A basement is a great feature for any home. It provides lots of flexible space at a lower cost than the finished rooms upstairs. It’s also a safe shelter during severe weather and a great location for storing bulky items. The only real problem most people encounter with a basement is unwanted moisture that leaks into the basement or condenses there, and that problem is easy enough to solve with these strategies.
Managing Exterior Runoff
The biggest reason that water gets inside the basement is that it spends too much time outside the basement. The longer water stands in puddles–or just in saturated soils–against the exterior of the basement, the better the chances that it will find its way through even tiny cracks or holes in the foundation. It is very important to do whatever you can to encourage water to move away from your foundation as quickly as possible.
Check the grading outside your home to make sure water drains away from the foundation instead of toward it. Be sure that your downspouts are discharging far away from the house. Consider burying a perforated drainage line around the house to carry water away. Remember to design everything for a heavy rainfall event, not a light shower.
Insulating Pipes & Ducts
Condensation is another source of moisture in basements. The cold surfaces of air conditioning ducts and water lines will quickly collect moisture in the humid air of a rainy season. If nothing is done to prevent it, they will drip water day and night until drier air moves in. The falling water can damage carpet, furniture, and stored items, so you end up losing a lot of space that should be available for use.
Wrapping pipes and insulating ductwork is a simple solution. This creates a barrier between those cold surfaces and the damp air that surrounds them. As an added bonus, the insulation will provide you with cooler water at the tap and make your air conditioner more energy-efficient, but thorough coverage is essential. Any gaps left behind will allow condensation to continue.
Getting a Dehumidifier
The same principle that causes condensation on pipes and ducts will allow you to remove moisture from the air on your own terms. A dehumidifier uses a fan to circulate air across a cold surface, which collects condensation and lets it drip off into a container.
Purchase a unit with enough capacity for a large space. If your dehumidifier is too small, it won’t be able to keep up. Look for the largest available bucket, or better yet, position your dehumidifier near a floor drain so that you can connect a hose and allow it to run constantly. This strategy will also help keep the drain trap from drying out in the winter and allowing sewer odor to back up into the home.
Sealing Wall Cracks
Don’t be surprised if your home has a few leaks that allow water to seep inside. Even the best concrete will eventually develop a crack here and there, and all basements are poured with seams where the wall joins the floor. Any of these openings is subject to leaks, especially during rainy times when lots of water is outside.
Because of the considerable water pressure in these cracks, most DIY solutions aren’t effective at keeping water out. The more effective solution is to have a qualified contractor examine the situation and use commercial products to create a more durable seal. In the meantime, it can also help to manage runoff, as we’ve noted above.
A basement can be a convenient and valuable part of your home. It can also be a messy, damp place that’s hardly even usable. When moisture begins to collect there during rainy times, you can end up with unhealthy mold and even some water damage. These simple tips will help you remove that excess moisture and keep your basement dry and functional.