WATER IN BASEMENT
BUT NO RAIN
According to research by the Insurance Industry, 14,000 Americans experience a water damage emergency at home or at work each day; and 98% of basements in the United States will experience some type of water damage throughout their lifespan.
Although it sounds counter-intuitive, it’s not always possible to identify water or moisture in your basement. It won’t always be the case that you walk downstairs to knee-high levels of water, or that you’ll see a water stain spreading on the wall.
Instead, you need to look out for any of the following:
Water trickling down the walls
Walls that are damp or wet to the touch
Condensation on the floor or walls
Noticeably humid air
These are all indicators that you may have some form of water leak in your basement. If you do have a leak, one of the most common exacerbating factors is heavy rain. If that is the case, then see our guide on what to do if there is water in your basement after rain.
However, this guide is designed for water in your basement independent of heavy rain. So, if you notice any of the above signs on a day it hasn’t rained, then this guide will walk you through common causes and potential solutions.
If it hasn’t been raining and your basement is still taking on water, then the most common solution will be an ‘internal leak’ – meaning that somewhere in your home, a pipe or an appliance is leaking. Even when your plumbing doesn’t work, gravity always does, meaning that the basement will often bear the brunt of any leakage.
If a pipe is leaking in your home, it doesn’t always mean that the water will show up on the wall, ceiling, or even near an appliance. Sometimes water can leak down the walls and only manifest in the basement.
A slow leak may also mean that there’s no loss of pressure or functionality in various appliances.
The first step is to find the source of the leak. Do this by working upwards throughout your home, starting with the basement. Check all appliances and visible pipes to see if they are the source. Then head up to the first floor and see if there are signs of leaking there (use the location of the water in the basement as your guide).
The key rooms to check are the kitchen and the bathrooms. Look under toilets, showers, and sinks to see if there are signs of a leak.
Once you have located the leak, you will either be able to fix it yourself or call in a plumber to do it for you. The average cost of hiring a plumber is between $175 and $400, with an hourly rate of $45-$200 (prices vary based on call-out fee and the specific requirements of the job).
LEAKS OR CRACKS IN THE FOUNDATION
The foundations of your home form the walls and floor of the basement. Any crack in these and water will soon start to enter your basement. If you have doors or windows in the basement, then the sealant around these may be vulnerable to leaking as well.
Foundation cracks and leaks are more common (i.e. potentially inevitable) as your home ages. As with plumbing leaks, the spread and location of the water in your basement will give you the best clue as to where the source of the leak is.
One of the best solutions for this is preventative: twice a year, check the seals around door and window frames to ensure that they remain intact. This is particularly important if you have had very hot or very cold (especially freezing) weather. Fix any cracks, however small.
This is also true if you notice cracks in the walls of your basement. The cost to fix a minor crack in a foundation wall can be as low as $500. For a major crack that involves the use of a hydraulic pier, the cost can top $10,000. On average, a foundation crack will cost between $4,000 and $5,000 to repair.
LEAKS IN THE ROOF
As with plumbing problems, just because the water is in the basement, it doesn’t mean that the leak is there. In fact, as counter-intuitive as it may seem, some of the more common causes of basement moisture is water leaking in through the roof.
Large leaks in the roof are often easy to identify (and often manifest closer to the roof). Small leaks, however, can be more problematic as the water may run down the roof truss, following the frame of your home, and only start to pool in the basement.
The added problem, in this case, is that the leak may have been existing for a while and may have caused damage to the wooden structure of your home.
The first step is to diagnose the cause of the problem. Head up to the loft or attic of your home and see if there is water leaking in and if any of the roof trusses show signs of being waterlogged. If you head up during the day, you may see daylight shining through the roof, which will help to find the gap in the roof.
If you need to fix a leak in the roof, the cost is likely to be between $300 to $1,000 if you use a professional. If the job is small enough that you can do it yourself, then shingles cost between $1.50 and $5.50 per square foot.
WATER TABLE RISING
The water table’ refers to the depth below the surface at which water lies. This is not a constant level and changes regularly. After heavy rainfall, the level of the water table rises (hence why puddles form on your lawn).
However, there are other causes of water table fluctuations, such as snowmelt or flooding that aren’t always related to rain.
Changes in the water table can lead to increased pressure on your foundation walls and ultimately, to water leaking into your basement.
The best long-term solution to water table fluctuations is the installation of a French drain system outside your home. This is a system of drainage that siphons water away from your home, preventing it from pooling around the structure of your house.
French drains operate like an underground guttering system, allowing water to easily enter before being rerouted a safe distance away. They can be camouflaged with gravel so are not an inelegant addition to your garden.
French drains can be extremely cost-effective, with prices between $20 and $30 per foot or roughly $1,000-$1,500 for a full system.
MAIN DRAINAGE PROBLEMS
Water in your basement isn’t always caused by water getting in; sometimes it’s caused by water failing to get out. If the mains are slow to drain, then water may back up in your system, causing overflows and leakage.
In the worst-case scenario, this isn’t blue or grey water from your system (i.e. runoff from showers or sinks) but may be from the sewage leaving your home.
This obviously creates greater problems than simply getting moisture out of your basement.
By far the best solution to preventing problems with the mains is to have a fully functioning sump pump installed in your basement. If you already have a sump pump, it’s critical to keep it well maintained or it can quickly stop working.
In case of an emergency, you can buy a portable sump pump that connects to the mains of your home. However, they do not have the power of a more permanent pump. You also need to make sure that the hose should remove the water to a distance of eight feet from your home – some underpowered sump pumps aren’t able to reach this distance.
The cost for a sump pump is usually around $140 – $360, again making it much more cost-effective than the potential damage caused by water in the basement. Portable sump pumps usually retail at less than $200 or your can rent a utility pump for around $50 a day. For more information on available sump pumps, check out our guide on the best sump pumps.
If you do notice water in your basement, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to panic.
Sometimes the cause can be as simple as an overflowing sink somewhere in your home.
If the cause is not connected with rain, then the prognosis is actually better – it means that there is not necessarily a structural leak in your home. Fixing cracks in the foundations can mean a hefty bill.
However, by acting quickly, and ascertaining the source of the water, you can often prevent serious damage to: