How to fix a wet, damp, or leaky basement

By : Nick Marr
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Having a basement can be great, a lot of extra space already built into your home.  But if you have a wet, damp or leaky basement, then it isn’t such a great thing. The good news is that sorting these problems can be easier than you might think. The process starts with figuring out what is causing the damp.

Is surface water the problem?

A common problem with the basement comes from the surface water outside the property.  If you notice the damp issue is worth when it has been raining or melting snow, then you may have a runoff problem.  This is where water isn’t being removed from around the foundation of the property and is leaking into the basement.

Checking the guttering around the house is important for this.  Guttering normally takes the water away from the foundations and into the drains but leaks or poor connections could allow water to pool.  If the slope of the ground around the house leans towards it rather than away, this could also cause a surface water problem.

Is the problem condensation?

The other main culprit is internal – condensation.  Condensation happens when warm moist air from the kitchen or bathroom encounters cold walls and releases the moisture.  This increases humidity and causes damp. Having the right ventilation is a big part of dealing with condensation so if there isn’t any, this is often the problem.

Vents for appliances like dryers and above the cooker as well as in the bathroom are also important for handling condensation. Because that warm moist air can travel around the house and the basement is often the coldest area, so this is where it settles.

Getting the right drainage

Once you have some ideas about why the damp problem is happening it is easier to then start looking at what to do to solve the problem.  If the issue is that the basement is wet or damp, then one of the main approaches involves using a drainage system and covering on the wall and floor.  This helps to manage the water and control where it goes, reducing the problems in the room.

A sump pump is often at the heart of the solution.  By using membranes on the walls and floors with a series of drainage channels beneath, the water can be directed to the pump which then sends it outside.  This reduces the problem of dampness in the basement and stops the water building up.

Insulating the basement

Poor insulation can play a part in a wet or damp basement.  Often homes with basements pre-date current best practices about insulation and preventing damp problems so it is worth working with an expert in damp issues to find out if you need to upgrade the insulation.

Often a new layer of insulation can be added while the membranes for the damp proofing system are put into place. Plasterboard can then be added to the top to create normal looking walls to decorate. There are also different types of insulation that can be added depending on the structure of the basement.

Leaks and dehumidifiers

Sometimes the problem comes not from damp but from a leaky pipe.  Leaks in the basement can often go unnoticed if you don’t use the space frequently and this can lead to the build-up of moisture – and damp problems.

It may seem that fixing the leak and turning on a dehumidifier will solve the problem, but it is important to check all of the causes and assess the general damp proof status of the basement.  Especially if you plan to use it for more than a bit of storage or somewhere to dump household unused items.