Moisture in a basement is not a big surprise. You will have a certain amount of moisture in your basement.
I have advised clients that if they wanted to keep any thing in a basement, they should run a dehumidifier. If you have not already read my first edition article “Stopping Basement Water Problems,” please read that one first as this article will build from that one in using the first ways of solving basement water problems. Now, we will move forward. We have already used the how-to steps from the first article and still have major basement water problems.
No, I am not a foundation contractor looking to generate new foundation work for myself. I am how ever a person who does inspect homes and consults clients on what steps should be taken to resolve their house problems. Foundation problems are some of the grand scale fears that people have when buying a home. Some times for good reason as $5k – $10k per wall to repair is enough to make most people alittle shaky. I don’t blame people at all. There is how ever a way to make things much easier on yourself. Educating yourself in what has the potential for problems. I will say when buying a home, you should have it inspected. Just because you changed a door knob in your last house, does not give you enough knowledge on all the systems and components of a house. This is where it starts for most people. When hiring a inspector ask them, when I say them, I mean the one that actually shows up on site to do your pre-purchase inspection on the property your interested in. When a company has more than one inspector(owner-operator) you could just get a employ who just got certified and has no back ground besides his/her home inspection certification. Also make sure they are state certified.
The reason for all this, is to get you the best person for the job at hand. There could be a inspector that has a formal education in business and then backs it up with a engineering degree. This same person then gets certified and has been working a houses for the practical experience also. Now, of course this would be the highest qualified inspector you could find, you can still find others that will do a great job for you. We need to remember this could be where your basement problems were someone else’s before they became yours. Do your initial walk through the house and decide if it has all the things that you want out of house. Then let a expert come in and advise you on the condition of the systems and components of the house. Don’t always go with the one that has the largest ad in the phone book either, who do you think is paying for that big expense ad? Ask, family and friends, see who others have used. Remember, when you ask a agent who they suggest, they work for the seller not you. I also must say when you ask people, most get their home inspectors through the agents. Lets just hope they are kept honest through their state certification/license boards.
Now, lets move on and just say, your water problems are just the result of home aging and you have lived in your home for years. We will discuss the pressures of exterior soil conditions on your walls. When a hard soil composed of mostly clay, can cause some serious damage to foundation walls. Climates that have drastic heating and cooling changes like the Midwest areas can be subjected to the freezing and heating causing expansion and contraction of materials. When a area composed of high clay content expands it applies a inward pressure on your foundation walls. This continues to go for years and the wall becomes fatigued and cracks at its weakest point. These can be in the joints mostly, were the mortar connects the foundation blocks together. Please keep in mind this is only one example as some houses have concrete block walls or can be solid concrete poured walls. There are even foundations made from wood materials. We can only deal with concrete block in this article as there can be entire books on the building foundation materials and water problems. The inward pressure created makes the wall crack,bow,separate and even split concrete blocks apart. There is no need to panic as foundation problems of this nature does not mean the the whole house is going to come down. Remember, safety first and use an expert when in doubt.
The opposite side of all this, is over reaction to a problem also. Many houses have what are called step cracks. These are small cracks in the mortar joints and form steps, hence where the name step cracks comes from. It can take many years for these to happen and they don’t always contribute to water problems in basement. They are normal and can be monitored by the home owner for years that they are not reaching a point where they need repair. When walls are severely cracked and bowed is also not the point in time that you wait to have the walls repaired either. Watching the changing conditions in your homes foundation can drastically change the amount spent to fix them.
Once again this is all for now, please keep reading and I will keep writing. Basement foundations can have many reason for water and moisture problems. I will attempt to cover as many of these conditions and what to look for as I can. You can also find many other helpful hints through my other writing areas.
Remember, always safety first.