What Causes Basement Water?

Daphne Mallory

Basement water problems are caused by condensation and leakage, both of which can be avoided by proper construction and fast action when problems do occur. Water can leak through the walls from burst or clogged pipes, the "Clay Bowl Effect," or due to drainage problems. Condensation makes basements damp, and visible evidence of this problem can show up in the formation of droplets on the walls. The solution for any basement water problem will depend on the cause.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Leaking walls and floors are often the result of water coming in from the outside through cracks and joints. Concrete walls can shrink as they cure and create cracks that water can find its way into. Mortar joints in block walls and clay tile walls can become loose, and water can find its way in and sit in the hollow blocks until it overflows. In basements where the wall and floor are a single piece, the problem is often with water flowing through the floor and wall joint from the outside. Some of that water can go underneath the basement flooring, and pushes through any cracks in the basement floor.

One source of water from the outside is due to the Clay Bowl Effect. This term refers to a problem with the foundation of a house built on soil with clay, which stands in the way of underground water. Sometimes a house foundation is built directly in the way of water that normally travels to underground collection areas, such as springs. If the water cannot get to those areas, it will often build up around the foundation. Rain adds to the water, which eventually seeps into any cracks in the foundation and into the basement.

Another source of basement water that can collect at the foundation is due to a gutter problem. When a house's gutters don't direct rainwater into a downspout away from the foundation of the house, the water can go directly to the foundation and find its way into the basement. The solution is usually to clean the gutters, install a drip edge, or add extender pipes to the downspouts.

Condensation occurs when warm air retains moisture, and is then cooled by the basement walls. When the air cools, it releases moisture in the basement, which makes it damp. Dryers, indoor clothes lines, drain pipes, and basement showers are common causes of condensation. The best ways to avoid it is to find ways to draw the damp air outdoors by using exhaust fans and vents. Clothes lines should be placed outdoors or somewhere else in the house.

Ignoring a basement water problem can be costly. The related problems that can occur, such as mold and mildew, are often a health risk. The longer the problem remains, the harder it usually is to take care of. It is important to hire a service professional sooner rather than later to resolve the issue.

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