Basement Water Problems

Water is a home’s worst enemy and water damage can happen very quickly or over several years, and it’s usually very expensive to repair. Preventing a problem before it occurs is the best solution to potential water damage to your home.

            Almost all basements experience a water problem at one time or another. It can happen from heavy rain, a high water table, a plumbing leak or sewer backup, causing damage to walls, insulation, interior finishes and personal items. Cracks in basement walls can also cause water to enter into the home and, in extreme cases, affect the foundation structure. Signs of moisture in basements are staining, dampness, peeling paint, an odour, mould, loose tiles or efflorescence (a white, powdery salt deposit from concrete).

To help prevent water from collecting around the exterior of your home, all downspouts from eavestroughs should discharge water at least six feet away from the foundation. As well, the ground should slope away from the perimeter of the home at one inch per foot, for at least six feet. This will help direct surface water away from the building. Walks and driveways should also slope away from the home. Basement window wells should have drains or gravel filled columns that carry water to the drainage tile, or plastic covers that prevent rain from collecting in the well. Protecting foundation walls below grade with an exterior, damp-proof membrane is highly recommended where ground water is frequently present.

To protect the inside of your home, inspect all plumbing pipes and fixtures for signs of leaks, rust, corrosion or damage. Sump pumps and pits should be tested and inspected regularly to ensure ground water is redirected outdoors and away from the home. A battery-powered, back-up sump pump system can save you thousands of dollars in potential water damage during a power outage, or if the main pump fails.

Hot water tanks commonly leak. A floor drain should be located nearby, or else a drain pan is recommended under the tank, with pan walls at least two inches high and the pan volume larger than the tank. A backwater valve is designed to protect the home against storm sewer back-ups. It is a type of one-way check valve installed downstream of the floor drain trap.

Be sure to ask your insurance agent to clarify the types of water damage losses that will or will not be covered under your home policy. An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure when it means saving your home from water damage.

by Larry Hogard

Excerpts of this article originally published in The WallEye Magazine, Thunder Bay’s Arts and Culture Alternative, May 2012.