April showers won’t just bring May flowers, but leaking wet basements too if homeowners don’t maintain good outside drainage conditions. Wet basements are one of life’s biggest headaches, yet waterproofing is generally easy to accomplish.
When basements leak, people panic. The trouble, however, can usually be traced to the drainage conditions around the outside of the house. If too much water is allowed to collect in the soil around the foundation it will naturally leak into the basement through the walls, or even up through the center of the floor.
Use the following basement waterproofing tips to make sure you won’t end up with an indoor swimming pool you didn’t count on:
Good Gutters – Roof drainage is, by far, the number one cause of basement leakage. Since roof surfaces are as large as the house, they can collect lots of water in heavy rainstorms. What happens to that collected water can make the difference between a wet and a dry basement.
Properly designed gutters should have at least one downspout for every 600 – 800 square feet of roof surface. Gutters must be kept clean. Dirty gutters fill up and the water overflows directly where you don’t want it to be: near the foundation. Most importantly, make sure the ends of the downspouts are extended to discharge at least 4 – 6 feet from the foundation. Spouts which discharge too close are like big hypodermic needles that are injecting water into the basement.
Sloping Soil – Next to gutter problems, the angle of the soil around the foundation perimeter can also cause drainage headaches. The soil should slope away from the house to keep rainfall from collecting against foundation walls. Soil should slope downward 6 inches over the first 4 feet from the foundation wall. Thereafter, it can be graded more gradually but should never allow water to run back towards the house.
If your grading needs improvement, use clean fill dirt (not top soil) to build up the soil around your house. Tamp the soil down to the correct slope and finish with a layer of top soil and grass seed to prevent erosion. Or, just use stone or mulch. Whatever the top layer is, be certain the slope is established with the fill dirt, or else the water will just run through the more porous material and into the basement, defeating your waterproofing efforts.
Other Culprits – Use common sense to check for other detriments to good drainage. For example, homeowners who build brick or wood planters next to the foundation keep water against the building, where leaks can occur. Heavily overgrown bushes and trees can also prevent good drainage and lead to foundation leaks.
Following these simple basement waterproofing guidelines will solve 99% of wet basement blues. The improvements are inexpensive and can usually be done yourself or with a little help from your friends.
However, be warned of waterproofing contractors who attempt to “scare” homeowners into an expensive drainage system. Most are not needed! One unsuspecting home owner recently attempted to solve his leaky basement by calling in waterproofing contractors. Besides telling him his foundation would crumble without a water proofing system, they offered quotes ranging from $7,500 – $20,000. These were outrageous expenses, even if the system did need to be installed – which it did not.
Instead, following an inspection, we were able to instruct him on how to correct his outside drainage and basement leaks and easily waterproof the problem for under $500 – and he avoided getting the soaking of a lifetime!