How to Keep Your Basement Dry when You Live in a Low-Lying Area

If you live in a low-lying area, you probably have a problem with a wet basement. We live in an area where wet basements are a bane, so taking preventative measures to keep the basement dry is critical. I’m not talking about an actual flooded basement here- that’s another story for another time.

Don’t store anything that can be water-damaged on the basement floor.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but on the other hand, basements are meant for storage. Use plastic shelving, it’s less likely to rust than metal and less likely to sustain water-damage than wood. Wood will hold the moisture, causing it to warp and/or get mildewed.

Anything that’s susceptible to mildew should be stored up high, on the top shelves. If you need to make the most of your basement’s floor space, use tall plastic bins for storage. The water won’t seep in to them. Never, ever store metal on metal in a wet basement. (Your basement will end up being Rust City.)

Get a dehumidifier and make sure it’s running constantly.

Having a wet basement isn’t always about flooding, sometimes the humidity (or moisture in the air) can do just as much damage. A dehumidifier, in effect, sucks the water out of the air. The dehumidifier has a reservoir, or bin, that stores the water. Make sure that you empty the bin frequently or the dehumidifier will shut itself off and then it’s serving no purpose. The bin will overflow if not emptied, so be certain to check it often. This, of course, can become a burdensome chore, so if at all possible run a drain hose from your dehumidifier to a stationary tub or sump pump.

Do NOT even consider buying a house in a low-lying area that doesn’t have a sump pump.

For those of you who live in areas that don’t have basements or for those of you that have never heard of a sump pump, I’ll explain. (You may have seen them and not known what they are.) If you’ve ever seen a basement that has a round hole, about four feet deep and two feet wide, cut into the floor; that’s where the sump pump goes. The sump pump is an electronic mechanism sticking up out of the hole. Water collects in that hole and the sump pump draws the water up and out, and expels the water outside of your home (away from the house).

The sump pump is electrical, so it’s important to have a battery back-up for it. There’s a good chance that when you need the sump pump most, you could be without electricity. Change the batteries on the sump pump when you change the batteries in your smoke alarm.

Extend the gutters on the exterior of your house.

Buying gutter extensions is a relatively inexpensive and highly effective way to reduce the moisture in your basement. Gutter extension are very easy to attach to your existing gutters and cost very little money. The purpose of the gutter extensions is to dispel rain water (and melting snow) further away from your house. The further away the water is, the less likely it is to seep through your basement walls.

Build up earth around the foundation of your house.

As time goes on, the dirt surrounding your house will begin to erode and your yard will actually begin to slope in towards your house’s foundation. To see if that’s happening on your house, simply place a level on the yard perpendicular to (and abutting) your foundation. If the bubble is off-center, moving toward the foundation, it’s time to build up the dirt around your house. You can easily do this yourself. For most houses a yard of dirt will be enough. (We didn’t get top-grade soil, and it worked fine.) Once the soil is delivered, dump it against the foundation by the wheelbarrow- full and spread it evenly. Remember that the dirt will settle, so build it up higher than what’s actually needed.

Put weep holes in the walls of your basement.

Weep holes are very small holes that are drilled through the cinder block (or concrete walls) in your basement. The purpose of the weep hole is to let water run out, as opposed to letting it accumulate in the wall. Accumulated water can actually cause your basement wall to collapse. In a perfect world, the weep holes drain into the channel between your basement floor and the basement wall, and then drain into your sump pump. In real life, the weep holes often overflow and you’ll need to put up a deflector to redirect the water into the channel. In any event, it’s better to take care of a little water on the floor than to have a wall collapse.

In addition, if your home has a wet basement:

Check the basement often during heavy rain or major thaws.
Don’t store clothing or sentimental items in the basement at all.
If (ever) the weather is hot and dry, open the basement windows and let the hot, dry air in.

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