How to handle Basement Water (flooding, seepage, wet basement, etc)

By
Home Inspector with Decker Home Services, LLC

In our area (northeastern Illinois) there have been some heavy rains, recently.  I have been flooded (no pub intended) with phone calls from my former clients, as well as other people looking for some advice on how to handle the wet basement problem.  I thought that I would share these ideas with you.

To avoid basment water, here are some easy solutions:

1) Make sure that your roof's downspouts are in good condition and that the drain at least 6' away from the house (12' is best) and that they drain downsploe from the house.  This is a quick, easy and inexpensive solution.  If rain water is drained away from the house, it will not come back into the house.  Very simple, but the most overlooked solution in my experience.

2) Make sure that you have a good quality dehumidifier in your basment (65 pints per day capacity, or better) and run it 24/7 all summer.  Even if you don't have seepage problems, you still have high moisture levels in your basment (finished or not).  Your house's foundation and basement slab are cooler than the rest of the house.  They are underground and the ground is cool.  During the summer, when there are high humidity levels, this humidity will condense on the foundation walls and slab and produce moisture.  Use of a dehumidifier willalso keep down your air conditioning bill.  Dryer air feels cooler than humid air.

3) If you gave carpet on your basement floor, make sure that you have a 6 mil plastic vapor barrier between the carpet pad and the slab floor.  WHen you think about it, a carpet pad is just a bug sponge.  This sponge will soak up any condensing (or seeping) water and wick the moisture right up to your carpet.  Eventually, mold will form and you will have to replace the carpets.  Also, make sure that basement carpets are made of synthetic materials, like polypropolene.  These fabrics are much less prone to mold.

4) Make sure that any drywall walls in your basement are properly installed.  The botton of the drywall should have at least a 1/2" space above the concrete floor.  This gap will keep water from wicking up the drywall and will help to keep it dry.

5) Make sure that your sump pump, if you have one, is equipped with a battery backup power supply.  Most of my past clients ignored my recommendation to install a battery backup.  Their basements are now wet.  Power failures usually occur along with rain storms and the time you need your sump pump is when it is raining.

If you flood:

1) ASAP, make sure that ther is no electric wires that are under the water level.  Also, make sure that you are extra carful with electric devices in the basment.  Only use double insullated vacuums and dehumidifiers.  If you are in doubt about the electrical safety of your basment, stay out of it!

2) As soon as possible, suck up the water with a shop vac and get some extra dehumidifiers running.

3) Take off the exterior wall baseboards and drill 1" holes at the base of the walls, about 2" off the floor.  This will allow moist air from behind the drywall or paneling to be dried as the dehumidifiers suck out all the humidity.

4) Usually, if you get the basment dry in 3 to 4 days, there will be little damage and minimal mold formation.  Even if mold does form, as soon as you dry out the basement the mold will stop growing (mold requires moisture to grow).  It is necessary to rip out drywall and wood ONLY if there is a large mount of mold.  Most times, there will only be a little mold growth and this will be behind the walls.  If you keep the basment dry (before you flood), the mold will not grow.  Mold affects people by the spores it puts out and if the mold is dead and not growing, it isn't putting out any spores.

5) If you get mold, do not use bleach to clean or kill it.  The EPA has determined that bleach is not an effective fungicide.  There are much better (and less harmful to humans and pets!) fungicides available at the major home stores.

6) When all is dry (usually, in about a week to ensure complete dryness) it may help for your to call a good home inspector who is also certified to do mold testing.  Ask for a clearance test, which ensures that mold is not present.  Maks sure that the inspector does no do remediation.  This could lead to a conflict of interest.

 

Hope this helps;

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flooding
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Rainer
131,625
Susan Trombley
Trombley Real Estate - Raleigh, NC
Broker/Realtor, Raleigh, Cary, Wake Forest, Youngsville
OH the smell can be gone by using the dryer sheets called Bounce in a day change them out and a couple of days later do it again and then use them for a good smell for the basement. Who knows you might need to use 10 or so the first time to start picking up the odor.
Aug 28, 2007 01:11 PM #1
Rainmaker
570,050
Bill Gillhespy
16 Sunview Blvd - Fort Myers Beach, FL
Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos
Excellent post William.  In Michigan ( while we lived there ) my wife also bought some commercially available drying product.  To use it you would just take off the top and expose the material to the air.  It did a nice job of controlling any musty smell, etc.
Aug 28, 2007 01:13 PM #2
Rainer
13,256
William Decker
Decker Home Services, LLC - Glencoe, IL

One point I would like to make.  Everyone seems very concerned about mold, like it is the new leporsy.  Mold can be a problem, sure, but it is manageable and not as big an issue as dateline NBC or Oprah would have us believe.

 If you get the water out fast and such up all the moisture with dehumdifiers, usually mold is not a problem.  If you underlay the carpet with plastic, you can even save the carpet, especialliy if it is made of a synthetic fabric.

Aug 28, 2007 04:06 PM #3
Anonymous
Jack Sawyer

Great article!

Sep 02, 2007 01:07 PM #4
Anonymous
Jack Sawyer

Great article!

Sep 02, 2007 01:09 PM #5
Anonymous
Jack Sawyer

Great article!

Sep 02, 2007 01:10 PM #6
Anonymous
Bob
I found a real good web tool for identifying the causes of wet basements. It is http://www.b-dry.com/wet-basement-analyzer.html It not only helps you figure out what is wrong, it'll give you recommended solutions too. A lot of the advice is stuff you can do yourself. I like it a lot.
Jan 25, 2008 08:13 AM #8
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Rainer
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William Decker

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