The American Society of Home Inspectors, which is a nonprofit association of professional home inspectors, claims that 60% of houses in the U.S. have problems with moisture and these problems are most often found in basements that are chronically damp or even wet.
A likely source of this water intrusion against the basement wall is surface water seeping down towards the wall. If a large area of the lawn or garden drains down to a low point near or at the wall, this could easily be where the water is seeping into the basement.
Very often poor grading around the house is the problem. The backfill surrounding a house is commonly not very well compacted due to the potential of damaging foundation walls. During the first several years, the soil will usually settle lower so the grading may need to be redone.
By regrading the exterior of the home, water can be drained away from the structure, rather than draining towards it. This usually takes care of the problem of damp or wet basements. The ideal grade would have the ground sloping downwards away from the house, measuring one inch per foot for at least the first six feet surrounding the house. Sealed or impenetrable surfaces like an asphalt driveway can have less of a slope as almost any downwards slope would be effective.
When patios, driveways or sidewalks have to be lifted, the work can get expensive, but with lawn or garden areas, all you need to do is add some soil and then firmly pack it down. Gravel is not recommended since water flows through it so easily. Firmly compacted soil, which will direct most of the water across the surface, works best.
In certain low areas like window wells and basement stairwells, water is easily collected. Drains need to be added in the bottom of these areas and to be safe they should be frequently cleared of debris. Homeowners can also use clear plastic dome covers to cover basement window wells and these keep water out. They do allow light to enter the basement, but no ventilation. It really is vitally important to grade the areas around all window wells.
Some houses suffer from a wet basement in wintertime only. The reason for this is even in severely cold weather there is a heat loss coming from the basement, which thaws the soil around the foundation, causing it to become porous. In every other spot the ground is impermeable because it is frozen. This causes water from those surrounding areas to flow across the surface and to sink into the porous soil around the foundation. This is why the soil around houses should be properly graded.
Even if leakage into the basement isn’t a chronic problem, good drainage away from the home should be incorporated when doing any work on the driveway or on the landscaping. If good grading simply is not possible, then catch basins would be the solution.
Any water needs to be directed towards the catch basins, which should always have a drainage system attached. Catch basins must be maintained on a regular basis, as they tend to clog and heave from frost. To keep your basement dry, make sure you regularly maintain your catch basins.
Where it is not possible to drain water away from the structure for at least six feet, due to a home next door, for example, the best solution is to have a lower area between the two structures directing water through a trough away from both homes. If this is impossible, you may need to install a catch basin with a good reliable drainage system.
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