We’re Taking On Water! 7 Common Causes of a Leaking Basement

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Ever seen A River Runs Through It?

An award-winning director. Moving storyline. Stunning river views.

Rushing water in the movies makes for great drama. Water rushing through your basement is more a cause for panic.

While you likely won’t find a river running through the basement, you may discover water coming up through the basement floor. Where did it come from and what do you do about it?

Read on and learn more about the possible causes of a leaking basement.

1. The Inside Job

The first thing many homeowners do when they notice water in the basement is panic. What they should do is find the water source.

The water leaking in your basement may be an inside job. Check all the common places you use water in the house. If you see water on the ceiling or walls underneath your bathroom or kitchen, you have an interior leak.

You could have a bad plumbing pipe. Showers and toilets are also common culprits. The washing machine, dishwasher, and, of course, the water heater can all spring a leak and cause a wet basement.

Interior leaks are usually the easiest water problems to solve. A DIYer can often take care of the repairs.

What about the person who isn’t so lucky and realizes an inside leak isn’t causing the water problem? It’s time to go outside, which is where more often than not, you’ll find the answer.

2. Dysfunctional Gutters and Downspouts

Are you wondering how something designed to sit near the top of the house could cause water leakage at the bottom?

As long as you keep your rain gutters clear and the water flowing, they should have no impact on the moisture level in your basement. But let’s take a step back for a second and calculate how much water those gutters take in during a downpour.

Using figures from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), if your home sits on a ½ acre lot and you get 1 inch of rain, your entire yard receives 13,577 gallons of water. If your home has a 2500 square foot roof, the average for homes in the United States, that inch of rain dumps 1500 gallons on the roof alone.

A dysfunctional gutter system can certainly impact your basement. Avoid leaks downstairs by performing routine gutter maintenance at the top of the house.

3. Check Your Grade

If your home has a basement, the building process started with an 8-foot hole dug in the ground. The builder formed the basement walls with cinder blocks. Then poured beams, followed by the concrete slab.

In theory, this process should help keep the foundation waterproof.

However, after the foundation is set, the area around it is often filled in with loose soil. It doesn’t happen immediately, but over time, the soil compresses and creates a downward sloping grade.

Water naturally follows the slope and drains toward the house. From there it seeps in any cracks it can find.

Fixing a grading issue usually means regrading the soil around your foundation. If the problem isn’t the grade, check the basement windows.

4. The Window Well and the Leaking Basement

While that might sound like a great mission for the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, there’s no mystery here. Window wells are a major cause of water in basements.

When properly installed, window wells play a huge role in diverting excess rainwater away from the foundation. During the fall and also during heavy rainstorms, window wells can get clogged with leaves and debris. They fill up with water, which has nowhere to go but the basement.

Check your window wells and see if you have window drains. Make sure they’re functioning properly and aren’t clogged. If you don’t have window drains, consider installing them soon.

5. Step on a Crack

Okay, let’s not finish that one. No one wants to break their mother’s back. Besides, the crack on the sidewalk isn’t causing seepage in your basement.

Cracks in the concrete floor are a common cause of water coming up through a basement floor. The most prevalent causes of cracks in a concrete floor are:

  • Settlement
  • Shrinkage
  • Frost heave

While you can seal both wide and hairline concrete cracks with a sealant, it’s only a temporary fix. Sealing doesn’t re-direct water and it also can’t prevent future crack development.

Let’s look at one of the types of cracks that can allow water into your basement—the foundation crack

6. You Have a Cracked Foundation

Foundation cracks might look small (if they’re hairline) but they can cause big problems.

If you have a cracked foundation you can blame it on dirt, specifically, backfill.

If your builder used loose dirt to level the ground under your foundation, it can settle. When soil underneath the foundation settles, the foundation often shrinks slightly. Cracks appear and along with them, excessive moisture.

Repairing foundation cracks is a serious business. The longer you ignore them, the wider and longer they grow.

7. Your Basement Is Under Pressure

So, you think you’re under pressure from the daily grind? You should see the pressure under and around your basement. Pressure is the reason for the majority of calls for help with basement leak repair.

Two types of pressure impact your basement: hydrostatic and lateral. We won’t subject you to a long boring physics lesson but let’s look at the two for a second.

Hydrostatic Pressure

Hydrostatic pressure and the water table work together to cause leaks in your basement. The water table refers to the level at which water sits underground. If you live closer to a major body of water, the water table is higher.

A rising water table beneath a home’s foundation creates pressure that can force water into the basement.

Lateral Pressure

When the soil around your foundation absorbs too much water and then expands it creates lateral pressure. As the soggy soil expands it puts sideways pressure on the foundation.

Lateral pressure can damage your foundation. It also creates leaks in the basement.

If you’re tired of leaky basement syndrome, don’t stop reading yet.

Ready to Tackle Your Wet Basement?

Once you’ve determined the leaks in the basement aren’t coming from a ruptured plumbing pipe, broken gutter, grading issue, or a window drain clog, it’s time to get serious about rooting out the problem with your leaking basement.

With over 20 years of experience troubleshooting and repairing foundations, crawlspaces, and basements, we have a solution for you. Contact us today and we’ll schedule an inspection.