If you walk into your basement and find your floor is leaking, this is obviously a concern. Not only can the water cause real damage to the structure of your home, but you also have the source of the leak to worry about.
If you have a plumbing issue or a burst pipe, the root cause of that water is obvious. However, more elusive reasons behind your leaking basement floor can make it difficult to narrow down where the problem is coming from and how to fix it. Sometimes, the water appears to seep up through your floor directly.
Let’s explore what causes leaking basement floors, and how to spot the early warning signs. With that knowledge in mind, you can better have a professional get your basement back into working (and dry) order.
Problems Signs of a Leaking Basement Floor
Homeowners in Raleigh and Winston-Salem, NC, may be all too familiar with leaking basement floors. When the rainy season is in full swing, run-off water and flooding can be very pressing issues. That’s true both around your foundation and in your basement.
However, the leaking in your basement may also be more subtle. It can be highly confusing when it even happens during otherwise dry times of the year. If this is the case, you need to look for all the small problem signs that indicate water damage is afoot. This will help you narrow down the real causes and choose the best solutions before you’re left with wanton damage in your secretly leaking basement.
- Damp Walls and Floors
Moisture found on your floors is one of the simplest signs you have a leaking basement floor. You may also find that your walls are also damp, depending on how severe the leak in your basement floor is or depending on the humidity of your basement.
Damp floors indicate that there is water collecting somewhere in your basement. You may also notice that the humidity level in your basement has increased. Even if there’s no open leak, this is clear proof that you need to look into ways of preventing water damage, because it’s surely coming.
Mold flourishes in damp and moist environments. If your basement floor is leaking and has been left alone for a decent period of time, chances are, there is a colony of mold somewhere in your basement. Mold tends to cluster around areas where moisture is highest. Look underneath boxes, in corners, and up against structural beams.
Leaking basements also tend to attract a lot of pests. Some of the pests that are drawn to moisture are cockroaches, earwigs, silverfish, and even centipedes. They will drink the water, feed on the mold, and enjoy the humid environment where they can thrive.
While this can happen in any part of your home, a basement is at the greatest risk. Because these areas of your property see less activity, are generally kept dark, and are quiet, pests will love to congregate here. Their nests may even surround the prime leaks hidden throughout your basement. As their numbers grow, you’ll notice these bugs and critters scurrying around throughout your living space.
- Cracks in Floors and Walls
Water tends to rise through any cracks in the basement, whether on your floor or your wall. If your basement floor is leaking, then it is more likely that there are some cracks along your concrete or wooden flooring that is allowing water from the outside to leak inside. However, cracks in the walls can also contribute to a wet basement floor. You should look for this damage between the joint of the wall and floor, as well as around any support beams.
- Damaged Items
If you use your basement for storage, you may find that some of the items that you stored have water damage, especially if you have placed these items on the floor. You may find that any paper items, such as cardboard boxes or books, are curled or discolored. If you have wallpaper in your basement, it may begin to bubble or peel off the wall in curls.
Causes Behind Leaking Basement Floors
Because leaking basement floors are a broad problem, there is a number of causes behind such leaks. If you’ve experienced heavy rain in your area or had issues with your foundation soil in the past, these may be the most obvious culprits. However, leaking basement floors may also result from subtle causes, like clogged drains. These may slip your attention until the water floods in to alert you.
- Hydrostatic Pressure
Those who live in Raleigh and Winston-Salem, NC, have certainly dealt with their fair share of rainstorms. Unfortunately, these rainstorms can do a lot more damage than you’d imagine.
The annual amount of rain in both cities averages about 45 to 46 inches. Although it may not seem like it, this is a lot of water. At these averages, rainwater can accumulate and pool at and around your home’s foundation or basement. The more water that collects near your basement, the more pressure the water builds up against your home. Over time, the water has enough built-up force to push into your home’s structural supports and foundation. This is called hydrostatic pressure.
Hydrostatic pressure can cause a leaking basement floor by pushing water from outside your home to inside your basement. Since this water has nowhere else to escape to, it will enter any crevice, crack, or space that it can, due to the immense pressure it accumulates. Aside from water damage, this may even cause damage to concrete and cracks throughout your basement’s structure. If you notice any small gaps that weren’t there before or see other indications of stress on your foundation, this may be the cause.
- Clay Bowl Effect
Home foundations require the earth to be excavated prior to building the actual house. Once your foundation walls were built, the hole that has been dug up will be backfilled by contractors into the remaining space. This backfilled soil is much looser in comparison to the sturdy, densely packed, undisturbed soil.
This loose soil around your foundation and basement can be quite detrimental to your home. Loose soil becomes saturated with water much more easily, becoming clay. Clay is soft, loose, and can be washed away from additional water. This forms a clay bowl of sorts under and around your house.
The clay bowl effect can cause your basement structure to crack or slip. This is because your house has been built atop the foundation that was backfilled with this loose soil. Houses are more likely to suffer from the clay bowl effect during wet and rainy seasons. One of the consequences of this effect is a leaking basement floor, since your basement’s structure may begin to sink or shift.
- Faulty or Ineffective Sump Pump System
Some homeowners may not be aware of this, but most houses that have basements have a sump pump system in place. Whether that sump pump system is working properly or effectively is another story.
The role of a sump pump is to redirect any water that collects near your home to other safe places, such as city drains or a dry well. If you have a faulty sump pump system, you will most likely experience major leaking from your basement floor.
Ineffective sump pump systems can also make your basement floor prone to leaking. It is not uncommon for some sump pump systems to have metal basins or lids. However, this design is not particularly effective because these metals can easily rust and corrode. Other sump pumps may not even have a lid, which can expose your basement to leakage if the machine fails and becomes backed up.
- Clogged Footing Drains
Similar to the sump pump system, footing drains are also key in keeping your basement dry. These drains work by keeping water away from your home’s foundation or basement.
However, sometimes these footing drains can get clogged. Debris, such as leaves, dirt, or garbage, can block the footing drain, preventing it from whisking away excess water properly. This results in the extra water getting backed up. As a result, it may flood into your basement, making it seem as if your basement floor is leaking.
- Leaky Pipes
Leaky pipes are another cause behind leaking basement floors. Water pipes are typically installed in your walls, hidden from view. However, if a pipe were to leak, it is quite possible that this water will leak down from the wall and underneath the basement floor. If the water level under the flooring raises enough, the extra may leak up through gaps in your concrete, laminate, vinyl, or wooden flooring.
- Rainy Season
The simplest cause behind a leaking floor is the rainy season. Although North Carolina experiences both rain and shine, the rainy season can become quite intense. A buildup of this rainwater may seep into your basement, flooding your floor and seeping into any little cracks that are present. Even if you clear out the majority of the water, this may leave behind moisture that increases the dampness in your basement. Worst of all, the rainwater buildup can also push upward from under your basement floor, resulting in flooding again and again.
Rainy weather ties hand in hand with the other causes mentioned above. Rainstorms are, in fact, the key factor that exacerbates the above causes of leaking basement floors in the first place. Rainwater buildup can increase hydrostatic pressure, trigger the clay bowl effect, and cause backup to your home’s sump pump system or footing drains.
Fixing a Leaking Basement Floor
It may seem hopeless because there are so many possible causes for leaking basement floors. Fortunately, the experts at Tar Heel Basement Systems have a variety of basement waterproofing solutions to your damp basement in their arsenal.
- Install Interior Drains
Interior drains are installed along your basement floor to ensure they can drain water away from your home. These interior drains can collect water more easily than traditional drains and are also protected from debris collection, which helps to prevent clogging.
There is a variety of interior drains for you to choose from. The classic BasementGutter™ Below Floor System is strategically installed between your basement floor and wall joints so it can relieve hydrostatic pressure to prevent basement floor leakage.
- Replace Sump Pump
If your sump pump system is lacking or broken, it is highly recommended that you replace your sump pump so it no longer causes your basement floor to leak. Tar Heel Basement Systems has a multitude of sump pump systems available, based on your needs.
- Try a Dehumidifier
Dehumidifiers work more as a preventative tool for leaking basement floors. They are best for moisture, humidity, and mold issues. However, because these problems come hand in hand with leaking basement floors, dehumidifiers help mitigate the side consequences that leaking can bring.
The dehumidifier Tar Heel Basement Systems installs is powerful and energy-efficient. It thoroughly cleans your basement air, ridding it of musty odors. It also diminishes the growth of mold and helps create a less attractive environment for pests. Do not be fooled that, because it is a powerful fan, it is loud. Its internal fan is heavily insulated to prevent you from hearing any noise at all.
- Repair Cracks
Even if you attain all these wonderful appliances to your home, it may be futile if you do not address the main issue. If you have cracks in your basement floor, then water will just continue to leak through, regardless of if your drains, sump pump, or dehumidifiers are working wonderfully.
It is best to repair any cracks, whether it be on your basement floor, in the joint between the floor, or in your basement wall, before you think about long-term solutions. This will help to decrease the chances of your floor leaking again.
Leaking Basement Floor
Many homeowners would rather opt to fix home repairs themselves because they believe it is cheaper and faster. However, there is a reason experts are employed for certain jobs. The repairs can become quite dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.
You May Worsen the Problem
Removing all signs of leaking basement floors, such as rotted wood, damaged flooring or walls, and mold may feel productive and satisfying. Unfortunately, if you were to dismantle the incorrect piece, you can worsen the leak—even flooding your basement. This can, in the worst-case scenario, ruin your home’s foundation. That means you’re risking collapse and severe structural damages.
You may also end up spending more on repairs in the end. If you worsen the leak or exacerbate other problems, the repair expenses can continue to add up. With a professional inspection, you can uncover the exact cause of your leaking basement floor and have the right solution installed by an expert who’s experienced with the gear.
You Can’t Risk Messing with Radon
Radon is a harmful soil gas that can leak through your basement floors via gaps and cracks. It is especially dangerous because you won’t know if you’re exposed; it is odorless and tasteless. Therefore, radon exposure can quite possibly be a silent death. There are a handful of symptoms that indicate you have radon exposure. They are:
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- New or worsening cough
- Chest pain or tightness
By leaving the job to a professional, you can benefit from their experience and their safety gear. During your free inspection, a local expert will assess the basement, look for problem signs and causes, and thoroughly investigate the safest way to repair your basement.
There are many causes behind leaking basement floors, so it may be overwhelming. To cut right to the heart of the issue, you should prioritize checking for the most dangerous causes first.
Walls and floors that bulge inward are indicative of hydrostatic pressure. If this builds up enough, they can collapse and flood your home within minutes. Similarly, if you find your basement floor to be sinking or near collapsing, this may be due to the clay bowl effect. Given enough time, your floor, as well as your home above, may collapse inward. If you notice these problem signs, you should reach out to a professional right away.
Faulty sump pumps and leaky pipes can burst, leading to intense leakage—possibly even flooding if you are not watching out for it. Sump pumps and pipes carry a lot of water, so if they were to break or leak, you would have major water issues on hand. Be sure to check over these spots in your basement first, so you know if making a phone call now or in another day or two is the best choice.
Of course, a leaking basement floor should never be ignored. If you have other pressing responsibilities, however, there are a couple of factors that can sit a bit lower on your priority list. These factors are footing drains and small cracks. As long as the leak is not active, filling your basement with water, you can afford to wait a day or two until your busy schedule will allow you to book an inspection with a local expert.
Compared to other appliances, your footing drain does not carry as much water as sump pumps or pipes. They can certainly flood your basement slightly, but this is an extreme situation. Cracks in your basement floor also allow for only a small amount of water to pass through. The longer these problems continue, though, the greater the damage will be. You don’t have to panic right away, but you should seek out a fix in the very near future.
A leaking basement floor does not seem very concerning at first glance. That’s especially true if the leak is small. You may feel it’s safe to put off or ignore repairs. Unfortunately, leaks of any kind can be dangerous for both you and your home.
Dangers of Water Damage and Mold
Even the smallest leaks can lead to severe flooding and cause a multitude of other issues—namely water damage. Water damage can be very dangerous in the short term if it’s excessive, or in the long term, if it’s a slow leak. If left unfixed, water damage can result in these drastic problems, such as:
- Stained walls and floors
- Weakened home structure or foundation
- Corrosion of pipes
- Electrical system damage
If you find mold in your basement, you want to act fast before it festers out of control. Mold can be harmful to your health, particularly to those that are already sensitive to allergens or have pre-existing health conditions. Mold can cause issues such as:
- Itchy or watery eyes or skin
- Red skin
- Difficulty breathing
- Upper respiratory infections
- Development or exacerbation of asthma
- Allergic reactions
Fires or Explosions
This danger coincides with water damage. If your home’s electrical units are housed in your basement, leaks may cause these systems to short circuit and trigger a fire. This is especially dangerous if your basement has a wooden foundation. Fires in your basement put you and other inhabitants at risk for serious injury or even death, especially since your house can collapse in on itself.
Some homeowners have their water heater in their basements. If you have an electric water heater, this can be a problem. A short-circuited water heater can potentially explode. On average, water heaters have as much energy as a hand grenade, so you don’t want to wait for your leaking basement floors to escalate. The faster you reach out to an expert, the sooner they can stop the leaking (and protect your home), as well as repair the damage (saving you money in the long run).
Get Expert Help for Your Leaking Basement Floor
No matter the cause, professional assistance with your leaking basement floor should be a priority. Local experts can bring the tools, knowledge, and manpower you need to repair cracks, replace sump pumps, and even install high-grade drains. This can keep your basement (and your home as a whole) both functional and dry.
At Tar Heel Basement Systems, you can rest well knowing that the expert team has the appropriate knowledge to assess your problem. Contact us for a free inspection, and we’ll provide a no-obligation quote on what your situation is, how best to fix it, and all the costs associated with it. That helps you enjoy peace of mind that your home will be safeguarded without hurting your budget.