There’s nothing worse than a leak in your basement. Whether you use your basement for a workshop, storage, or a family room, finding out you have a leak the hard way usually means a horrific discovery that all your Christmas ornaments, tools, or books are damp and mildewed.
What do you do? Make sure nothing is on the floor? Remove all valuables from the basement and stash them somewhere else in your house? Give up and only use your basement to store waterproof and airtight goods? You’ll want to find the source of the leak and see if there is water seeping into your basement and creating a moldy and destructive environment, but this is often easier said than done. Often it’s not as simple as just seeing where the water is leaking in. Finding a leak in your basement may take a little bit of research and time.
Cracks in the Walls
Looking for cracks in the walls may sound easy and obvious, but it it is an important – and challenging – step to finding a leak. It’s probably not a huge, jagged crack running from ceiling to floor, with water gushing in. That would be too easy! Look for hairline cracks at the ceiling and floors, and examine the walls with a flashlight. Any sign of cracking may be the source of the leak. Pay close attention to:
- floor tiles
- rusty appliances
- water systems
- plumbing in and out of the basement
While it would be wonderful to find a nice, clean crack in the wall, odds are that it is something a little more complicated and hard to find.
If your basement is painted this very well may be an obvious and easy step! Look at the paint – is it bubbling, peeling, or disturbed? Aha! That is most likely caused by water damage. Bubbling paint is an especially good indicator that a leak is nearby. Now go back to step one and examine the surrounding walls with your flashlight until you find a crack.
Mold & Mildew
Mold is caused by water and moisture. So, where there is mold, there must be water. If you can find mold or mildew growing on the walls (or floor, or ceiling), odds are that you have found the source of the leak. Much like you are looking at peeling paint, examine around the mold growth to see if you can find a crack in the wall that indicates water is seeping through.
Efflorescence and Lime Deposits
If you find any white deposits in the basement (especially on the walls), you have found efflorescence, a buildup of sediment left by water. Similarly, lime deposits may be left behind by a water leak. Finding these mineral deposits means that the leak is close by and that water has been building up over time.
Use a Garden Hose
A tried-and-true method to save yourself searching for cracks with a flashlight is to use a garden hose. Aim a garden hose at the outside of the house and spray full force at an area of the foundation you suspect may have a leak. If you can see the water seeping into the basement from the inside, you have found the leak. This is easily done with two people; one person aims the garden house at the exterior wall, and one person stands inside looking for the leak.
Of course, once you have found the source of the basement leak, you need to do something to repair it. Some repairs are minor, and can be repaired by a handy home owner, while others may require a waterproofing specialist to come in and properly fix the leak. Be sure to check references and several quotes if you do get it repaired, as prices and quality can vary drastically between contractors.
Shannon Ryan is homeowner and DIY enthusiast. She is currently the online community manager for Nusite Group, a specialty trades contracting group.