Sunday, 1 March 2015


Regardless of the way a basement is built, water can penetrate even the most well built, solid structure. This can particularly be a potential problem for new homebuyers and homeowners.  A good home inspector can pick up the tell tale signs of a basement leak.

Basement leakage can be a real nightmare for homeowners to deal with.  Basement foundations come in many forms—from concrete
foundations to stone, block or tile basement walls.  Even the most well built structure with a basement, may be prone to leakage.


Given the travelling nature of water, it is very difficult to predict exactly where the water will end up entering the building.  It can enter from the walls, joists or floors.  For homeowners, dealing with water leakage can certainly prove to be an expensive endeavour.  A leakage problem can be very damaging to your property, possessions and have adverse affects on your health should mould develop as a result of the moisture in the basement.  Water damage resulting from flooding can also negatively affect the value of your home.


A source of water leakage in the basement can come from old, worn out windows in need of replacement.  A probable source of water entry into your home can be through gaps, fissures and cracks around an old basement window.  Depending on the age of the house, old single-pane windows may need to be replaced with vinyl framed insulated glass windows that have double pane.


Typically, standard window wells used for years around the basement windows have been made of steel.  In some cases, these window wells end up rusting or require paint.  Another problem associated with window wells is that during heavy storms, water may collect and pool in the well, which may end up seeping in around the window frames and into the basement.
New window wells come in
durable vinyl material.  Unlike steel, vinyl window wells will not rust or require painting.  As well, vinyl windows can also come with a clear acrylic cover that prevents water from filling the window well.


A wall crack is usually an indication of a larger problem related to the foundation of the house.  Before a repair job can begin, it is important to source out the primary location of the structural problem.  Once the source has been identified, then you can begin repairing both interior and exterior wall cracks. 


The leakage problem may be tackled from the outside of the house.  The exterior waterproofing system is an expensive option, which involves excavation around the foundation of the house using heavy equipment.  During the process of excavation, the area around the house will be a construction zone making access to the house very difficult and hazardous.  This is primarily why exterior waterproofing systems are installed during the new construction phase of building.  
During the excavation stage, all existing bushes, shrubs and landscaping must be removed.  Dirt is dug up to expose the base of the foundation wall right down to the footings.  A visual inspection may reveal cracks or minor structural deficiencies that may be repaired right away. A waterproof membrane or waterproof coating is applied to the foundation wall to form a water barrier.  In some cases, a waterproof dimple membrane is wrapped around the foundation.
The weeping tile is replaced which lies along the base of the foundation wall. Once this process is complete, the foundation is backfilled to grade and soil is repositioned.   


Back and front yards may be leveled off flat or may actually slope towards the house.  This may pose as a hazard since with the passage of time, the slope of the grading can allow water from rain/snow/ice to flow towards the house and drain against the basement walls.  This can be the cause of wet spots, efflorescence or evidence of standing water on the floor.  A quick and easy fix to this is to intercept the surface drainage and redirect the water away from the house.  Digging a drainage ditch, which would be designed to reroute the water around the house, would be dug.  The drainage ditch, once sodded will act like a catch basin and hopefully solve the leaking problem.  Alternatively, the ground may be sloped away from the foundation, extending the slope for at least ten feet. 


Another common problem is when gutters or downspouts become clogged with debris or are defective and don’t work, as they should.  This may cause water to form puddles near the basement wall and thus keep the soil very wet.  Again, this may cause water to eventually enter through cracks into the basement.  A simple solution is to replace the gutters/downspouts, or maintain them by keeping them free of debris. Where leaves and twigs from nearby trees may collect in a gutter, a basket-shaped wire strainer or leaf-guard, may be installed  across the length of the gutter. To keep water from pooling at the point of discharge, a concrete gutter or splash block may be used to carry the water away at a slope of one inch per foot.  Downspouts can also be extended to channel rain away from the outside foundation.  Roof water can also be piped underground to a storm drain, dry well, or surface outlet fifteen feet or more from the house. 

A good home inspector is able to see the tell tale signs of basement leakage and point it out to you.  S/he may make suggestions as to best course of action to take.  But, this is one situation which requires attention right away as a small leak may become a big headache if not taken care of right away.

Dino Biondo
Certified Home Inspector

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