Spring Water Problems

It’s time to start getting your home ready for spring.

Part 1:  Wet basements are the biggest problem. 

Most basement water problems are caused by exterior landscaping and hardscaping.  As a MN home inspector for the past 27 years, I have found this condition is seldom repaired until it becomes a problem.  What I mean is until a homeowner sees water they assume nothing is wrong.  This is not true.  Actually, small amounts of basement moisture can be more destructive than large water events, such as flooding.  Why, because as water sits on the walls it deteriorates the concrete, fungal growth begins to take hold, and a force, hydrostatic pressure, begins to push the foundation in.  The longer these conditions exist the more apt they are to develop into something substantial.

When I inspect a home for a client, I always ask them, at the beginning of the inspection, what type of concerns they may have in purchasing this home.  Almost always in the top 3 is that they do not want moisture in the basement.  After inspecting over 19,000 homes, I would estimate over 85% have some sign of moisture in the basement.  That is such a high percentage, that prior to inspecting the basement, I can almost answer their initial concern.  Yes, this home has basement dampness.

9 out of 10 times the cause of a wet basement is poor slope around the foundation.  Typically, this is corrected by raising the grade and hard surfaces so they slope away from the basement.  It’s so simple.

This spring it may be a good time for you to check the slope around your house…before it’s a problem.

Doug Hastings
MN Home Inspector, Minneapolis & St. Paul
ASHI Certified Inspector, ACI
Kaplan University, Home Inspection Lead Instructor

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Moisture Problems – Listen To Your Home (Part 8)

Before going further into high water tables, let’s stop for a moment and reflect on what we have accomplished so far. In the beginning, I asked that you begin to look at the house differently. To take off your real estate agent or homeowner cap and begin to look at the house through the eyes of a home inspector. My intention was to show you that the house can begin to talk to you and tell you where the problems exist, if you will only listen.

Our 1st example of ‘seeing through walls’ has been, when walking around the exterior of the house, you can quickly determine if there is a wet basement…before going inside. Earth, walks, steps, patios, driveways that are flat or have settled and sloped towards the foundation, NOW, should immediately scream basement moisture. Gutters without downspout extensions will shout wet foundations. Trees, retaining walls, small hills that do not allow rain and snow water to flow unobstructed to the street, alley, or city drainage easements ought to holler dampness.

Are you beginning to hear the whisper?

Those musty smells in the lower level…moisture. Orange, yellow, black, grey, and white powdery wall discoloration…moisture. Peeled foundation wall paint…yep…moisture. Warped paneling, black rings around baseboard trim nails, rusted drywall nails…you guessed it, moisture. Seepage ring stains along the edge of the floor slab, crackly vinyl tiles, stiff carpet edges…you got it! I would estimate that over 85% of all MN basements have dampness. And I suspect this would hold true for all homes throughout the U.S. that have below grade space.

Before starting all my home inspections, I ask my clients what they are most concerned about in purchasing this home. Every time one of the top 3 concerns will be not having a wet basement.

NOW, if you are asked the same question, just glance over their shoulder, look at the land and hardscaping, and you can give them an informed answer, because this IS the cause of over 90% of all wet basements. Even if, and there is a small chance, the basement isn’t damp, it’s just a matter of time before it will be. So fix it now or pay for it dearly latter. It is so basic I’m surprised so many homeowners neglect it. When you run water towards something it’s bound to come in…at some time.
AND that’s not OK.