avoid drying clothes in the basement.
This article discusses some of the critical things you need to do to keep your basement dry. Read on to learn more.
Where Is Water Coming From?
Before we discuss some of the things you can do to keep your basement dry, you need to understand where this water is coming from. Although most homeowners think that rain is the main culprit when it comes to water problems in the basement, that isn’t the case.
Besides rainwater and snowmelt, there are also potential issues of poor ventilation, leaking pipes, subsurface seeping, condensation, and humidity.
If you notice mysterious cracks, musty smell, or general dampness in your basement, be sure to identify the source of the problem and solve it before things get out of hand.
You should be worried if the moisture levels in your basement go above 60% because this is when most problems start to manifest. The other signs that your basement has moisture or water issues include:
- Peeling wall paint.
- Musty odors.
- Warping floors.
- Mold spots.
How Do I Keep My Basement Dry?
So, what are some of the steps you can take to ensure your basement remains dry all the time? Let us find out:
1. Waterproof Your Basement Walls and Floors
If you use your basement as a furnished living space, we highly recommend that you take some steps to waterproof the floor and walls.
Consider using a waterproof sealant on your floors and walls to prevent water from seeping through. Applying a relatively thick coat of water-resistant paint on your walls may stop them from gathering condensation that could lead to high moisture levels.
If you notice cracks appearing on your basement floor, it could be a sign of serious structural problems. Fortunately, most of these cracks don’t require serious foundation repairs. If the cracks are heaving, ensure you seek professional assistance because it could indicate cracks in your foundation.
Otherwise, the problem isn’t structural, and your primary concern should be that these cracks could easily let in water from the soil beneath, leading to a wet basement. In such a case, applying a waterproof sealant to the cracked surfaces could prevent water from seeping into your basement.
You can also use hydraulic cement, which seals up the cracks and stops water leaks from coming through.
2. Insulate Cold Water Pipes
We have many good reasons why you should insulate all the exposed pipes in your basement. Insulating the hot water pipes plays a critical role in conserving energy, preventing your water heater from overworking.
Insulating your cold water pipes is also a smart move because it prevents them from freezing when the temperature is too low. It also limits the amount of condensation that forms along them when humidity is relatively high.
Keep in mind that the basement is most likely the most humid part of your house and cold water pipes tend to “sweat” as humidity increases. The sustained dampness in a relatively dark part of your house presents perfect conditions for mold growth.
3. Keep Water Away from Your Foundation
Typically, water enters your basement by seeping in from the foundation. Although your house has some defense mechanisms against this scenario, they need to be maintained to keep working properly.
The first thing you need to do is inspect and clean your gutters and downspouts because they help direct water away from your foundation.
Debris buildup over time can cause blockage forcing water spills over the sides. When the spillage happens, water starts to collect along the foundation. With time, it saturates the ground and starts seeping into your basement.
You should also pay attention to the grading of your landscaping. It is highly recommended you ensure that your home has a slight pitch away from the foundation. Sometimes, the pitch isn’t done during construction, and in some other cases, it wears away over time.
Take time to inspect and identify problem areas. Fill them in to improve the slope away from the foundation. This is particularly important during winter when there is heavy snowfall and rain.
When the snow melts and the slope is towards your house foundation, lack of proper grading can be catastrophic for your basement in terms of water damage.
4. Install Gutters and Downspouts
Effective and efficient gutters and downspouts contribute greatly to keeping your basement dry. They prevent water from seeping in when it rains by diverting the flow far away from your foundation.
When attaching them to the house, ensure you direct the water flow at least six inches below ground level so that soil can absorb much of it before it hits the foundation.
So, if your home doesn’t currently have downspouts and gutters installed around the roof edge, this is something you need to consider.
As mentioned earlier, if you already have gutters and downspouts installed, be sure to inspect and clean them regularly. Any form of debris buildup can make them ineffective.
5. Surround the Basement with Rocks/Gravel
Using rocks or gravel in your home landscaping not only makes your outdoor garden look spectacular, but also helps keep the basement dry.
In this case, the rocks and gravel surrounding your house act as a protective seal preventing water from seeping in under doors and through cracks.
For basements with more severe moisture problems, additional measures such as digging down and waterproofing the foundation and/or installing drains or sump pumps can be taken to divert water away from the foundation.
6. Use Dehumidifiers
Air moves through your home like a chimney- it usually escapes to higher levels and is replaced from the bottom up. This is one of the leading causes of basement humidity, especially when the air outside is humid.
Because of this and a wide range of other factors, such as moisture permeating through the foundation walls causes the basement to be more humid than other parts of your home.
The best way to mitigate against the relatively high humidity levels in the basement is through the use of dehumidifiers. When the unit is switched on, it works by removing moisture from the air, thereby lowering humidity levels in your home.
You should also pay great attention to the natural humidity levels in your basement. Anything beyond 60% is dangerous and can lead to mold growth. However, going too low isn’t also good because it creates a perfect environment where viruses thrive.
Therefore, the ideal humidity level for your basement is anything between 30% and 50%. So, ensure you don’t set your dehumidifier too low or too high.
7. Avoid Drying Clothes in the Basement
Many of us usually dry clothes in the basement, especially during winter when heating is switched on. This leads to a lot of moisture being given off into the air, which leads to higher humidity levels in the basement.
Because of this, it is highly recommended you dry your clothes outside or at least someplace where humidity levels are low like the garage. Avoid using the basement as a storage space- especially for clothes.
8. Inspect and Repair Cracks
Cracks on the foundation walls allow water from rainfall to seep into your home’s basement. This often affects basements more severely as they are usually built underground or close to ground level, where it is more likely for water, snow, and ice to accumulate.
Cracks should be repaired as soon as they are detected. To do this, first, clean the cracks with a wire brush and then fill them with masonry patching compound.
When applying the compound, ensure you put it into the cracks in a way that fills them completely- especially those deep ones. In case of larger cracks, you may want to consider calling a professional.
Basements are often the victims of humidity issues, and unfortunately, there is little we can do about them most times.
However, in some cases, such as when your foundation or concrete walls have cracks or gaps, you would want to consider hiring a professional who will come up with solutions on how to fix such problems so that moisture is kept out.
Implementing the above measures can significantly reduce humidity levels in your basement, especially when combined with a proper home maintenance routine.