Not only does a wet basement feel and smell nasty, it poses a great risk to your home’s value. Left unchecked, basement moisture can ruin floors and walls, encourage mold, even damage roofing.
Some wet basements are easy to cure simply by clearing gutters and by diverting gutter water away from the foundation. But if the problem comes from other sources—water flowing toward the house on the surface, seeping in from underground, or backing up through municipal storm drains—you must take more aggressive action.
If downspouts are dumping water less than 5 feet away from your house, you can guide water farther out by adding plastic or metal gutter extensions.
But extensions aren’t the neatest or most effective long-term solution, especially if you’re likely to trip over them or run over them with a lawn mower. Permanent, underground drain pipe is invisible and capable of moving large quantities of gutter runoff much farther from your house.
For about $10 a foot, a landscaper or waterproofing contractor will dig a sloping trench and install pipe to carry the water safely away.
PLUG ANY GAPS
If you see water dribbling into the basement through cracks or gaps around plumbing pipes, you can plug the openings yourself with hydraulic cement or polyurethane caulk for less than $20.
Plugs work when the problem is simply a hole that water oozes through, either from surface runoff or from wet soil. But if the water is coming up through the floor, or at the joint where floor and walls meet, the problem is groundwater, and plugs won’t do the trick.
If the gutters are working and you’ve plugged obvious holes, but water still dribbles into your basement or crawl space from high on foundation walls, then surface water isn’t draining away from the house as it should.
Your house should sit on a “crown” of soil that slopes at least 6 inches over the first 10 feet in all directions.
Over time, the soil around the foundation settles. You can build it back with a shovel and dirt. One cubic yard of a water-shedding clay-loam mix from a landscape supply house costs around $30 (plus delivery) and is enough for a 2-foot-wide, 3-inch-deep layer along 57 feet of foundation.
CHECK FOOT DRAINS
If water is leaking into your basement low on the walls or at the seams where walls meet the floor, your problem is hydrostatic pressure pushing water up from the ground.
First, check whether you have footing drains, underground pipes installed when the house was built to carry water away from the foundation. (Look for a manhole or drain in the basement floor or a cleanout pipe capped a few inches above the floor.)
If the drains are clogged, open the cleanout and flush the pipes with a garden hose. If that doesn’t work, a plumber with an augur can do the job for about $600.
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