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Can a leaky basement pass a home inspection?

The key is to act quickly regardless of the source of water.

Home inspection
Photo by RODNAE Productions
Photo by RODNAE Productions

This article is Sponsored Content by Direct Waterproofing

Imagine buying a house only to find out later the basement has excess moisture from leaks or flooding. The frustration associated with such a situation is indescribable, and rightfully so. Water intrusion in the basement can cause many problems that affect the entire house. Examples include extensive mold growth, rotting wood, and damage to stored property. Such cases are common because of where the basement is located. The fundamental question now becomes – what are the best measures for keeping a basement dry?

Leaky basements also pose a big problem during home inspections. However, according to experts from Direct Waterproofing, evidence of excess moisture issues in the basement should not deter potential homebuyers from going ahead with the purchase. You can implement measures that solve the problem before it extends to other parts of the house and prevent similar issues from recurring. The key is to act quickly regardless of the source of water.

How do you know a basement is wet?

Ask the seller and confirm the condition in the disclosure

Some regions have disclosure agreements while others have caveat emptor. Disclosure agreements require property owners to divulge all information about the property, including basement water issues. That means they will answer honestly without concealing anything.

Caveat emptor, on the other hand, allows homeowners to withhold damaging information about the property during real estate transactions. You can ask for records of repairs on the waterproofing solution or a warranty of the system – they will show the condition of the drainage pipes and sump pump underneath.

Check the slope degree of the landscape

The landscape slope shows the direction of water flow when it rains, which could be away from or toward the house. Lack of proper incline can lead to water stagnating near the foundation, increasing the chances of leaks. The property should not have plants that need excess water near the foundation. The extra moisture can seep into the basement. Drought-resistant plants are a better option.

According to Building America Solution Center’s Recommendation, re-grading the slope to a minimum of half an inch per foot for 10 feet can solve improper slope problems.

Inspect gutter systems

The primary role of gutter systems is to redirect water away from the house. Well-functioning eavestrough systems and downspouts reduce the chances of landscape erosion, basement flooding, and siding damage. Dysfunctional gutters and downspouts cannot drain water effectively, leading to pooling around the foundation and water seeping into the basement.

Ensure the gutters do not have debris, leaves, or anything blocking them and are not sagging or pulling from the wall. Modern seamless gutters are better, especially if they have gutter guards. Downspouts with extensions are also efficient at preventing moisture issues.

Pay attention to the smell

A musty smell in the basement is an indication of mold and mildew growth – a clear sign of moisture buildup. If there is an unpleasant odor, look for visible mold and trace the source of the leak. Pay extra attention to the windows, sweating pipes, foundation, and cracks. 

Improving the drainage system around the house can prevent future problems. Sometimes dampness comes from high humidity, and a dehumidifier can solve the issue.

Watch out for cracks on walls and floors

Cracks on the walls and foundation mostly form when the soil underneath has a high clay content that swells when exposed to excess moisture. The swelling exerts more pressure on the walls, causing shifting and cracking. The same can also happen during frost heaves – thaw and freeze cycles.

A temporary solution is to improve the waterproofing system using waterproof paint or membranes. Such measures shield water from the outside but allow hydrostatic buildup against the foundation. The permanent solution is replacing the interior drainage system and installing a sump pump to trap groundwater before it reaches the basement floor.

Assess the drainage system and sump pump condition

The existing interior drainage system, including the sump pump, shows the homeowner has dealt with excess moisture issues. Confirm the effectiveness and working status of the system.

Check if the property has French drains in case the location has a high water table. The outdoor drainage systems are harder to install in an existing building and are susceptible to blockage by roots and other debris. If the property has one, arrange for an inspection.

Note:  interior drainage is more important than an exterior one. A battery-powered sump pump is also more reliable than an electric-powered one.

Do not ignore existing waterproofing options

Most homeowners apply waterproofing paint to create a barrier, but that is a temporary solution. Some use paint to cover stains and cracks. Ask about previous issues and determine how long the waterproofing solutions have been in place to weigh their effectiveness.

The home inspector can use a moisture meter to determine different moisture levels in various house sections. The concentration of moisture levels in the basement suggests a hidden water seepage issue that you should explore further.

Check the waterproofing warranty and homeowners’ insurance cover

Determine the limit of the homeowners’ cover, whether the policy includes basement water damage and the circumstances under which the insurer can pay. Most insurance covers only pay for accidental or sudden damage from home use. They may not allow reimbursement after damage caused by natural events like the water table rising after a hurricane.

A waterproofing warranty gives you information about the installers and shows preparedness for future problems. A lifetime warranty is the best option.

What is the water table depth?

The water table rises when the soil has high moisture content and poor drainage capacity. That can be after a long rainfall season or permanently in low-lying areas. The more surface water seeps into the ground, the more the water table rises, eventually reaching the basement through the floor.

Determining the water table depth during a home inspection helps you prepare for future occurrences during the rainy season.

Basements differ

Repairing leakage issues in basements can be expensive, which is why some property owners ignore the problem. However, each basement has different features that require a customized approach when dealing with moisture problems. The best solution is to consult and hire experienced professional waterproofing contractors.

This article was provided by Direct Waterproofing – renowned, proficient, and knowledgeable waterproofing experts in Toronto. For more details visit Direct Waterproofing’s website.

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