The 10 Most Common Basement Problems
It doesn’t matter if your basement is a simple storage area or a top-of-the-line gaming room. All basements are subject to the same problems because of their location: at or below ground level and below the water table. These issues range from a minor nuisance to a catastrophic problem that can practically ruin your home’s value.
10. Humidity – Even if water isn’t a problem in your basement, humidity can be. Humidity condenses on organic and metal surfaces, where it can grow mold, cause rot, attract dust mites, and generally provide an uncomfortable environment for humans. There are simple things you can do to lower humidity levels in your basement.
9. Ugly Appearance – In an unfinished basement, water can turn your basement walls and floor really ugly. A loose mineral salt, called efflorescence, is caused by humidity and looks like a white powdery substance. It not a danger but can be a constant problem if there is humidity. Chipped paint is caused by humidity too, where moisture goes through porous basement walls and puts pressure on the paint from the inside. Reddish or orange stains are usually caused by iron ochre, when there is a lot of iron in the soil. Not a problem for humans but can be for plumbing. And finally, dark stains or patches indicate mold problems that need to be checked out right away.
8. Funky Smells – Smells come hand-in-hand with humidity. Most foul basement odors are caused by mold, mildew, rot, or dust mites. Drywall, wood, fiberglass, paper products, paint, leather and cloth all make good homes for these culprits. You have to control your humidity level to prevent these odors.
7. Window Leaks – Basement windows allow sunshine into the dark world of a basement. Windows are much more prone to leaks than concrete walls, so extra care has to be taken with them. Make sure the seal is good and not cracking- if water is not getting in, it’s still possible heat or cold air is getting out. A good waterproofing system will have special drainage channels for windows to prevent flooding through them.
6. Basement Cracks – Cracks allow water to seep into your home. Some cracks are natural and just happen because of settling. But even small cracks can get bigger over time if water is coming through them. That’s especially the case during winter as water expands and contracts as it freezes and thaws. More serious cracks ( cracks in the floor, or cracks larger than 1/8” inch wide) indicate foundation problems and should be checked out immediately by a professional.
5. Basement Leaking or Flooding – Groundwater causes “hydrostatic pressure” against your basement walls from the outside, where water is basically trying to force its way inside your house. From the inside, a burst pipe or leaking appliance can leak water into your home. Water entry leads to bigger cracks, mold, smells, stains, and so much more.
4. Sump Pump Failure – If you have a sump pump it’s because you’re already aware of what water damage can do to your home. But if that sump pump fails at a bad time, you’re back to square one. Water isn’t being pumped out so it collects with the potential for flooding. That’s why it’s always a good idea to do regular checkups and to have a backup or battery system in place.
3. Basement Walls Buckling or Bowing – Once again, hydrostatic pressure is the culprit. Cracks can usually be fixed before they lead to bigger problems, but by the time you see your walls bowing or buckling it means that pressure problem has been going on for a long time. Since rebuilding the foundation is usually not a good option, there are a number of other, less expensive options available from professional basement contractors.
2. Basement Floors Sinking or Cracking – Any problems related to your basement floor are serious issues that need professional inspection. The soil under and around your home can erode because of water, leaving little support for those parts of the foundation. Mistakes during construction can also show up as your house settles and ages. In any case, these problems need to be addressed as soon as they are spotted because they only get worse.
1. Basement Mold – Mold will cause you a number of headaches (sometimes literally). It smells, it looks awful, it will deteriorate your home’s value, and worst of all it causes serious health problems. Headaches, asthma, allergic reactions and many other health issues have all been linked to mold. Mold is a serious problem and should not be taken lightly. Have a professional mold removal company inspect your home as soon as you realize there is mold. Mold will start growing in the dampest and darkest places where we don’t usually see, so by the time it’s actually visible to you it has been growing for quite some time.
Problems #10 through #2 are all annoying problems we don’t like to deal with, but in the end, mold is still #1!