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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