Ask the Architect

Question: My basement floods each spring. What can I do to fix this?
Basement and crawlspace flooding is a common problem in the springtime, so much so that March 15-19 is National Flood Safety Awareness Week! The melting winter snow, sudden thaw of the ground, and additional rain all compound the problem of surface water entering the basement. As the water seeps into the ground, groundwater rising up from below may become an issue as well. There are 3 main issues to address with flooding or excessive moisture entering the space.
The primary cause of a water issue is poorly graded landscaping adjacent to the house. This may be compounded by clogged gutters or no gutters at all. Have your gutters cleaned out each fall to keep them clear and add splash blocks or extensions at the base of downspouts to route the water away from the house. The grade around the house should pitch away from the house 1 inch per foot for the first 6 feet, which means there should be a 6 inch drop in grade 6 feet from the house.
The next issue is cracks in the floor slab or foundation walls. If there are significant cracks, there may be a structural issue that needs to be addressed, but minor cracks can be addressed with various materials. Most home improvement and hardware stores carry materials for patching concrete while water is still entering the crack as well as caulk or patching compounds for dry cracks. Read the labels carefully to see what will work in your situation. Masonry waterproofing paint will help with dampness, but will not stop water from flowing through the walls.
The third issue is groundwater, which may be rising up from below as the water level in the earth rises with excessive rain. This is a more involved problem to fix as foundation drains and a sump pit are needed to combat this problem. This can be addressed by installing perimeter drains around the interior slab to wall connection and tying them into a sump pit that is pumped away from the house on the exterior.
Addressing your gutters and grading should be a yearly maintenance item as well as locating and fixing any cracks that may develop. Installing a dehumidifier will keep the space from feeling damp. If significant water damage has occurred, call your insurance company and have the repairs completed by a competent contractor. Quickly addressing the issue will avoid any mold or mildew issues later.
If you have a question, please address it to
Paul D. Rugarber, AIA

This entry was posted in Ask the Architect, Flooding, Spring, Water Damage. Bookmark the permalink.

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