Scenario#3: The Leaks-A-Bit-Sometimes Basement
This is also a very common situation and almost always involves rainwater or snow melt, not groundwater. You’ll need to do all the testing and prevention items in scenario#2, plus the additional steps of stopping liquid water leaks. The good news is that occasional leaks of small amounts of visible water can often be stopped with simple methods you do yourself. Your first step is to learn all you can about when the leaks occur and why. Think like a detective. Are eavestroughs and downspouts reliably diverting water away from your house? Is the soil around your house sloped so water runs away from the house and not towards it? Do water leaks happen near any window wells? Do everything you can to keep water away from your house, then allow time and circumstances to show you if you were successful. The real danger here is that hope will get the better of you and you’ll proceed with finishing before you really know for sure if your basement is reliably dry. Believe me, there’s only one thing worse than having to wait to finish your basement. Wishing that you had not finished it because your precious floors and walls are wet and moldy is far worse.
Leaks-A-Bit Basement Bottom Line
Any kind of regular leaking must never be ignored. You may be able to stop the leaking, but you won’t know until you’ve given yourself enough time to tell for sure if your fixes have worked. Basements that have small but regular leaks are quite dangerous when it comes to finishing. They create the impression that the moisture issue is no big deal, when in fact even small moisture leaks are often a very big deal. A little moisture can trigger a huge amount of mold growth and bad indoor air.
TECH TIP: Reliable Sump Pumps
A sump pump is a small, quiet, electric pump that usually sits below the level of a basement floor in a recessed compartment called a “sump”. The job of the sump pump is to turn itself ON when water rises in the sump, then switch itself OFF when the level falls in response to pumping the water outside. The thing about sump pumps is that if you need one in your basement you definitely need one that works no matter what. Ordinary sump pumps are powered by an electrical outlet, so if the power goes down and you don’t have an automatic backup generator, water could easily rise to damaging levels in your basement. And even if the power doesn’t out, you’re still sunk if your one and only sump pump breaks (this usually happens on a holiday when stores are closed).
All this is why I recommend multiple layers of safety when it comes to the whole sump pump approach. Consider installing two pumps – one is a regular, high-quality plug-in model, and the second one has battery backup. Set the float level on the second pump slightly lower than the main pump, so it only comes on when needed. This way you’re covered if your main pump fails (or is overwhelmed by high water inflow), and the battery backup pump will work on its own in the event of a power failure.
All the following models are excellent battery backup sump pumps:
Wayne ESP25: This is one of the best battery backup units available. It requires at least a 75 amp-hour car battery to function.
PumpSpy PS 1000: This unit includes the ability to alert you by text message when the backup pumping has been activated.
Here are a couple of non-battery models for the role of main sump pump energized by a 120 volt outlet:
Wayne: CDU980E: This is the main sump pump I have in my house. I keep a spare one on hand because it’s cheap insurance. The one I’m using now is more than 20 years old but still working fine.
Moeller M53 Mighty Mate: This very heavy-duty cast iron pump is specially built to handle solids up to 1/2″ in diameter.
Watch the video up next to learn more about how sump pumps are connected and how they work.