This guide reveals how to tell where water is coming into your basement.
Basements can serve different purposes for homeowners. For some, it’s a place to store old and new property, while others use it as a workspace.
It is without a doubt an important space to have in your home, which is why it should remain in good condition at all times.
Nonetheless, it is very common to experience moisture in the basement, and this is a result of leaks. To fix the moisture problem, you have to first determine where the leak is coming from.
If you’re having trouble detecting the source, then you’re in the right place.
In this article, we’ll be telling you how to tell where water is coming into the basement.
If you keep having to clean up water damage in your basement but can’t pinpoint the source of the water, then you’re reading the right article.
Stay with us.
What Causes Leaky Basements?
To have a proper understanding of the source of moisture, you need to first know what causes the leaks in the first place.
The biggest problem with basements is definitely water, so the cause of this is either a source of water or a compromised structure that allows the water to trickle in.
The following are the major sources from where water can make its way into your building and lead to leaks in your basement.
Rain and stagnant water around your home’s foundation: When there’s a heavy downpour, a foundation that hasn’t been waterproofed will be at great risk. This is a bigger problem for old homes that have weaker foundations.
But this isn’t just an issue for old homes. New homes that don’t have proper drainage will also be affected by heavy rains. With a good drainage system, water can be redirected away from your home’s foundation.
A good slope should do the trick. This will ensure that water doesn’t lodge around the foundation and cause leaks in your basement.
You should ensure your drainage system is always clean and free of clogs so the water can flow freely. The drainage system should also be able to channel the water far away from your building.
Cracks in your structure: Another common cause of a leaky basement is something as minor as a crack in your walls, windows, or stairwell doors. As simple as a crack may seem, it provides all the space water needs to get through and into your basement.
The next time it rains, use the opportunity to inspect your stairways and windows for any leaks. If you find any, then repair the faults to stop the leaks.
Faulty plumbing: Cracks, blockages, and rust are among the things that can cause your pipes to leak. This is why you should inspect them regularly to make sure they are in good condition.
You should also get them ready for the cold winter months by insulating them against getting frozen. If the pipes freeze, then there would be blockages, which will, in turn, lead to bursts, leakages, and a flooded basement.
Inadequate sump pump: A sump pump is one of the most important devices you should have in your basement if you want to keep large volumes of water out.
If the sump isn’t well-tended (cleaned and maintained), then it wouldn’t function properly. This means its ability to channel water away from your basement would be hindered, and the leaks will continue.
Be sure to get yourself a good sump pump, and follow all the manufacturer’s instructions regarding cleaning.
Condensation: Most people assume they assume the source of the leaking eater always comes from outside, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes it’s the level of humidity in your basement that’s responsible for the moisture.
Poor ventilation, proximity to the ocean, and warm summer temperatures are among the common causes of humidity.
It is easy to spot condensation, just take a look at your pipes, walls, and ceilings. If they look “sweaty”, then you can be sure they are condensed.
A simple ventilation system can solve the condensation problem. A humidifier is perfect in this kind of situation.
Signs Of Leaks In Your Basement And Their Possible Sources
Now that you know what causes the leaks in your basement, you also need to keep an eye out for the evidence and other signs of basement water problems.
Doing this will help you determine where the water is coming from. The source is usually close to where the signs of dampness appear.
The major advantage of spotting the leaks in good time is the simple fact that it can save your basement from serious water damage.
When searching for signs of leakages in your basement, you will need to determine if the water is coming from an external or internal source. External sources include rain and standing groundwater. As for internal sources, these include bad plumbing and condensation.
Here are the major signs of leakages in your basement.
Pools of standing water: The first and most obvious sign of a water leak in your basement is a pool (or pools) of standing water.
This could come from one or more sources, including cracks in your basement floor (due to hydrostatic pressure), leaking pipes, and cracks in your window sills.
As long as the water has an entry point, then it will keep seeping into your basement.
Dampness on walls: If you notice that your walls are damp, then that’s a clear sign of leakage.
So, how can you tell if the wall is damp? Brown patches of stains around the wall are one of the surest signs. You can also place your palm on the wall to get a feel.
The brown stains or feeling of wetness only mean that the walls have been absorbing water for a while.
Damp smells: Even when there are no water pools, another obvious sign of a water leak in your basement is damp smells.
If the water coming into your basement penetrates your concrete walls or your upholstery and remains unattended for a period of time, then the damp smell will start becoming obvious.
Mold and mildew: This is definitely a clear sign that you have leakages in your basement. If there is high humidity (or excessive moisture) in an area, then you can be sure to find them there.
Mold and mildew can spread very fast, and they aren’t particularly great for people with certain health conditions such as asthma and allergies.
Efflorescence: This is the chalk-like substance you can find around your basement walls. They form as a result of high humidity and leaks.
Rust: This one should be a no-brainer. Where there is rust in your basement, then there are definitely leaks.
If you find rust stains on your basement floors or carpets, then it’s due to the corrosion of metal items packed in there. These may be metal legs of your basement furniture and nails in boxes or on baseboards.
Water insects: There are a good number of insects that are attracted to damp areas. If you see them gathering around certain areas of your basement, then that’s a clear sign of leakage in that area.
Among such insects, one of the most common you will find in a moist basement is the cockroach.
Stained or warped wood: When the wooden structure in your basement starts turning dark in color, then you’re looking at the clear evidence of water damage.
Cracked floors: Water can leave your basement floors cracked and damp, so if you notice any of these around the basement, then that’s a pointer to a leakage.
Cracks can be a result of the pressure it gets from water trying to push its way through.
Flaking wall paint: Last but not least, another obvious sign of water leaks in your basement is flaking wall paint. This is when the paint starts to swell from within, forming cracks and chippings in the process.
How To Tell Where The Water Is Coming From Into Your Basement
Now that you understand the major signs of basement leakage, let us take a look at how you can trace the water source.
To do this effectively, you have to make educated guesses and investigate each suspect accordingly.
Below, I will list the major suspects.
Check the bathroom and plumbing above the basement
Drip marks on the basement ceiling are a clear indication of a water leak. And one of the prime suspects of water leaks in such an instance would be your bathtub, toilet/kitchen sink, and shower.
There is only one way to confirm your suspicions, and that’s by going up there to check.
Plumbing can be tricky, especially if you have no experience with pipes, so you have to be thorough during your investigation. You can use a flashlight for better visibility when looking through areas under the kitchen sink and other tight corners.
The most obvious sign of a leaking pipe is seeing drops of water coming out of it. If the pipes are made of metal, then rust marks are also a good sign of pipe leakage.
As you shine the lights over the pipes, turn the water on to see just how bad the leaks are.
The case could also be that the leak is behind the tiles, so you will have to confirm by cutting a small hole in the drywall and taking a look inside as someone runs the water.
If you discover a lot of water afterward, then it means the grout and tiles around the bathtub are compromised and will need to be replaced.
You can hire a plumber to fix the leaks in the pipes once they have been found and replace the grout and tiles around the bathtub. The plumber can also caulk any cracks that may be present around the base of your bathtub.
This will cost you a decent sum of money, but it will be worth it at the end of the day. It will also save your floor joists and basement ceiling from future damage, which will definitely cost you a lot more in repairs.
As an extra precaution, you should always ensure that your shower curtains are well shut anytime you have a shower, just to avoid water splashes all over your bathroom floor.
Check for sources of condensation
As far as water in your basement is concerned, plumbing leaks are not the only cause. Another major source is something as simple as condensation.
For those who don’t know, condensation is the process whereby evaporated water cools off and turns to droplets of water once under cooler temperatures.
With this in mind, wet air coming into the basement can condense and settle on your basement floor. Condensation can also take place around your HVAC system.
To be sure, dry up the water on your basement floor then shut the windows at night to prevent wet air from coming in. If the basement floor is dry in the morning, then you can be sure that the condensation is indeed coming from the wet air outside.
As for your HVAC system, you can confirm it as the source of basement moisture simply by searching for dripping condensed water from the HVAC pipes.
A simple solution is to insulate all the cold water pipes. You can use foam covers to wrap the pipes, and you can get some from a hardware store near you.
Inspect your downspouts
Perfectly working downspouts is a great basement waterproofing solution, as they help channel water away from your foundation to an external drain. But if they are clogged, water will not be able to flow away from the right way.
That being said, clogged downspouts can act as major contributors to the water problems in your basement. So if you notice pools of water around your foundation, then inspect your downspouts to see if they are clogged.
More so, if the downspouts are too close to the foundation, then that’s where roof water will be deposited. You can extend the downspouts so the deposited water is far away from your home.
Check for cracks around your foundation
If you suspect that water is making its way into your basement from an outside source, it means there may be cracks in your foundation where standing water can seep through.
Go around the perimeter and inspect your basement for cracks. If you find any, and there’s standing water around it, then that’s the source (or at least one of the sources) of the water in your basement.
Inspect your concrete walls
Hydrostatic pressure may be the cause of water in your basement. Concrete walls are filled with tiny pores through which water can make its way in, so inspect your wallpaper and posters.
Damp wall surfaces are easy to spot, all you have to do is place the back of your palm against the wall to see if it is damp. You could also take a look at the back of the posters and wallpaper to see if they have watermarks.
If they do, then you can be sure that water is seeping through the walls.
A paint sealer can be used to keep moisture from making its way through to your inner concrete wall surface.
So we’ve identified the causes and signs of leaks in your basement, and also discussed how to know exactly where the water is coming from.
A crack (or several cracks) in the foundation is a common sign of leakage, so you might want to begin looking for the source from there. You can also start looking from where the dampness, mold, rust, water bugs, or efflorescence piles up, then trace it to an origin.
Take a close look at these visible signs inside and outside the basement, then begin your trace from there.
In a case where the top of the foundation is buried, you will be required to dig the topsoil away to carry out a thorough inspection.
Keep in mind though, finding just one crack doesn’t mean the search is over. If there’s one crack, then chances are there are other cracks in other parts of the basement, so you have to be clinical in your search.
A homeowner may not be the most experienced person when it comes to digging up the basement foundation in search of water sources. It’s a lot of hard work which can be properly handled by a pro.
An experienced contractor will be able to predict other possible sources of water and will have the tools needed to carry out the inspection. They can carry out a simple hose test to find out the exact source of the water.
If the source of water is a crack, then there’d be no need to rip down the drywall to repair. There are effective repair solutions you can employ that are permanent.
A simple sodium bentonite clay plaster can be used to seal up the cracks. The application doesn’t take time either.
To find the exact source of water in your basement, you have to first understand what causes the leaks, and be able to identify the signs the dampness leaves behind.
Using these signs, you can have a fair idea of the water’s origins. Some digging may be required before you can find the source and conduct a repair, so hiring a professional contractor wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Being able to tell from where water is coming into your basement is as easy as identifying the signs of water damage and tracing the sources you suspect.
Follow the tips provided in this article and you’ll find the source of water in your basement.
We hope this article has been informative.
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