Homeowners often finish their basements to create more living space for a bedroom, family room, hobbies like this sewing room and more. That's when you really start to focus on keeping your basement dry although it's important for everyone, even if your basement isn't finished. That's why you want to learn how to keep your home and basement dry.
For every inch of rain, the average roof sheds 1,000 gallons of water. You can imagine how much standing water will pool around your foundation and find ways to get into your home. Gutters are key to catching and directing this water away from your home. There are many other things that help keep your basement dry.
Keeping Your Home and Basement Dry
Don't look at this list and think you can pick one or 2 items. If you don't have basement windows below ground, then you don't need window wells. Otherwise you need to implement all of these solutions as they work together to minimize the chances of water entering your basement from above. For water that gets through your foundation wall because the water table rises above the floor of your basement, see the Building Requirements for New Construction below.
- Gutters – direct water to downspouts which direct water to the ground, and ideally away from the house. If your ground doesn't slope enough, use a diverter or consider adding below ground drainage pipes.
- Grading – the area around the house so it slopes away from your foundation. You need at least a 6 inch drop over 10 feet for good drainage.
- Foundation cracks – in masonry walls can be repaired using hydraulic cement.
- Window wells – need gravel for good drainage and/or covers to divert excess water away.
- Driveways/walkways – should always slope away from the house
- Landscaping – should be designed to allow water near the foundation to evaporate.
When Water Gets Inside Your Home
When water gets inside, you want to remove it quickly to minimize the risk of mold, mildew, termites and other unhealthy side effects. Many of the following projects are fairly easy to implement:
- Dehumidifiers – remove water from hot, humid air. Save time by installing the unit on a wall near the utility sink so it can drain continuously.
- Insulation – should be wrapped around cold-water tanks, water pipes and cold air ducts to reduce water condensation.
- Waterproofing – can be accomplished by painting concrete walls and floors with 2 coats of a water-locking, masonry paint like Drylok. There are lots of color choices but make sure you get right product, i.e. walls and floors have different requirements.
Keeping Your Basement Dry
When you find inches of water in your basement, a sump pump can remove the water quickly. A portable pump works well if this happens rarely, i.e. when the hot water heater breaks. If you get water every few years, a sump pump provides cost effective peace of mind. All pumps use some type of float activated switch that turns the pump on when the water reaches a certain height. They should also have a check valve to insure water doesn't flow backwards from the water outlet pipe.
- Selection – permanent pump choices include upright or submersible, plastic or cast iron and electric powered versus water powered (sometimes installed as a backup system). Pick one based on the frequency and volume of water you anticipate – a 1/3 horsepower pump is satisfactory for most homes. For more details, visit the Sump Pump Info web site.
- Installation – requires a sump pit (roughly 2 feet square and 2 feet deep) in the basement floor, a discharge pipe (into a dry well or storm drain at least 20 feet away from the house), an electrical outlet with GFI. A sump pump cover helps eliminate odors and keep debris from falling on top of the pump.
- Maintenance – should start with the manufacturer's recommendations. Typically you want to test the pump every 2 to 3 months, or right before each rainy season. Make sure the float is not restricted, that the pump is discharging water and clean all screens/openings. Listen for any strange noises from the motor.
These techniques are best implemented during new construction or when remodeling. Existing homes with significant water problems will need a specialty contractor to add one/more of these solutions to an existing home.
- Footing drain – is a 4 inch diameter perforated drainpipe embedded in gravel. The pipe needs to sit on top or alongside the footings and below the basement slab
- Foundations – should be waterproofed below ground level which is easily done before the site is backfilled
- Perimeter/interior drains – involve perforated drainpipe, installed over gravel, around the foundation. Water collected should be directed to the sump pump for removal.