Wet Basements—the No. 1 Problem in Homes

Basement dampness and water leaking in through walls and floors is a common problem found in a home.

  • The American Society of Home Inspectors has estimated that 60% of homes have wet basements.
  • In an article by Shelley White for the Globe and Mail, Sept. 10, 2012, TD Insurance vice-president, Mr. Henry Blumenthal stated that “water damage is the number one cause of home insurance payouts in Canada accounting for more than 50% of all losses covered.”
  • Steve Sipos, Home Inspector with Pillar to Post states, “Damp basements are the number 1 problem home owners experience. This is true of old and new homes.”
  • Finally, our collective experience as REALTORS confirms that wet basements are definitely problematic in many home sales.

Yet homeowners sometimes downplay the issue resulting in disgruntled buyers. This can result in legal action if a buyer is not informed of the issue. With unfinished basements, water stains on the walls, floors and around cracks provide clues of seepage. Yet some sellers minimize the significance of stains. Most disturbing is when a seller has a finished basement, does not come clean on the fact that the basement leaks and the walls and floors provide little to no evidence. Though home inspectors can often detect signs of dampness and leaking, this is not foolproof, especially during a dry season.

A wise REALTOR stated it this way. “A basement is underground and sooner or later it’s going to leak. You can count on it.” This statement may sound exaggerated but it’s also insightful. A basement is below grade and enclosed by foundation walls. Steve Sipos further adds, “Historically, the basement was never expected to be a living or dry storage area.” Because “people’s expectations and usage of basement areas” have changed, “techniques to keep basement areas reasonably dry” have also evolved.  

Steve Offers this Primary Solution

“Good surface water drainage is the concept that has kept basements dry for hundreds of years. It is still the most important concept today. Storm water should flow away from the house.” The importance of grading cannot be underestimated. Water will not get through the foundation, “even if the foundation has openings and gaps” if the soil next to the foundation is dry. If saturated with water, “it will find its way through even the tiniest crack.”

Other Good Solutions Today: Cracks in foundation walls can often be fixed with epoxy, a process that is relatively inexpensive. Plastic weeping tile with a geo-textile sleeve or sock helps to keep silt and sand away from weep holes.

A flexible peel and stick tar-like material spans a crack in a foundation and is impervious to water. Lastly, sheets of corrugated plastic, called a drainage layer, are placed over the foundation walls, hold soil away and conduct water down to the weeping tile quickly.

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