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How to Fix A Leaky Basement

Leaky basements happen even to the best of us.  This is the number one problem homeowners face, and it usually starts being a problem after 10 years even to brand new houses.


If you are lucky enough to have a basement, you want to get the most use out of it.  You don't want it to be a pool full of dirty water.  Even worse than the unsightliness of having wet walls and standing water, leaky basements can cause more serious problems.


- Mold infestation.  This is no joke.  You might have gotten used to that musty smell when you walk into the basement, but those headaches and summer colds you keep having could be the direct result of mold in your basement.  Even worse, it could be a key factor in your child's asthma attacks.


- Damage to your precious stuff.  The basement is traditionally the place to keep the things you want to keep.  Water can destroy almost anything, and you want those keepsakes to be around for your grandkids.


- Wood rot.  Water rots wood, and that can be very bad news for your house.  It is also the breeding ground for a variety of nasty insects, including termites who feast on your house's most important parts.


This may come as a surprise to you, but most homes are not properly waterproofed.  Houses built in the 1970's or before almost always have leaky basements.  Many are waterproofed using tar-based solvents, which are not effective in keeping water out.  Because most houses are not water-tight, you will often see water seepage after a storm or heavy rain.


So, we need to get rid of the problem.  But first we need to do a simple diagnosis.



Assessing The Problem


You might have water in your house from outside or inside.  It may not be a leak that is causing you worry, but moisture that has built up inside the house.  Before you start the solution, you have to pinpoint the problem.


You don't have to call a home inspector.  There is a simple and easy way for you to run some tests yourself.  This is a technique lots of people know about and all you need is a piece of plastic tape.


Put the plastic tape on the wall where you think the water is leaking in.  Then, check back tomorrow.  If water is on the outside of the tape, you have a condensation problem.  That means that there is excess moisture in your home.  If the water is inside the tape, between the tape and the wall, you have a leak.



Moisture Trouble From Inside


If you have little beads of water on the inside of that tape, it's telling you that there is moisture in your house.  We all have moisture in our homes, but there are a few things you can do to minimize it.


- Don't leave any wet stuff lying around.  Pay extra special attention to this.  For example, if you have wet clothes, hang them outside.  Always be aware of standing water or wet things, and keep your house dry.


- Look at your ventilation.  The best way to cut down on household moisture is to make sure there is plenty of air-flow.  This is especially tricky, and sometimes impossible, with basements.  If there is no air but there is water, you can definitely expect mold to come along too.


- Use a dehumidifier.  As a last resort, you might buy a few humidifiers and put them around the basement.  This is a pain, but it's much cheaper and easier than having a mold expert come and remove it all.



Leaking In From Outside


If there is water coming into your basement, there could be a couple of different causes, and each has its own solution.


- Uneven water table.


If you see water in corners, especially where the walls meet the floor, this probably means that you have an uneven water table.  That means that your yard and the area around the house is shaped in such a way that the water comes right into your basement like a funnel.


The key to fixing this is to slope your soil so that the water drains off away from the house.  This is a great deal of work.  You can do it yourself, but many prefer to hire a specialist.  It can also mean temporarily destroying your garden, if you have one right up against the house.


- Cracks in your foundation.


You may not be able to see the cracks, but that doesn't mean they aren't there.  It might sound like an easy enough job - just seal them up!  But, it's actually quite a bit of work.


Sealing the cracks from inside won't work.  You'll have to dig around the house and hit them from outside, using some kind of sealant.  There are a variety of these on the market, and the best of them will keep those cracks filled for years.  Again, this is a huge job for one person, so you might want to hire a specialist.


- Hydrostatic pressure.


This big, technical term simply refers to water that gets trapped in the ground and has nowhere to go.  If the water seepage occurs long after the rain or storm is over, this might be the cause.  Hydrostatic pressure is common in areas that get heavy rain, as well as places with certain kinds of soil like clay or rock.  These materials leave the water no place to go - except for straight into your basement!


There are ways you can landscape to minimize hydrostatic pressure, but the only real way to keep it out is to make sure that your basement is water-tight.  This means having waterproofing installed.



Good Waterproofing Goes A Long Way


The best way to fix water problems in the basement is to not have them in the first place.  Prevention is the best cure!  And, this means having good, solid waterproofing installed.


If you do it right the first time, it will last you as long as you live.  Use a material that is elastic, like a seal or membrane, so that it can stretch over the cracks that will appear over time.  Avoid tar-based damp-proofing.  It won't be effective in keeping water out in the long run, it will only slow it down.


Look for something that can be applied anywhere, on walls, floors and other materials.  Also, you should use a waterproofing product that is non-toxic and nice to the environment.



With good waterproofing and a little effort at keeping the basement dry and ventilated, you can kiss your basement leakage worries goodbye.  Then, you can enjoy your basement and use it any way you like for the years to come.


For a big job that you donít want to do yourself, contact Aqua Seal USA.  This is a company that specializes in waterproofing; both installation and maintenance.  You can also purchase waterproofing products from them if you are into doing it yourself.  Aqua Seal USA has years of expertise in waterproofing, and they offer their products and services at a reasonable price.


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