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Prevention and preparation are the best defenses against water damage in your basement. Though one event – like a pipe rupture or heavy rains – might seem like the initial culprit, the truth is that water damage is commonly the result of many smaller problems, which, when added together, lead up to that flooded basement.

Do Not Hesitate!

Prior preparation prevents poor performance. Use this as your mantra. Do not wait for that big event to happen – getting caught unprepared is costly and embarrassing! Instead, arm yourself with the knowledge to recognize and prepare against the small problems before they escalate into ruined property and a hefty repair bill. Waterproofing your basement before the next big storm could save your household tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and damages. Below is a handy reference guide for checking your basement for damages.

Check Your Pipes

Most basements will contain your home’s water supply and drainage systems. These systems’ pipes are often hidden from sight – behinds walls or utility closets – usually, for aesthetic reasons. This is especially the case in finished and fully furnished basements. However, hiding these units and pipes away can cause anyone to forget about checking on them.

Minor Seepage Can Mean Major Issues

So, you have checked your pipes and have noticed some dampness around an elbow joint where two pipes meet. You may be inclined to ignore this because it appears to be a minor leak and pipes must leak a little, right?

Unfortunately, many homeowners make this assumption, but their assumption is proven to be incorrect. Do not ignore this issue – even a small leak can be an indicator of internal corrosion, which, when left to worsen, can lead to a major pipe burst. Ruptures like this can flood a basement in minutes as hundreds of gallons of water per hour rush through the cracked pipe. Repairing the damage and restoring the basement will cost much more than taking the time to check your pipes regularly several times a year and paying to fix the minor issues as they arise.

Use Your Nose

Perhaps you cannot detect a leak visually, but your basement has a funky, pungent – and most telling – persistent smell. Do not assume that a basement should smell this way simply based on the fact that the smell is coming from the basement. Moldy, musty smells are a direct indicator that moisture is abundant in your basement and mold, fungus and mildew are thriving.

Not only could this mean that you have a leak, but it also could spell out hazardous health conditions in your basement. In cases like this, it is best to contact both a professional plumber – to address any potential leaks – as well as a professional mold and mildew remediation service.

Upgrade to PVC Piping Where Appropriate

If you have an older home that has not had a recent piping renovation, chances are your pipes are well-worn and potentially even obsolete. To prevent pipe failure, you may want to consider upgrading your cold water and drainage pipes to PVC as a preventative measure – especially if you live in a region where the climate fluctuates rapidly. PVC is long-lasting, durable and cost-efficient. This preemptive upgrade can prevent potential water damages that may occur in systems with old or damaged pipes.

Know Your Property

As a homeowner, you need to understand the layout of your property and the seasonal changes your home must endure. Do you live in a volatile climate with hot, rainy summers and cold, snowy winters? Even if you live in a region that features only one of these extremes, you need to be prepared with the knowledge of how weather patterns can stress your property’s foundation and resistance to water damage.

As climate science suggests, our climate is in a state of rapid change. Climate scientists predict that weather events will become more extreme. This will mean greater environmental stressors on your property and could potentially mean tens-of-thousands of dollars of damage if precautionary steps are not taken. If you have faced such uncertainty, you are advised to look for water damage restoration in Brentwood, TN as they are efficient in the restoration of the house. They are quite helpful in repairing the damage caused that too in less than four days.

Check Your Foundation

If you notice minor pooling in a low-lying area of your basement, and you have ruled out a leaky pipe as the cause, you will need to quickly find and address the source of the water accumulation.

If your basement is unfinished, check the cement or masonry for fissures and cracks. Rapid heating and cooling can not only stress your home’s foundation directly, but also indirectly. The surrounding water table will fluctuate with the seasons and weather patterns, putting various stresses on your foundation. Small cracks will grow as water seeps into them, freezing and further cracking it.

Interpreting the Cracks

Cracks in the Paint or Mortar Between Masonry

These types of cracks are not a big cause for concern. Repairing them is a question of cosmetics and is not a necessary step.

Cracks in the Corners

Cracks in the corners where two walls meet are often drying shrinkage cracks, which can occur three to four years after the concrete foundation is poured. The surface of the wall shrinks faster than the core as moisture in the concrete is lost over time. This results in cracking on the surface. This type of crack does not imply structural damage, but leaking can be a concern. These cracks should be sealed to prevent water damage.

Horizontal Cracks

The most serious types of cracks are large, horizontal cracks that appear along your basement walls. If you have a stone wall foundation, horizontal cracks are generally the result of vertical dislocation, where one side of the foundation is settling. This is evidence that your foundation is being split in two. If you see horizontal cracks in your poured concrete foundation, this means that the external pressure of the soil is exceeding the concrete wall’s ability to resist it.

These types of damages are associated with flooding, as water from the surrounding soil easily flows into the cracks in the foundation. With these types of cracks, the damaged section of the wall needs to be replaced.

If you notice some of the later types of cracks in your foundation, it needs to be repaired, upgraded and weatherproofed to prevent further water damage. Do not hesitate! You may be one major storm event away from a substantial basement flood.

Landscaping as a Preventative Measure

If you have water pooling up around the outdoor walls of your house and you are concerned about leaks, you may want to consider landscaping your property to direct water away from areas where these potential leaks can occur. You can prevent basement water damage by adjusting the slope of your property and perhaps installing an external drainage system.

When extreme landscaping projects are unreasonable, you could consider planting water-thirsty trees and shrubs. These plants will happily absorb excess moisture from your soil, which will reduce the chance of leaks. However, be careful of invasive roots because these can destabilize your foundation.

Knowledge is Your Best Defense

It is better to know the risks associated with basement flooding and to take preventative steps than to be caught unprepared with several feet of groundwater or sewage filling up your basement. Scheduling checks on your pipes and foundation several times a year is a safe way to ensure that a small problem can not quickly escalate into a larger and more expensive dilemma.

Being aware of changes in the humidity and smell of your basement can give you a hint of potential leaks. Knowing how your foundation responds to environmental stressors and being able to accurately interpret the warning signs is also key to preventing a catastrophic basement flood. When it comes to water damage, the sooner you address the situation, the less money you will have to spend on the repairs.

JBHeadshot-1 How to Spot and Address Water Damage in Your Basement - Before the Big FloodJennifer Bell is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey.

She writes on behalf of Dry Basement Solutions.