Searching for a house can be exciting and, at times, overwhelming. Once you finally find “the one,” the last thing you want is to discover that you are the proud new owner of a house with water damage. Buying a house with water damage can be a nightmare, especially if you are unaware of the damage prior to the purchase. The following tips can help you be an informed buyer and avoid unknowingly buying a house with water damage.
It’s raining, it’s pouring…and the average rainfall is soaring! According to Ohio’s Country Journal/Ohio Ag Net, the average rainfall across Ohio totaled 52 inches from June 1, 2018, to May, 31, 2019. That makes it the wettest yearlong period in Ohio since 1895! Not only does all that rain take its toll on the farming industry, but that means that well over 10 more inches of rain has fallen on rooftops across Ohio and Michigan this year than average. That excess rainfall can put a strain on downspout drainage systems everywhere. When your home’s downspout drainage system fails, damage to your foundation can result.
To some, wood paneling is synonymous with orange shag carpet and avocado-colored appliances of the 1950s through 1970s. But paneling is making a comeback for many reasons. Paneling is a way to bring the beauty of the outdoors inside. A rustic look can be achieved with reclaimed – or reclaimed looking – paneling. Wainscoting has become a popular decorating choice as well as running panels horizontally to give a room character. Many times, paneling is white-washed or painted a neutral color such as gray. Wood paneling is more durable than drywall or wallpaper and can even protect your walls.
What Is a Cove Joint?
This joint, where your basement wall and floor meet, is known as a cove joint. It exists due to the way that a home’s foundation is poured. After your foundation footings are built, your basement walls are poured so that they slot into a keyway. This helps keep them properly aligned.
When your walls have cured, the basement floor itself is then poured. This leaves a small gap between the floor and the walls – known as the cove joint.
Why Does the Cove Joint Leak?
Following a heavy rain, ground water around your home will rise. It begins to push into any potential openings in your foundation. Because the cove joint is a necessary part of structuring your foundation, it’s a common entry point for water. As prolonged rains or heavy rains continue, they’ll begin to force their way in through these gaps. This is typically referred to as hydrostatic pressure.
Why You Can’t Just Seal the Gap Between Your Basement Floor and Wall
It may seem like an obvious solution to simply seal the cove joint to prevent water from breaching into your home. However, it’s not that simple. In the short term, a sealant applied along this gap between your basement floor and wall may prevent leakage. However, it will eventually fail in one of two ways:
#1. The water being blocked by the sealant will find another gap in your foundation to enter the home. Typically, this will be cracks in your foundation.
#2. The sealant you used will be forced off or penetrated by the water. Once this happens, all the water will leak through the opening in your sealant, rendering it useless.
Either of these events will happen due to the strength of the hydrostatic pressure. It’s not easy for water to push into your home. When it meets with resistance, such as a sealant, it will work its way through or around that resistance.
The Best Solutions to Protect Your Cove Joint
While sealing the gap isn’t recommended, you do have options to help protect your home from potential water damage. There are
multiple approaches to keep this water from leaking into your basement
Foundation wall failure typically happens slowly over time, and there are signs that you can see. But only if you know what to look for! Learn how to spot the signs and identify what’s going wrong with your wall before it fails completely.
How Do You Know If Your Foundation Wall is Leaning, Bowed or Bulging?
Fortunately, there are several indicators that can help you identify when your basement foundation wall is compromised. When looking for structural issues, they can present themselves differently depending on the type of inward movement your walls are experiencing.
Here are some of the most common signs of problems with your basement foundation wall:
- Cracks in your walls more than 1/8 inch wide
- Angled cracks from the corners of the wall or across the center
- Unleveled flooring
- Water seepage
- Walls sliding inward at the bottom or leaning in at the top
Distinguishing Between Types of Basement Foundation Inward Movement
Not all foundation damage is the same. If you think you’ve identified the early signs of failure, it can help to distinguish between leaning walls or bulging walls. The difference may not seem important, but it can help with locating the source of the problem and deciding on a solution.
Bulging walls often have horizontal cracks, as the pressure is closer to the center of the wall and will cause it to fold in from the center. You can measure for a bulged wall by using a plumb string attached to the ceiling and measuring the distance of the wall, bottom to top. If the wall measures longer than the plumb line, it indicates a failing wall that is likely to be bulging.
Leaning foundation walls will angle slightly. Most homeowners expect leaning walls to lean in from the top. In some cases, the inward movement comes from the bottom instead. Make sure to look for both.
What Can Cause a Foundation Wall to Fail?
Inadequate drainage is one of the most common ways that foundations suffer damage. As moisture drains into the foundation, it builds up against the side of your home and can cause soil heaving. Hydrostatic pressure is also a typical cause of water leaking into your basement.
You can prevent drainage problems from occurring. In addition to ensuring your home’s grading provides moisture with a path away from your foundation, gutters and spouts that direct water far away from your foundation is important.
If your gutters are damaged or clogged
But what are the best steps to keep a basement dry? Get tips to keep water out of your basement and learn the warning signs that might indicate a breach in your foundation from EverDry Toledo, serving Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.
The Best Steps to Take to Keep Your Basement Dry
#1. Keep Water Away from Your Foundation
Water typically enters your basement by seeping in along the foundation. Your home has a few defenses against this, but they need to be maintained to keep them working.
The first major step is to inspect and clean your downspouts and gutters. They help direct the flow of water away from your foundation. However,
debris builds over time and can cause blockage
Causes of Basement Concrete Cracks
The two primary parts of concrete are cement and water. After it’s poured, it cures to become solid. As the concrete dries, it will shrink. The degree of shrinkage is largely affected by temperature. If temperatures drop while your basement cures, that can cause cracks. Likewise, sweltering heat will rapidly dry your concrete – and curing too quickly also causes cracks. Even in perfect conditions, over time, your basement concrete will experience some degree of shrinkage.
While there are some ways to help mitigate shrinkage, such as controlled cracks in specific areas, it’s impossible to prevent them. There are certain areas that are more likely to develop these cracks than others, such as around doors or other sharp corners.
On the bright side, cracks in your basement floor due to shrinkage rarely result in any structural problems. However, they still open the doors for other problems like water or pests. That means they should be repaired and sealed whenever you identify them. While you should consider every crack a potential risk, most cracks under one-eighth of an inch wide aren’t a cause to be concerned.
Another common cause of cracks in basement floors is when the concrete slab begins to settle. Typically, settlement occurs when the
soil beneath your foundation is too unstable to support the weight of your home
Where is the Water Located?
Frozen pipes can be more than a temporary inconvenience. Left unchecked, a frozen pipe could burst, leading to significant water damage and creating an environment where mold can thrive. But by following simple winterizing steps, you can keep your plumbing intact despite the freezing temperatures.
Tip #1: Turn Off Your Water Supply
Like any DIY renovation, proper planning before you start a can save a lot of headaches – and unexpected expenses – down the road. While it’s certainly more exciting to think about installing a big-screen TV or a stylish bar, keeping your basement warm and dry should be your first consideration. With that in mind, we’ve put together 10 basement remodeling tips to help keep your basement cozy, energy efficient, and waterproof, so you can enjoy your new space for years to come!
1. Don’t start until you’ve checked the building code and obtained all necessary permits.
Your project could face serious consequences if it’s not up to code, and you could be putting your home and your family in danger. This is particularly important if you’re planning plumbing and electrical work, which may have to be inspected. Know and follow the building codes. If you have questions, concerns, or you’re not sure your skills are up to the task, consult a licensed builder.
2. Check for moisture problems.
Moisture issues are a common basement concern, and if you don’t address them before starting your renovations, you could be setting yourself up for costly repairs down the road. Mold, insects, and high levels of humidity are all signs that you could have a serious basement moisture problem that’s beyond the fix-it skills of the typical DIYer. If you’re not sure what to look for, our experts can provide you with a free basement inspection and recommend the best waterproofing option for you.
Even if you don’t have a serious moisture problem, adding a vapor barrier to both the walls and floors prior to framing and finishing off these surfaces makes good sense. Lay down the moisture barrier, wait a day or two, then check underneath to see if and how much moisture may be coming through before continuing. If there’s still residual moisture after adding the vapor barrier, create a slight offset from the outside wall by adding thin slats of wood or metal called furring strips. These strips can also be used to help level out a wall that may be “wavy” to create a flat surface for adding framing. When it’s framed and insulated, face it with mold-resistant drywall.
3. Don’t skimp on the insulation.
Insulation will not only help control the temperature inside your basement, it will add another layer of moisture control. Plus, it will help dampen sounds coming in from the outside. Choose an insulation that includes a vapor barrier on both sides. Spray foam insulation can also be effective for basement walls, but check code requirements to ensure it allowed in your area.
4. Seal around rim joists.
Uninsulated rim joists (the joists on the outside edge of your basement walls) can create big energy losses. They can also be an easy entrance for mice or other pests. Insulate them with rigid insulation cut to fit. 2” extruded polystyrene is a good choice, but make sure it’s up to code. If you have a table saw, use it to cut strips equal to the depth of your joists. Then use a fine-tooth handsaw or utility knife to cut the strips to length. Fill small gaps with caulk, and the larger ones with expanding spray foam.
5. Seal around pipes and wires.
Seal small cracks around pipes and wires with high-temperature silicone caulk, and larger gaps with flame-resistant expanding foam. Close openings around chimney flues or other large openings by nailing sheet metal over them and sealing the edges with caulk. While they’re exposed, slip foam insulation sleeves over hot-water pipes to prevent heat loss and over cold-water ones to prevent condensation from dripping on the inside of the drywall or ceiling.
6. Add a drop ceiling.
A drop, or suspended, ceiling hides your plumbing and electrical lines, yet provides easy access to them if needed. Remember that drop ceilings will reduce the amount of overhead space available, so keep that in mind when planning your renovation.
To soundproof a drop ceiling, add fiberglass batts above the ceiling tiles, but make sure your tiles can bear the added weight. Although batt insulation is relatively lightweight, it can put enough stress on think drop ceiling tiles and break them. Don’t use fiberglass ceiling tiles – they can’t support the weight of insulation. If you’re thinking of using wood-and-gypsum ceiling tiles, they will need to be at least 5/8 inch (15 mm) thick to be used safely with batt insulation.
7. Make sure your flooring is waterproof.
You may be tempted to add carpeting or wood flooring to your new space, but that can be a bad idea. Even a waterproofed basement can fall victim to a malfunctioning sump pump, and one flood can ruin an expensive floor (see #10).
That doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with a drab floor of gray concrete. Here are a few great basement flooring options:
- Epoxy floor coatings are good if you can live with a hard surface flooring. Epoxy coating is inexpensive, comes in a lot of colors, is totally waterproof, and easy to apply.
- Ceramic tile comes in an almost endless variety of colors and styles. In fact, you can even buy tile that looks amazingly like a wood floor! It’s unaffected by moisture and goes directly onto concrete that’s smooth and free of cracks.
- Vinyl tile and sheet flooring also goes directly over prepared concrete and will withstand even minor flooding. A vinyl floor can provide some cushioning underfoot, and it’s fairly inexpensive.
- Engineered wood flooring gives you the warmth and beauty of real wood with the stability and moisture resistance of laminate construction. Click-together tiles and planks are DIY-friendly and easy to install as a floating floor system. Check to make sure the type you choose is rated for below-grade basements.
- Rubber flooring comes in sheets and DIY-friendly tiles with interlocking edges. Rubber floors are nicely cushioned and come in a wide variety of colors, making them a good choice for basement playrooms.
Remember, no matter what flooring you choose, it’s important that you take steps to keep your basement as dry as possible. That means grading out foundation soil so it slopes away from foundation walls at least four inches over 10 feet, adding extensions to your downspouts so water exits at least five feet away from your house, and keeping gutters in good repair.
8. Consider your heating options.
Tying into an existing HVAC system will usually makes the most sense (and save the most dollars on remodeling costs). Remember, warm air rises, so it makes sense to install heating vents at floor level. For this reason, baseboard heating is also good option.
If cold basement floors are a problem, you can warm them up with electric heating cables or mats. This type of heat doesn’t warm the room much, but it makes floors much more comfortable.
9. Don’t remodel the utility room.
Keep the area around HVAC units and water heaters clear, open, and unfinished. These spaces have specific code requirements for spacing and framing. Plus, you’ll need access for inspection and/or repairs.
10. Have a backup plan for your sump pump.
It’s best to have both a battery backup for your main pump, in case of a power outage, and a second pump, in case the first one gives out. You can also install an inexpensive, battery-operated alarms that detect water to notify you if there’s water on your basement floor.
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