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9 Common Basement Problems and What to Do About Them

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Owning a home with a basement almost certainly means at some point you will encounter basement problems. Basements can be a wonderful space in your house for entertaining, relaxing, working, crafting and more. But they also come with a number of common problems that can be just a bit annoying to downright threatening to the structural integrity of the house or even the health and safety of your family.

The most common problems stem from water, but there are other problems to watch out for. Below, we’ll look at those common problems and discuss ways to avoid or fix those problems.

Water Intrusion

Wet Basement Wall - Water Intrusion

A wet basement is probably the most common problem homeowners face when it comes to basements. Water has a way of “going where it wants to go” and it wants to go down. Because basements are below ground level in most cases, they make the perfect target for water to infiltrate.

Groundwater, or water that is held in the soil and underground spaces, is constantly moving and is present even when there is no rain falling from the sky.

Water can enter through walls, floors, windows, doors and other openings such as entry points for pipes, sewer lines and more.

Flooding due to freak storms or other unusual weather-related incidents can bring water in through any and all entry points. Because of the volume of water making contact with the house over a short period of time, flooding can occur.

Installing proper drainpipes for your gutters can move water away from your house. The slope of your yard plays a big part in the way that water flows toward or away from the house. You may need to install French drains or other drainage to be able to remove excessive rainwater.

Getting water under control is critical to the integrity of your home and the safety of your family. Once you determine how water is entering your basement, you can address it appropriately. This might include sealing walls and cracks or taking steps to direct water sources away from your house. Getting professional help to address water intrusion may be necessary to stop it permanently.

Basement Flooding

Once again, water is the enemy, but this time the source of the water is plumbing. A common problem is when a hot water heater bursts and dumps large volumes of water in the basement. Water heaters can rust over time. They can also collect sediment that causes additional strain on the tank. And excessive pressure from the water line can also cause a tank to burst.

Annually draining the sediment is one step you can take to prevent problems. Tanks do have a lifespan, and will need to be replaced periodically. Switching to a tankless water heater is another way to prevent this type of flooding.

Of course there are other plumbing problems that can cause flooding such as frozen water lines, overflowing toilets and failed plumbing fixtures. Installing flood detection devices that alert you when unwanted water is present can help prevent excessive damage.

No matter the source of the flooding, the result can be devastating, causing thousands of dollars of water damage. If you have a finished basement, the damage and cost can be catastrophic.

Sump Pump Failure

Sump pump in basement

Sump pumps are designed to remove excess water from your basement. They are installed in a low point of your basement or crawl space in a sump pit or sump basin. Excess water collects in this basin and the sump pump will turn on periodically to pump the water out of your house.

However, if the sump pump fails, it can cause a backup of water in your basement. You should contact a professional plumber immediately if you suspect a sump pump failure.

Mold

Mold is a fungus that grows naturally in moist environments. If left unchecked, mold can cause serious damage to your home’s structure and interior. Mold spores are easily spread throughout your house via air currents, water droplets, and even insects.

Mold can be extremely dangerous to humans, especially those who have allergies or asthma.

If you notice signs of mold growth in your home, take mold remediation steps immediately. Consider contacting an expert right away to avoid dangerous exposure.

You can prevent mold by stopping water from entering your basement. Installing dehumidifiers in your basement may be necessary if you have excessive moisture. If you have an HVAC system in your basement that runs regularly, this will also help prevent mold.

If you have a water intrusion or a flooding incident, take care to clean and dry surfaces within 24 hours to prevent mold growth. Remove or replace wet or damaged building materials like carpet or drywall.

Stained Walls & Floors

Stains on walls and floors are a sign of moisture intrusion and damage. Moisture causes stains to develop over time, as water moves through porous concrete walls.

Stains can be cleaned or painted over, but first you should fix the source of the problem. Inadequate foundation drainage and untreated walls allow water to push through basement walls and deposit stains.

Wall & Floor Cracking

The foundation walls of your basement are under hydrostatic pressure. The groundwater that makes its way downward due to the pull of gravity is constantly pushing against the walls of your basement. Over time, this pressure may be too much for a wall to bear and may cause it to bow or even break.

Likewise, the same groundwater can erode soil underneath your basement’s concrete slab, causing cavities to form that allow the basement floor to sink or collapse.

Floor and wall issues are serious, as they threaten the entire structure of your home and should be addressed as soon as possible by a professional.

Odors

Musty, mildew smells in basements are common, especially when you have water intrusion and high humidity.

You can help reduce these foul basement odors by waterproofing your basement. Cutting off the source of the water will solve most odor problems.

Install a dehumidifier to reduce the moisture in the air. Reducing humidity in the air will help reduce the moisture that feeds the odors.

Clean any mold or mildew. This includes removing any materials that have mold damage, like carpet or wood.

Get the air moving so odors don’t accumulate. A couple of well-placed fans will help to get the air moving and can help to even out the humidity. Of course, an air conditioning system will move the air while simultaneously reducing humidity. If you have an HVAC system, consider running it regularly to prevent odors.

Radon Gas

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the decay of uranium and thorium in rocks, soil and water. Radon is second only to cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer.

Because radon is odorless and colorless, detecting its presence is difficult without special testing devices. Radon detectors are readily available commercially, and can be done as a single-use test or as an ongoing detection device, much like a smoke detector.

Because basements are closest to the ground and the most common entry point for radon, the concentration of radon tends to be highest within basements. However, radon can find its way into the main living areas of homes.

If radon is found in a home, there are a number of methods used to mitigate and prevent radon entry and exposure. Sealing cracks in basement slabs, around pipes and other entry points is a start, but not enough to prevent radon from threatening a home’s occupants. Sub-slab depressurization uses a vent pipe and fan to force radon from underneath the basement and outside where it is vented safely. Other methods are available to reduce radon in homes including providing ventilation that keeps radon from moving from the basement to living spaces.

Consult a professional radon mitigation company if you determine radon is present in your home.

Carbon Monoxide (CO)

Like radon, carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced when fuel burns incompletely. CO poisoning occurs when carbon monoxide builds up inside a home due to faulty heating systems or appliances. Symptoms of CO exposure may include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, confusion, slurred speech, chest pain, shortness of breath, seizures, coma, and death. To prevent CO poisoning, make sure your furnace is working properly and regularly check the air quality in your home.

Carbon monoxide detectors are readily available.

Conclusion

Those are nine common basement problems homeowners encounter. There are other problems that come with basements, but these are the ones you will likely have to deal with at some point.

If you have a finished basement, there are other problems that can crop up, but those tend to be typical issues that you’ll experience in any home, not just in a home with a basement.

If you are in Metro Atlanta, contact Property Pro Services for help with your basement. We finish entire basements either you can get a partial basement, to accommodate your needs and budget. Request a quote today.