Basement Water Damage: Signs, Causes, And Repair [Mitigation]

In this article, we’ll be discussing basement water damage signs, causes, and fixes.

Since the basement is the lowest point in your home, you should expect it to have some water problems now and then.

These problems could be as a result of groundwater from rain or melted snow. It could also come from leaking pipes. When water problems are left unattended, it would lead to water damage over time.

Here are signs that suggest you have basement water problems.

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What Can Water Damage In My Basement?

Many things can be affected by excessive basement moisture. These include the following –

  • Basement walls
  • Basement floors
  • Cushions and other furniture in the basement
  • Woodwork (cabinets, tables, doorposts, and window frames)
  • Bags, shoes, and clothing

If any of these items collect and retain moisture, then they will begin to wear out over time. Your wooden frames will start to rot, and the walls will start to grow mold.

Don’t fret, basement water damage repair isn’t such a big deal. Here’s what you can do.

Signs of Basement Wall And Floor Water Damage

Water damage could be annoying, but the good news is it’s easy to identify.

Standing water (or flooding) in your basement lets you know immediately that you have a water problem. But what are the other signs?

To properly handle a water problem in your basement, you need to be able to identify the signs.

These can point you in the direction of where the water problem is coming from, and the extent of the problem in question.

Let’s take a look at the signs of water damage one by one.

  • Mold Growth

Mold growth is one of the most common signs of water damage. As we all know, mold thrives in environments where there is excessive moisture and organic material to feed on.

They also like to grow in dark and warm areas, and your basement is perfect. It becomes even more suitable when it constantly experiences water problems.

Once the basement is damp, you can find mold growing on the walls, ceilings, and floors.

This is a crystal clear sign of water damage in your basement.

  • Stains On Walls

Water carries dirt particles and other small fragments of debris as it flows, dropping some of them along surfaces to settle. These dirt particles, debris, and other tiny organic materials can leave stains on our walls, ceilings, and floors.

This is another clear sign of basement wall water damage.

The colors of the stains usually range from yellowish-brown to dark brown patches. Water can also discolor your basement walls, so faded spots also indicate that there is a water problem around.

  • Odors

Since basements are buried into the ground, it doesn’t get as much air as the other top surface rooms in your home. Indeed, basements usually have a window or two, but that won’t prevent bad odors when there is water damage.

You may be wondering where the bad basement odors are coming from. Well, it could be due to one of two reasons (or both).

Firstly, a damp environment that doesn’t get enough ventilation will lead to a bad odor.

This could be the case if your basement furniture has soaked up some moisture.

When the cushion, rug, bags, woodwork, or clothes are damp, the following smell would definitely be terrible.

The second reason your basement produces a bad odor is the presence of mold. Remember, mold thrives in moist areas and they produce a musty odor.

So if you perceive a damp or musty mold smell, you can be sure that there is water damage in your basement.

  • Efflorescence

Constant moisture on your basement walls doesn’t just lead to mold growth, it can also produce efflorescence.

For those who don’t know, efflorescence is a white and powdery, crystal-like coating that appears on walls that have taken in too much moisture.

That being said, you can be sure that where there is efflorescence, there is a water problem.

  • Cracks

Many factors could lead to cracks in your basement. These include heavy rain, winter thaws, and poor drainage.

It is almost impossible to keep out cracks from a building’s entire structure, but cracks that are wider than 1/6 of an inch can be a sign of serious water damage.

If you notice large cracks of that size, be sure to call a professional to come and take a look at the problem.

Causes Of Water Damage In Basements

Now that you’ve understood the signs, the next thing you should do is figure out what caused the water damage in the first place. Proper knowledge of this will help you tackle the problem more efficiently.

Repairing the water damage in your basement is one thing, but repairs wouldn’t be complete if you can’t figure out what caused the damage in the first place.

Let us take a look at some of the major causes of water damage in your basement.

  • Water Heater Malfunction

A lot of homeowners install their water heaters in the basement. A malfunctioning water heater can bring about several condensation issues, which will leave moisture on the basement walls.

If the water problem is traced to the heater, then you need to get it fixed as quickly as you can.

  • Sewage Backups

If the sewage backup is clogged, then there will be a build-up of water, which will eventually cause damages to your basement.

If you trace the water problem to the sewage back up, then get it cleaned.

  • Condensation

Condensation happens when warm outdoor air enters your basement and then cools off, forming droplets of water in the process.

Besides “wet” outdoor air, your HVAC system (air conditioners and water heaters) can also cause basement condensation.

When the water cools off and lodges along your basement walls, floors, and furniture, it soaks them up and creates a perfect environment for mold growth.

  • Poor Drainage

One of the major causes of basement water damage is the absence of a good drainage system. Without it, water will flow into unwanted areas and cause damage.

As the rains fall and the winds blow, they carry all sorts of junk and dump them in your drainage. These pieces of trash can include paper, fallen leaves, and dust.

When all these particles gather in your drains, they stop the water passing through them from flowing to the sewage system. Instead, the water can flow out of the drain and end up in unwanted areas such as the basement.

  • Bad Sump Pump

Sump pumps are meant to suck up standing water and divert them to the main sewage system.

But if the sump pump is bad, it won’t be able to do so, hence the water will remain and cause damage to your infrastructure.

  • The Landscape

If your landscape is tilted towards your home, then rainwater or melted snow will move towards the direction of your home’s foundation.

It won’t take long before the water trickles into the basement and cause some damage.

  • Cracked Windows

When there are cracks in your basement’s window seals, then rainwater can pass through and soak your basement walls.

If left unattended, the moisture will create a perfect environment for mold to grow.

  • Leaks in Basement Windows

Cracks in your basement windows or window seals are another common cause of basement water damage.

Water doesn’t need much space to flow through, which is why the slightest crack in the basement window is more than enough for it to pass through.

General Guide To Fixing Basement Water Damage

As there are many causes of water damage, there are also many solutions to the problem.

Consider these approaches to make sure your basement isn’t affected by water anymore.

Here is how to fix water damage in your basement.

  1. Fix Leakages

A broken pipe or cracked window seal can cause water to leak into your basement. This problem can easily be fixed by professionals.

Call a plumber or window contractor to fix the cracks in the windows and replace or fix damaged pipes.

  1. Make sure your sump pump is working

If your sump pump is in top shape, then it’ll do its job and get rid of any standing water in the basement.

You can ensure it stays in good working condition by inspecting it regularly and carrying out basic maintenance practices.

  1. Do some landscaping

If your landscape leans towards your home, then all the rainwater and melted snow will flow in that direction.

When water piles up around your foundation, then it’ll only be a matter of time before it moves into the basement.

You can hire a professional landscaper to redo the land. The purpose of this is to slope the landscape away from the foundation. This will cause all standing water to flow away from your home, and not towards it.

  1. Keep your drains clean

A clogged drain will contribute more to basement water damage than you can imagine.

Inspect it regularly and ensure that it is free of leaves, rocks, sticks, and other forms of dirt and debris that will keep it from functioning properly.

Of course, it takes time for drains to be clogged so you don’t have to inspect them every day. Taking a look at it once in one or two weeks is fine.

  1. Use paint sealers

There are commercial paint sealers you can use to protect your basement walls from moisture. The good news is, it can be applied both on the interior and exterior basement walls.

These sealers can keep water from seeping through the walls and storing moisture. Once you’ve done this, then there’s no chance of mold growth on your basement walls.

  1. Use dehumidifiers

Dehumidifiers are great for keeping humidity levels below 60% (which is the ideal range for mold growth).

You can buy one from a home improvement store and install it to reduce basement humidity.

Keep in mind though, using dehumidifiers alone to tackle basement moisture doesn’t guarantee 100% results. You still need to take the above-mentioned steps to ensure your basement will no longer face any water problems in the future.

  1. Ventilate the basement

A well-ventilated room can help keep moisture away. When it isn’t raining, you can leave your basement windows open to allow fresh air to come in.

You can also leave your fans on for a few hours, even when you’re not in the basement.

Similar to installing dehumidifiers, ventilating your basement doesn’t guarantee that there will be no water damage. It only helps reduce the moisture levels.

You still need to fix the leakages and ensure your drains are flowing smoothly.

How To Repair Basement Water Damage

Basement water damage repair can be carried out via several approaches, depending on the nature of the damage of course.

You have two options in this regard – You can hire a professional contractor to help you with the fixes, or you can do it yourself.

While hiring the pros seems like the most effective option, it is also the more expensive option. If the water damage is severe, then you can leave the repairs to the experts.

Here is how much water damage repair cost for most basements.

But if the damage is minor, why not give it a shot yourself?

Basement Water Damage Mitigation

It is important to mention that the very first step to basement water damage repair is finding and fixing the causes of the water damage in the first place.

Failure to do this means that all your repairs will be a waste of time and money, as the root cause has not been taken care of. As long as water keeps coming into your basement, then you will have to repair damages over and over again.

To prevent water from coming into your basement, ensure that all the leaking pipes, clogged drains, leaking windows, condensation, and stagnant water issues are all taken care of.

Let’s take a look at what you can do to remedy the different types of basement water damage.

Water Damage Repair on Basement Walls

If your basement collects too much moisture, then mold will begin to grow on it in no time. That aside, dampness in basement walls also compromises its structural strength.

If you plan on selling your home, then a scenario like this would cause the value to drop.

Luckily, repairing the damage caused by water to your basement walls isn’t a difficult task, especially if the damage is minor.

Before you begin fixing, conduct a thorough inspection of your basement walls so you can understand the extent of damage to which the walls have suffered.

If all you have to deal with is mold growth, then you can quickly solve the problem by following these steps –

  • Buy a mold cleaning solution or prepare one
  • Use the mold cleaner to scrub the mold off
  • Allow it to dry completely
  • Seal all cracks in the walls with a concrete mix or commercial fillers
  • Use a paint sealer to protect the wall surface from further leaks

If the mold infestation has gone too deep into the basement walls, then you could also tear the walls down and build new ones.

Water Damage Repair on Basement Floors

Usually, the extent to which water damages your basement floors doesn’t go beyond irritating mold growth. This is fairly easy to handle, so you wouldn’t need to hire a mold removal expert to do the job.

Follow these steps to fix water damages caused to your basement floors.

  • Clear out the spaces that have been affected (remove furniture, bags, and other items that may get in the way)
  • Buy a mold cleaning solution or prepare one by yourself
  • Scrub the floors thoroughly to remove mold stains
  • Allow it to dry (you should keep the basement windows open for ventilation)

Water Damage Repair on Basement Window Posts and Woodwork

If the moisture in your woodwork has been lodged for a long time, then the wood may be permanently damaged. In this case, you may need to remove the windows and replace the wooden posts with new ones.

For other woodwork in your basement, you need to inspect them to see how bad the water damage is. Mold growth on woodwork can be easily removed, but rotting wood is more difficult to deal with.

If the rot has gone beyond repair, then you have no choice but to replace them.

If the woodwork in your basement can be moved, then you can take them outside for proper inspection and cleaning. Once the mold is off, leave the woodwork outside so the sun rays can dry them up and kill any leftover mold spores.

Once you’re sure the woodwork is 100% dry, bring them back inside. Do not take your woodwork out on a rainy day!

Water Damage Repair On Furniture In Basement

Condensed moisture can land all over your cushions, and can develop mold growth if they aren’t dried up in time.

It is easier to remove mold from leather seats than from fabric. Leather isn’t porous, so mold spores can’t penetrate deep. Fabric on the other hand has tiny holes where mold spores can penetrate and begin to grow.

If the mold is on your leather furniture, then all you have to do is use simple household cleaners to wipe them off.

Lemon juice can be used to clean mold off leather, so you shouldn’t bother about buying commercial mold cleaners.

If the mold growth has gone deep into your fabric, you may need to rip it off and replace them with new ones.

Preventing Basement Water Damage

After you have done the necessary repairs, ensure that you never experience water damage again. This would mean taking preventive measures.

Fix the leakages around your basement, keep it well ventilated, ensure your sump pump is working, and insulate your HVAC system to prevent condensation!

Conclusion

Basement water damage can happen for several reasons which we have discussed here.

If you ever come across any signs of water damage, then follow these tips to keep your basement dry at all times.

If the water damage in your basement is severe, then you could spend a lot of money fixing it. Follow the tips provided here to repair basement water damage.

Prevention is always your best bet.

Thanks for reading!

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