The top 6 causes of basement leaks and what to do about them

leaky basement walls

Water leaks in your basement can kick off a mix of troubles that put the durability of your home (and the health of the people who live there) at risk. Luckily there are affordable steps any homeowner can take to head off basement leaks at the source and ensure years of worry-free living.

These steps fall into three main categories:

  1. Learn what to look for — stay alert for the top causes of leaky basements
  2. Take early action — put the right leak prevention measures in place
  3. Know when to get help — bring in a trusted professional at the right time

The top 6 causes of leaky basements

Your first line of defense against basement leaks is to do regular inspections as part of your upkeep routine. In most cases, unwanted water around your property is coming from one or more of these six main sources.

  1. Eroded or improper grading. Proper grading includes a “crown” that gradually slopes away from your house. This standard (a six-inch fall every 10 feet) is meant to channel water away from the foundation and keep it from seeping into your basement. Some builders skip this step, or the crown can erode naturally over the years just from normal wear and tear.
  2. Defective or incorrectly installed gutters. Sometimes the downspouts from rain gutters channel water toward your foundation instead of away from it. In other cases, worn or broken gutters can allow water to leak and pool around the house before it gets to a properly installed downspout. In this scenario, even small amounts of water can seep into your basement and do incremental damage over time.
  3. Faulty window wells. In homes with window wells, it’s common for drains to become clogged, allowing even normal amounts of water to collect and threaten your basement. Improper installation of the wells can also cause water to accumulate and seep through small cracks or imperfections in concrete or masonry basement walls.
  4. Water pressure around your foundation. The natural moisture in the soil that surrounds your foundation and basement walls changes with the seasons and the weather. This normal variation, combined with the differing water tolerance of local soil, can put a surprising amount of force (called hydrostatic pressure) on basement walls and drive unwanted water inward.
  5. Construction quality issues. When builders pour concrete basement walls, they often hold the forms in place with temporary tie rods that go all the way through the wall and leave holes when the forms are stripped off. This can be a huge leak risk if they don’t patch and seal the holes correctly. Faults in materials and installation can lead to other cumulative leak risks.
  6. Seasonal flooding or weather damage. You don’t have to be a Weather Channel™  buff to know that severe storms and flooding are a real risk to homeowners all over Alabama and throughout the southeastern U.S. Any accumulated water from these events can break down your basement’s defenses, creating new leaks and making old ones worse. The majority of the leaky basement problems are found in Birmingham, Huntsville and Montgomery.

The 4 best preventive measures to fight basement leaks

Once you have a simple inspection routine in place (just like all the other lawn or exterior maintenance you’d normally do) you’ll have a good idea where put a few extra protections in place. Here are four that are simple and inexpensive.

  1. Restore the grading around your foundation. Build up eroded areas of soil close to the house to restore a proper drainage slope. Again, you want the earth to fall six inches over 10 feet so that water can’t collect next to your foundation and seep into the basement. Most home improvement stores sell water-resistant soil mixes that are affordable and easy to spread yourself.
  2. Clean and repair your rain gutters.It doesn’t take long for leaves and debris to build up to the point where water overflows and pools next to the house instead of running off through the downspouts. Remove clogs every year or install leaf guards. You can also buy inexpensive downspout extensions to channel water into your yard and away from the foundation.
  3. Plug all visible interior gaps. Inside your basement there are penetrations where vents or utility services come through from the exterior. Joints between floors, walls and windows can also leak. Check all of these locations on a regular basis for signs of basement leaks and make sure that you plug them fully with water-resistant caulking, joint or sealing materials.
  4. Clear and repair footing and window well drains. Not all houses have them, but some have footing drain pipes that were installed when the basement was built to draw water away and prevent accumulation. Make it a regular practice to open the cleanouts and remove any clogs. If you have window wells around your basement, it’s also important to frequently clear the drains of leaves and debris.

6 signs that it’s time to call a basement leak expert

With some basic vigilance and routine upkeep, basement leaks don’t have to be an expensive problem. Many issues can be prevented or corrected with affordable do-it-yourself solutions. Still, it’s important not to ignore the common signs of a leaky basement. If you see one or more of these problems showing up or getting worse, you should call a reputable basement repair expert for a no-obligation assessment.

  1. Areas with obvious flooding or standing water
  2. Stains on walls, ceilings or floors showing signs of past water damage
  3. Strange or musty odors
  4. Mold, mildew or white powdery residue
  5. Peeling paint or cracked, blistery concrete
  6. Persistently damp soil around foundation exterior

When you need professional basement leak repairs

A good basement repair expert will be transparent with you about pricing and help you choose the repair option that’s best for your situation and budget. They should also give you advice on things you can do to prevent more basement leak trouble in the future. Here are some of the most effective options when you need more extensive repairs:

  1. Basement vapor barriers – completely seals your basement areas with a watertight surround that’s engineered for a dry and healthy home.
  2. Wall and floor sealing – corrects minor cracks that are hard to locate and patch using standard consumer solutions.
  3. Sump pump installation – removes recurring water accumulation that can’t be prevented by other means and drains it away from the house.
  4. Interior basement waterproofing – an effective, affordable and minimally invasive product that safely prevents basement leaks.

Although basement leaks may not be an immediate cause for alarm, they can do a lot of costly damage to your home if you ignore the warning signs. The cumulative effect can not only cause lasting damage to the structure of your house, but also lead to lingering health problems for your family from hidden mold and mildew.

SouthernDry is a trusted basement and crawl space repair specialist located right here in Alabama. We can help you get rid of your basement leak worries with affordable and proven preventative measures like the Guardian® interior basement waterproofing system, wall linings, sump pumps, basement interior drainage options, and advanced sealing techniques that will improve the living experience for your whole family.

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Donnie Payne
Donnie Payne
2021-02-18T21:24:38+0000
These guys do a great job. They are responsive to phone calls and highly recommend.
Garland Culbreath
Garland Culbreath
2020-10-24T13:55:38+0000
Jonathan was great with our quote and answering all our questions. They were amazing working with us to get our project... underway. The crew was fantastic... very professional, super kind, and explained our system to us in great detail before wrapping up the job. Our hardwoods had started cupping from humidity. Since Southern Dry completed our project, a little over a month ago...our floors have settled back as they should and our crawl space looks pristine. We would highly recommend Southern Dry. Great service, great work, great warranties.read more
Danny Hillis
Danny Hillis
2020-03-17T05:45:04+0000
I have worked for several foundation company's in north Al afs included and I must say I like the way John does... business he goes to no limit to make sure his customers get the working system they were promised. southern dry will always be my 1st and only choice for repairs.read more
Kristy Howell
Kristy Howell
2020-01-22T19:30:16+0000
They were very prompt in coming to my home and giving me an estimate. The price was lower than other estimates. The... work was professional and completed in one day. They also provided financing options. I would highly recommend Southern Dry to anyone looking to repair their foundation.read more
Ramsay Young
Ramsay Young
2019-12-06T18:50:55+0000
Very professional group from the estimate to the installation. Kept me informed all the time. the installers were great... with no disruption. Very pleasedread more
KarlaJohnson Bullock
KarlaJohnson Bullock
2019-11-28T01:46:16+0000
Very efficient and hard working men. They go out of their way to make sure the customer is satisfied. I highly... recommend this company. KB. Glencoe, Alread more
Meredith Smildsin
Meredith Smildsin
2019-11-26T18:40:07+0000
Fantastic customer service and high quality workmanship! The team at SouthernDry was great from start to finish. Came... out for a free estimate, presented recommendations, assisted with financing, worked around my busy schedule, and got the job done QUICKLY! Work crew was professional and efficient. Highly recommend!!read more
Valerie Dawson Miles
Valerie Dawson Miles
2019-10-07T16:52:07+0000
I highly recommend Southern Dry and their crew. They are very responsive and do a great job. I truly appreciated the... way they kept me informed of when they would be arriving, the expected timeline of the job and when then when job was complete. Each person I interacted with throughout the process from beginning to end was professional and courteous. 5 Stars.read more
Daniel Hutcheson
Daniel Hutcheson
2019-09-29T21:30:42+0000
SouthernDry came by the house and answered all of the questions and concerns that we had about our house. They... presented multiple solutions and helped us choose the best one for us. The crew that installed all components were very professional and courteous. Kudos to SouthernDry also saved us a lot of money.read more
Brad Wright
Brad Wright
2019-09-10T17:01:30+0000
Everyone was great. The owner is super nice and worked with me on a lot of things. The crew was great. Definitely... treated like family. A++ all around.read more
Caleb Danley
Caleb Danley
2019-09-09T21:47:06+0000
Excellent service, excellent product, excellent people. Very reliable company with great communication. I would... recommend this company to anyone. 10/10read more
Caren Stone
Caren Stone
2019-07-05T19:51:20+0000
I am so pleased with the waterproofing Southern Dry did for my basement and den area. When I asked the team to cover a... large portion of sheeting of the wall that was not covered in their quote, they did it free of charge. upon completing the work, the crew cleaned up the construction debris meticulously. All the crew men were professional and pleasant and answered all the questions I posed during the process. Definitely 5 stars earned.read more
Nelden Smith
Nelden Smith
2019-05-25T13:52:06+0000
Very fast, very good--and they were very willing to work with me to find a solution that met all my needs without going... over my budget! Thanks John, Calvin, and Russ, for your customer service and offering such a nice quality product.read more
Kathy Morris Ryan
Kathy Morris Ryan
2019-04-23T01:21:20+0000
I am very satisfied with the work these guys did with the foundation of my house. It was a great experience from... Calvin's inspection and quote to the guys that did all the work. Great group and I highly recommend them.read more
Kennedy Todd Davis
Kennedy Todd Davis
2019-04-16T20:06:14+0000
Very professional! They got the job done quick and cleaned up and didn’t leave anything behind!
Bob Curry
Bob Curry
2019-04-09T21:29:13+0000
Very professional company and the work performed was first rate. I would highly recommend this company and I highly... recommend having your crawl space properly sealed and a dehumidifier installed. I had check pricing from several different companies in my area that do this kind of work and they were the most reasonable. I live in Alexandria AL which is in the deep South with very humid weather. I had some serious moisture damage this fall with mold forming from a clogged HVAC unit under my house. Water was puddling onto the plastic under my house, I was not aware of this and it had been going on for several months. By the time I discovered it the damage had already been done to my house flooring. Thank goodness the homeowners insurance covered the floor repair to the tune of $30,000. I wanted to make sure this would never be an issue again even if I had some kind of water leak. They completely clean out all the old plastic, vacuumed the under side of the flooring and removed any construction trash from under the house and then properly sealed my crawl space. My dehumidifier has an app that I can check anywhere in the world and see my temp and humidity levels under my house. There is also a water sensor installed so if water is detected, it will send me a message.I could not be happier and it was worth every penny!read more
Eddie Wendy Akers
Eddie Wendy Akers
2019-03-19T14:56:33+0000
Great company. Good communications. Gteat job. No problems
Dona Warnick Jones
Dona Warnick Jones
2019-03-15T15:58:28+0000
Southern Dry was very easy to work with during the encapsulation process. Luckily I did not have foundation damage but... my house needed french drains, sump pump, dehumidifier and the crawl space encapsulated. The job was completed as promised and I am very satisfied with the end product. The entire crew was professional and efficient. I recommend Southern Dry.read more
Rita Murphy Lueth
Rita Murphy Lueth
2019-03-15T01:52:12+0000
Southern Dry was responsive an professional from start to finish, from the moment I phoned them, through the... installation process, and through follow-up phone calls. The workers showed up on time on the scheduled day, completed the work efficiently, cleaned up, and left. I would definitely recommend them.read more
John King
John King
2018-08-15T11:29:36+0000
Very courteous and professional. They were 50% less than a estimate I received from a competitor. Great communication... and speedy installation!!!!!read more
Jay Watts
Jay Watts
2018-08-13T12:56:16+0000
Very professional.
Amy Lambrecht
Amy Lambrecht
2018-08-08T17:13:46+0000
From start to finish, Southern Dry treated me as a customer with courteous responsiveness. They answered all my... questions, made practical recommendations (without the up-sale in mind) gave references that had glowing praises all around. The workers were neat and efficient with their time. It made the whole process smooth and pain free.read more
David Johnson
David Johnson
2018-06-16T13:16:45+0000
Everyone I spoke with from Southern Dry was top notch. I prefer doing business with people who are average, regular,... down-home folks trying to make an honest living. If you're like me and want someone straight up to give you a reasonable quote on your repairs, call Calvin. They were fast, gave me a date to begin, started that morning early and did a fantastic job. Juan was the foreman on my project and if I had a question he had an answer for me. He was extremely nice and knowledgeable about what was being fixed and done. I was never left in the dark about anything. I had some pretty major foundation issues on one side of my newest house. The back sill plate was rotten and the floor was sagging from no support in the rear. Juan and the crew installed 6 piers, replaced the sill plate, cleaned the crawlspace completely, installed 5 jack supports, encapsulated it all and installed a dehumidifier and battery back up, and made me a 2 new doors in 3 days! So Calvin, Russ, John, Juan, and the other crew, thank you for a job well done. The house looks a million times better! I really appreciate it!read more
Dustin Hughes
Dustin Hughes
2018-05-30T17:49:10+0000
Very fast, very good--and they were very willing to work with me to find a solution that met all my needs without going... over my budget! Thanks John, Calvin, and Russ, for your customer service and offering such a nice quality product.read more
Rob Mackintosh
Rob Mackintosh
2018-05-24T21:44:39+0000
Entire team was very professional. They were excellent at communicating what needed to be done. They were always on... time and let you know every step of the process. There was no high pressure sales techniques. They give you the quote and you can start on your timeline. Just call them when you are ready. I got quotes from the more widely advertised foundation repair companies as well and SouthernDry gives you the same product and same warranty at a great price. They worked hard to work around the landscaping. They also did an excellent job of cleaning up. I highly recommend them.read more
Stephanie Stephens
Stephanie Stephens
2018-05-13T14:54:49+0000
Great customer service. Guys that came out to complete the job worked fast and communicated each step of the process.
Nadder Fawaz
Nadder Fawaz
2018-03-21T02:23:50+0000
Forgive me for the long review, but great service is hard to find these days. When it’s found, it should be... celebrated. John and his crew were incredible from day 1. Water was pooling in our crawl space on a new construction and we were eager to have it resolved quickly to avoid the formation of mold and spores and potential health hazards for our family. John came out immediately and assessed the situation, explained all the issues, and developed a plan. We had a guaranteed price in our hands within minutes; fair middle road pricing for extremely high quality work. Many estimates came in 2x higher, just fyi. There was plenty of trash and construction debris left under the house from the contractors; SouthernDry crew removed every piece of debris and leveled out the ground before installing the drains and pumps and encapsulation material. John and his crew returned a week later because they wanted to make a modification to the system that they believed would be more efficient. I would have never known the difference, but because they care about the quality of their work, they made the modifications to ensure the efficiency and longevity of the system. After a month, I finally made it back to the far corner under the house and noticed water pooling under the encapsulation in one area. One phone call and 24 hours later, the crew showed up, assessed the situation and implemented the necessary modifications, installing additional drainage at no additional cost to me. Using SouthernDry was the easiest and best decision we made!read more
Sable Mayfield
Sable Mayfield
2018-03-15T18:52:46+0000
Denise Patty Etter-Collins
Denise Patty Etter-Collins
2018-02-20T23:02:51+0000
They were prompt, thorough and curteous. Prices were the best. I would highly recommend a conversation and inspection,... at the very least.read more
Jerry Wayne Rich
Jerry Wayne Rich
2018-01-22T20:42:59+0000
The initial estimate was entirely too high. they wanted more money than afs. then, after review the owner came out... himself and gave me a second estimate that was reasonable. im looking forward to doing business with this company.read more
Clyde Mills
Clyde Mills
2017-07-06T00:18:24+0000
I have had the total encapsulation for one week now, I am proud to say my relative humidity in my house now stays... around 38-40%, I have actually had to raise my thermostat due to it feeling so much cooler and comfortable in my house with the lower humidity levels. I called around and compared prices and Southern Dry was by far the least expensive and the personable and easy to work with. And my crawlspace is dry as a bone. If you have moisture problems or high humidity in your home I would definitely recommend giving John Kabel with Southern Dry a callread more
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