3 tips for achieving a dry basement

A dry basement is wonderful, while a wet basement can ruin your day. Unfortunately, many homes have wet basements, from small amounts of condensation to a few inches of standing water after every rainfall. In fact, wet basements are a common problem found during a home inspection, and something you should fix as soon as possible if you spot a problem.

Check out these three tips for a dry basement to do just that:

1. Identify the cause
Basement wetness comes from two main sources: inside humidity and outside groundwater. Beyond that, there are few common culprits:

  • Rain, snow and groundwater runoff.
  • Indoor components, including dryers, vents and crawl spaces.

With this in mind, go on the hunt for the root of your problems. A popular trick is to tape aluminum foil to a basement wall and wait a day or two. If the moisture is on the outside of the foil, the issue is inside your home. If it's on the inside, the water is likely coming through the foundation. This knowledge will help you implement one of our two other tips for preventing a wet basement.

"Rainwater can easily seep inside your basement."

2. Check your drainage
The most common source of basement moisture is poor drainage around your home. Snow melt and rainwater can easily seep inside your basement, especially if your home is lacking gutters and proper landscaping.

Therefore, consider the following:

  • Does your home have gutters and downspouts? Are they installed correctly and well-maintained? 
  • Does your driveway slope away from your house?
  • Are your basement windows and doors in good condition?

If your answer is "no" to any of these questions, then you have a possible source of basement moisture. Focus on fixing these major issues first, especially a lack of or poorly maintained gutters. A lot of water pools around your foundation if you aren't proactive, and it has to go somewhere. Same with sloping your driveway away from the home. The hard surface won't absorb much water, so instead it would flow directly at your home. With windows and doors, it's only natural that damage will make it even easier for water to get in.

The right gutter system will work wonders on a wet basement.The right gutter system will work wonders on a wet basement.

3. Address any interior components
If your drainage isn't the culprit, the problem could be coming from inside of your home. In that case, look at a few possible issues. First, the dryer. Humid air pours out of dryer vents, and if yours is not piped to the outside – or in poor shape – that air will be trapped in your basement. This will lead to damp walls, floors and ceilings, and eventually mold and mildew growth. Make sure your dryer is in tip-top shape. Also look at any HVAC ductwork around your basement. Cracks and leaks will also cause humid air to get stuck, leading to the same problems. Water pipes should also be insulated so condensation doesn't form. 

Finally, consider coating your unfinished basement walls with waterproof masonry paint. This prevents any seepage from getting through your foundation, stopping yet another source of moisture. Some homeowners also opt to paint the floor, but at the very least you should cover a few inches away from the walls on all sides. If your basement is still humid, install a dehumidifier as another line of defense.

Overall, a dry basement is the start to well-maintained home. Moisture can create all sorts of problems, some that are cheap fixes and others that will cost a fair bit of money. Contact a trusted home inspector today to assess the quality of your basement.