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Basement Moisture Causes and Solutions

October 1, 2012

It is a common problem for a basement to have a high level of moisture. This can lead to problems such as a musty odor, mold, sweating pipes or condensation on the walls and floors. There are several easy and low cost ways a homeowner can reduce or eliminate basement moisture.

The first step is to remove any internal sources of moisture where possible. Clothes dryers are an obvious if overlooked source of basement water vapor. These should be vented to the exterior of a building. If cooking is done in a basement, try to vent the stove or oven to the exterior.

Removing exterior water sources from the basement can sometimes be an easy repair. Make sure that gutters and downspouts are working properly. Downspouts should deposit the water away from the foundation walls to provide adequate drainage. Any low spots in the grading against the walls will hold water and allow it to seep to the interior. Regrading and filling these areas will help.

Once these have been eliminated as causes, further repairs may be necessary. Cracks in foundation walls can leak and allow water in. Concrete walls can be repaired from the inside by injecting urethane foams into them. This is not a solution for block walls however.

Water that is coming through block walls or at the base of the wall where the floor meets the wall should be repaired using an internal basement drainage system. This requires removing a section of the floor at the base of the wall. Then digging a trench and installing a plastic corrugated drain tile system. This drain tile then empties into a sump crock and then is removed by a sump pump. Or if there is a hillside, the tile can drain by gravity to the hillside.

Moisture that is coming through the center of a concrete floor or if the concrete or block walls are damp may be fixed using a penetrating sealer. A penetrating concrete sealer such as a sodium silicate is simply sprayed on the surface. It will soak in and then form a crystalline structure that fills the microscopic pores in the concrete. This densifies the concrete and prevents water vapor from coming through and being seen on the surface.

This list is the cause of the vast majority of moisture problems in a basement. A little detective work and effort can reward the homeowner with a basement that is no longer damp, musty or unhealthy.

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