Wet Basement Causes and Solutions | The Old Farmer's Almanac

10 Simple Ways to Prevent Basement Flooding

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Causes and Solutions for a Wet Basement

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A wet basement is never a good surprise. Let’s avoid surprises by protecting your basement from flooding in the first place. If you believe you live in a place that’s susceptible to flooding, see these 10 tips to prevent basement floods before they start.

  1. Install gutters! Clean your gutters so they don’t overflow and cause water to pool around your foundation. Always remove leaves and debris, especially in the fall! Install leaf guards and downspout extenders at least several feet away from your house so water is directed 10 feet from your house. 
  2. Change the grade of your yard. Does your property slant towards your house or away from it?  The surrounding soil should pitch away from the house at a slope of at least 1/4 inch per foot so the water does not drain toward your foundation. If not, you need to have soil brought onto your property and added until the grade is highest at the house’s perimeter. Then rake it smooth and seed or sod.
  3. Shade trees with aggressive roots (such as silver maples) should be planted at least 20 feet from your house to protect your foundation. Smaller species, like white fir, require only 10 to 15 feet of clearance.
  4. Look for cracks in the foundation wall. These are the obvious reasons for water leakage. Pointing (cementing the cracks of) an old stone foundation may help to limit the water that gets in. To cement the cracks, chip along the crack in order to widen it (to about 3/4”) and deepen it (to about 1/2”). This is the only way to get the hydraulic cement to adequately hold in place. If you have major cracks, you may need to contact a professional. 
  5. If air is musty or mildewy, run an electric fan to help improve air movement. (Be sure to turn it off when you leave for an extended period of time.) You can also run a dehumidifier downstairs, and ideally, air conditioning will help dehumidify the air. Also, improve the ventilation by installing screens and keeping foundation windows open.
  6. Wrap all cold-water pipes (which have a tendency to sweat and drip water) with fiberglass insulation or foam sleeves. If possible, insulate valve bodies as well, but leave valve handles exposed.
  7. Make sure window wells are kept free from debris, which will prevent water from draining. Consider installing window exhaust fans.  If you have below-grade basement windows, install window well covers that will fasten securely to your home’s foundation. 
  8. Make sure your clothes dryer is vented to the outdoors.
  9. If you haven’t had your sewer inspected or your septic tank cleaned, add this to your annual ist. During periods of prolonged, heavy rainfall, clogged sewers, and over-taxed septics can lead to smelly disasters.
  10. Fill a couple of cloth bags (roughly the size of a grocery bag) with calcium chloride and hang them from the ceiling to absorb moisture.

Have you experienced a wet basement recently? What were the causes and solutions? Please share with us and the Almanac community.

About The Author

Heidi Stonehill

Heidi Stonehill is a senior editor for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, where she focuses much of her time on managing content development for the Almanac’s line of calendars. Read More from Heidi Stonehill

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