Spring Brought you a Leak in the Basement?

Smell something mouldy, mildew-y or sour coming from your basement or crawl space? Make no mistake: you’ve likely sprung a leak in the basement.

Spring is a likely time of year for moisture problems to arise, and a good time to pay attention to how your basement is weathering the thaw.

As snow melts, air temperatures change, ground and surface water collection increases, and so does the likelihood that moisture could be gathering, causing a leak in the basement. This can lead to a bad smell, and in very little time, turn to mold.

Common wisdom dictates that opening up some windows and drying it out naturally will solve the problem, but in most cases, the opposite is true. While it is counter-intuitive, humidity in the air, particularly in Montreal, can have the adverse effect of further humidifying the basement. A dehumidifier might help a little, but to get to the root of the problem, put on some gumboots and grab a ladder and a spade: it’s time to go digging and fix the grade…

FINDING THE LEAK

About 90% of damp leaky basement problems are caused by surface water collecting around the building. Only about 10% of problems are due to underground streams and high water tables. Thus, when you call in the professionals and are advised to immediately install French Drains, water barriers, or other expensive solutions, be skeptical: it makes more sense to be systematic about finding the problem. Before you do anything else, do a walking tour around the exterior of your home and check where water could be potentially seeping inwards.

Key things to look at are:

  • Grading
    Check to make sure driveways, patios, sidewalks and the ground slope away from the house. A rate of once inch per foot for the first six feet is recommended, except in the case of asphalt, which only needs to slope slightly to do the job (since it doesn’t absorb water). In the case of lawn and garden areas, adding a little topsoil close to the home will improve the grade; but make sure to compact it well. Gravel is not recommended, since water flows right through it.
  • Above-grade downspouts
    Check your gutters and downspouts to make sure they are not overflowing. If your downspouts drain above grade, make sure the connections are leak-free and continuous. They should discharge into a plumbing system at least six feet away from the building, depending on the slope and porosity of the land.
  • Underground downspouts
    If your downspouts empty into a below-ground plumbing system, check if there’s a concentration of water around the foundation where the downspout enters the ground – this could mean there’s an obstruction or leak in the pipe below ground level. Repairing this means excavation, and could be expensive. While it’s a necessary repair, it’s worthwhile to see if you can switch the downspout to above-grade, which is equally effective.
  • Gutters, Drains, Window Wells, and Cracks
    Clean out your gutters if you didn’t already do it in the fall. (Autumn is the best time to do this.) Make sure basement stairwells, window wells, and other drains are clear of rubbish, leaves and other debris. Make sure window wells are cleaned out. Caulking cracks can effectively block seepage.
  • Check your sump pump: You can test it by lifting the flotation trigger to ensure it does its job. (See the Mose Report post 5-Minute Sump Pump Test)
  • Poke around a little: While a little bit of calcium deposit on concrete walls might not indicate a serious problem, there are other indications that you might need to further insulate your basement from groundwater. Take a screwdriver and poke your posts and joists: if it penetrates, they’re rotting. You need to replace them and you might require the installation of a French drain. In the case of crawl spaces, a heavy-duty liner (similar to a pool liner made of a blend of high-density and low-density polyethylene) might need to be installed.

It’s important to check for moisture frequently. 98% of all basements leak at one time or another, with spring being the most obvious time for problems. But with a little prevention, a little common sense, and a lot of love for your home, your basement could remain free of moisture and all the problems and smells that go along with it.

Mose Home Inspection Services
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Lay Chan Wee
Lay Chan Wee
01:19 31 Aug 21
I was impressed with the service provided by Rui Su. He was organized, explained in detail area that I am not familiar... with. He provided a good report. I will recommend him if you need home inspection.read more
Mary Jane Caro
Mary Jane Caro
14:25 27 Aug 21
I am always pleased to recommend Carol Mose from Mose Home Inspection Services to my clients who have had offers... accepted on residential real estate properties. She is knowledgeable, thorough, provides clear explanations, and delivers comprehensive reports.read more
Massimo Pannunzio
Massimo Pannunzio
22:05 25 Aug 21
Michael has got to be on of the best home inspectors in all of Quebec. It was amazing working with him and he had my... best interest at heart when making a life changing decision. He made sure I had all the answers and made it easy to work with him. I will be using Mose inspection for any moment that I need an inspection done that's for sure!read more
Amanda Lee
Amanda Lee
19:14 16 Jun 21
Amazing experience with Carol Mose who helped me with a pre-purchase inspection! She was very approachable and... observant, and informed me of all her first impressions on-site. This gave me greater understanding of any conditions as I was able to ask any quick questions on the spot. Her reports are the most thorough that I've seen and include diagrams to help explain what any physical signs mean and potential consequences. Could not have asked for a better inspector!read more
Maeghan Banks
Maeghan Banks
15:38 14 Jun 21
Carol was wonderful to work with for our pre-purchase inspection. She was professional, thorough and communicative,... taking the time to explain her findings as we went through the house. After the inspection, we felt we had clear knowledge of the condition of the house (both pros and cons), allowing us to move forward with the purchase with confidence. Highly recommend!read more
Ryan Chalupovitsch
Ryan Chalupovitsch
13:43 01 Jun 21
Carol Mose is the best home inspector in the business. Approachable and extremely knowledgeable. She did an... inspection for me and really took the time to explain her findings and help me understand the home I was looking to purchase. Cannot recommend her enough. Don’t hesitate.read more
Elisabeth Faure
Elisabeth Faure
21:16 29 Apr 21
This is the second time I have used MOSE, and they are always really amazing. Very nice, very professional. they came... to have a look at my roof and let me know if we were due for a repair - I was very satisfied with everything and would recommend them to anybody!read more
Hannah S
Hannah S
22:05 16 Apr 21
I had a great experience with Mose home inspection. My husband and I are first time homebuyers and so had a ton of... questions about the process. Everyone we talked with was really informative and helpful. Michael was our inspector and was phenomenal. The inspection was very thorough and he explained everything in detail with realistic next steps for us to take. We came out of the inspection feeling really informed. Plus, he is just an absolute delight! He had very contagious enthusiasm and made the inspection a really positive experience. Would highly recommend!read more
Gabriel Lukuc
Gabriel Lukuc
03:05 16 Apr 21
Michael was amazing. He took the time to explain to us what’s really important and the reasoning behind it. We’re not... very handy nor savvy when it comes to home construction so we really appreciate him taking the time to explain to us all aspects of the inspection. Also, Michael was friendly, professional and timely; he provided the report over a holiday and a weekend.read more
Stephanie Ballard
Stephanie Ballard
14:24 19 Mar 21
MOSE is the best in the business. Once again we were happy with their inspection services - they are professional,... friendly and knowledgeable. Would not hesitate to recommend to friends and family (and have)!read more
Rodrigo Morales
Rodrigo Morales
18:27 10 Sep 20
Home inspection
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