Scenario#4: The Leaks-A-Little-Regularly Basement
You may or may not be able to fix this problem yourself. Put procedures from scenarios#2 and #3 into action, then see what happens. It’s especially important that you don’t rush into finishing before your basement has proven itself dry. Regular leaks are much more devastating than occasional ones, so don’t let your enthusiasm get the better of you. Chances are that the source of moisture is rainwater or snow melt (easier to deal with), but it could be groundwater (more difficult to deal with).
Prepare yourself to call in a professional if simple fixes you do on your own don’t stop the leaks. Also, sometimes small leaks require big and expensive fixes. Brace yourself. The main thing is that you must not go into the process of hiring someone blindly. You need to understand what the proposed fix is, how it will happen, and a firm cost estimate in writing. If you just hire someone and hope for the best, there’s a good chance your hopes will be dashed.
TECH TIP: Don’t Feed the Mold
It takes both moisture and a food source for mold to grow. You can’t always control to food source, but you should when you can. That’s why you should never store anything organic on unfinished concrete basement floors. Most finished basements include an unfinished utility zone for the furnace, electrical panel, etc. Resist the temptation to store cardboard boxes on bare concrete basement floors in places like these. Even a floor that appears dry can have enough water vapour migrating upwards through the concrete that it can trigger mold and mildew growth in cardboard. An epoxy floor coating can counteract this, but you should still keep anything made of wood or cardboard off the floor.
TECH TIP: Beware Furnace Drain Lines
Today’s most efficient natural gas and propane furnaces and boilers extract so much heat from outgoing exhaust gases that the moisture within those gases condenses inside the furnace or boiler as liquid water. It’s supposed to, and this is why they’re called “condensing” heating appliances. They all have some kind of pipe that lets this condensed water drain away. Sounds good, but there are two dangers as far as your basement goes. First, the amount of liquid water created by a condensing furnace or boiler amounts to a lot of water – 5 or 6 gallons per day when the weather is cold in northern areas. This is more than enough water to cause damage to your finished basement if it doesn’t make it to the drain. Condensed water like this is also highly acidic and this can lead to problems. It will eat metal pipes quickly and I’ve even seen deterioration and breakage of the plastic pipes that are used to direct condensate water into drains. The acid is created when the condensed water interacts with the carbon dioxide given off by the burning natural gas or propane. The possibility of a broken condensate pipe and lots of leaked water is why you should pay special attention to how condensate water is drained from your furnace.
Locating a furnace as close as possible to the floor drain is worth considering if you can. Also, regularly inspect the condensate drain line for cracks and breakage. Even if condensed water leaks from a broken pipe for just a couple of days, it can lead to big problems. All of this is why it makes so much sense to install a water leak alarm near the condensate drain line of your furnace. These inexpensive electronic devices detect the tiniest amount of water on the floor, sounding an alarm so you can take immediate action. It’s very cheap insurance for the hidden threat of water leaking from your furnace.
Every so often in life there are simple things that really make a difference, and something called vertical drainage membrane is one of those things – at least as far as solving basement leaks caused by rainwater or snow melt goes. Originally invented by a German company called Cosella-Dörken, and now offered by a handful of different manufacturers, this dimpled, plastic sheet material goes against the outside face of foundation walls, creating thin, vertical drainage pathways for water to trickle down without interference from soil. Without pressure from the soil against the foundation wall, vertically draining water isn’t driven through the masonry with the same vigour and soil pressure. Thats why it’s much more likely to move downwards, not sideways into your basement. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you’ll need to excavate the soil away from the foundation wall to install drainage membrane. It also needs to connect to perforated horizontal pipes (called drainage tile) around the perimeter of the footing in order to work. After all, the water needs some place to go after it drains downwards. Despite the installation hassles, drainage membrane does perform admirably. Any major basement waterproofing job should include some.
Study the illustration right here for an overview of the different best-practice methods used to waterproof a basement. If you click on the image you’ll get a larger version suitable for printing.
Study the illustration and watch the video below for a more detailed explanation of the basement waterproofing strategies.. You’ll definitely want to understand all about basement waterproofing before contacting any waterproofing contractor. You won’t necessarily need all these features shown here in the illustration to make your basement dry, but you definitely need to understand what’s going on before you talk to someone about making your basement dry. The best way to protect yourself from incompetent or dishonest contractors is to educate yourself so the wool can never be pulled over your eyes.
Also, some municipalities offer a rebate on the cost of installing a sump pump and backwater value. Check this out with your local municipal office before hiring someone to do the work. It could save you thousands of dollars.
VIDEO: How Basement Waterproofing Works
Wet Basement Bottom Line
It’s rare that a basement with big and regular water leaks is made dry without some serious work by professionals. This might not be necessary, but you should prepare yourself for it. If your basement is wet, you’ll want to pay close attention to the illustration and video in this lesson. It outlines the basics so you understand the situation and fixes as you consult professionals. Print out the illustration and have them mark it up with a pencil to show what they propose. Basement waterproofing isn’t rocket science. Any normal person can understand the concepts behind whatever option is being proposed. If you don’t understand what a contractor is proposing, don’t proceed until you do. If the contractor can’t make it clear to you what the propose fix is, then find someone else.