How to Prevent a Soggy Basement

I recently showed a home that was set slightly below the road. I was immediately apprehensive.

Obviously not all homes can be built at the top of a hill—if they were, neighborhoods would look more like tiny Tuscan villages. But whenever a house is set below the road or otherwise at the bottom of a hill, you have to worry about water. Maybe the Tuscans had the right idea—they were protected from invaders and water.

Real estate pictures tend to only show the positive attributes of a home, and many times these photos don’t show the house in relation to the surrounding topography. If only technology came with a scratch and sniff feature, we could easily tell if incoming water was an issue without having to be in the home.

The basement of this home proved my suspicions correct—it had previously had a problem with water intrusion. How did I know for sure? It had been professionally waterproofed. In the unfinished portion of the basement, along two of the perimeter walls, there was concrete repair and a little piece of plastic that sticks out around the edge. These are telltale signs a waterproofing company had trenched around the interior perimeter of the basement and installed a drainage system that empties into a sump pump. The sump pump then pumps the water out and away from the house.

Now the home seems dry, but it will be something that a future homeowner will need to monitor in the future, and it’s definitely something you should know when considering purchasing a house.

If you ever do have issues with water coming into your home, here are some remedies:

  1. If there is a sump pump installed, make sure it is working properly. You might also want to consider installing a backup battery on the sump pump in case of power outages.
  2. If there are exterior stairs to the basement with a drain at the bottom, that drain must always be kept clear. At the very least, install an elevated drain cover to keep leaves and debris from covering it completely. If possible, consider building a roof over top of the stairs, to direct water away.

3. Extend downspouts away from the home. This can be done hrough a gutter extension kit (either above ground or dig a trench and extend it underground). A rain barrel is another good option, just make sure that the overflow extends away from the home.

4. Landscaping should be slightly elevated and sloped away from the foundation. Aside from the aesthetic, foundation flower beds serve an important purpose. They not only direct water away from the home, but the plants also help absorb any remaining water.

5. Put a cover over any window wells. You can purchase an inexpensive plastic cover from your local hardware store. They come in multiple sizes and shapes depending on what you need. If the window well is in a more prominent part of your home you, you can have a custom one made that is more aesthetically pleasing.

6. Apply a sealant to the interior foundation walls. Interior sealants are not a permanent solution but can help keep humidity levels down in the lower level.

7. Have the home professionally waterproofed. This is an effective, long-term solution to move water away from the foundation of the home.

It is extremely important to keep your home dry. Damp basements can lead to mold and mold can travel through the ductwork of your home, creating a toxic health hazard.

If you have any questions about keeping water out of your basement, reach out to us at 703-624-8333. Properties on the Potomac can help guide you to the right contractor.