A wet basement can ruin your whole day.

Filed in Minnesota Real Estate by on 2 Comments

What causes wet basements?

Let’s ask Mr. Inspector!

That’s a good question to ask. In the years that I have been inspecting, I have found that that is one of the biggest problems that homeowners have or worry about.

Let’s look at the outside of the house first.

The ground that surrounds the foundation should have a positive slope away from the house. Gutters and downspouts are also important. Seamless gutters are preferred. Both gutters and should be sized for the house. More importantly, the extensions from the downspouts should be sized so that they extend at least six to ten feet past the foundation. Leaf screens are also important. The typical cost of seamless gutters with dowspouts, extensions, and leaf screens is approximately $5.00 per foot.

Examine the concrete steps and concrete sidwalk as well. If they are cracked, settled, or sloping toward the foundation, they can also be a contributing factor. I have seen cases where the garage apron is cracked or settled, allowing water to migrate to the basement.

High ground water can also cause wet basements. This is the most difficult item to correct. To find out more about how this could affect your house, contact your city hall permit department. Sandy soil is the best to have. Clay is the worst. Sandy soil allows the water to run through it. Clay soil will hold water, and is a potential factor for a wetbasement. Houses built too low to the ground are also at increased risk. If you are looking at a newer home, be careful. Builders have used up much of the high ground in more developed areas, and are now developing neighborhoods on lower ground. Contrary to popular belief, proximity to a pond or creek is not necessarily a problem. In fact, this situation may be good because water will seek the least amount of ground pressure.

How do I know if I have a wet basement?

Surface moisture is a clue, and might be seen as a slight discoloration on the block wall. This is called efflorescence. This discoloration is caused by water running through the block wall. This is commonly seen in homes 50 years and older. You might see small stains on wall paneling, or rust on metal bolts on anchored work benches, or rust circles on old paint cans. There may also be mildew in the corners of the block walls or under steps.

The easiest way to discover if your basement is wet is if you see that paneling, doors, or foundation walls are blackened with mold. Wood rot is also an indicator. After a rainstorm or a winter thaw, you might see standing water or even a small trickle of water.

You may need to hire a drain tile contractor to solve your problem, if correcting the exterior conditions we discussed does not help. Drain tile will redirect water to keep it from coming in the house.

To install drain tile, a contractor will cut the concrete on the basement floor in the inside of the house along the wall, creating a circle. Then, he will dig out soil and install a 4 inch perforated plastic flixible piping along with gravel, and then repour concrete over the piping to finish the floor. The water will be redirected by the plasitc drain tile to a sump basket which resembles 40 gallon plastic drum. The drum might have a sump pump in it to remove water if the drum fills up after a heavy rain. Half of all drums have no sump pumps, but they can be added. Typical cost for all of this work on your average three bedroom rambler can range from $3500 to $4000.

Courtesy of Don Doty, Homeplace Inspections, Inc.


Comments (2)

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  1. Don Doty says:

    Hi Kermit,

    Thanks for publishing my article. I would like the readers to know that it would be great if we could develop some kind of Q&A forum on this site.

    Don Doty, Homeplace Inspections.

  2. John Howley says:

    Another method of basement waterproofing involves injecting Bentonite Hydroclay around the foundation (usually on the outside of the home or business). Great Lakes Waterproofing has been doing this for over 30 years in the Midwest. Using a waterproofing blend of bentonite clay (the same clay they use to line dumps, ponds, manholes etc.) we can effectively seal the below-grade structure. The following video shows a typical installation.


    If the home has been built on a swampy area with hydrostatic water trying to come up through the floor we can seal these areas up as well. After drilling small holes in the basement floor we inject the clay underneath filling the voids and pathways the water uses to get into the basement. This method works great for waterproofing elevator pits which tend to be 20-30 feet below grade level and near the water table.

    While drain tile systems are widely used to manage water, they do not waterproof your basement. The water is still coming in, mold still has a place to grow, musty smells won’t go away and the slow erosion of the gravel base holding up your foundation is continually happening. Four out of ten of the homes we waterproof have a drain tile system installed, unless the water is going under the floor, the system will not capture it.

    The hydroclay system tends to be very cost competitive and the owner has the option to only seal the area that’s leaking making it a true permanent system.

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