How to Spot Basement Water Problems in Your Home

How to Spot Basement Water Problems in Your Home

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Homebuyers look at a long list of features when shopping for the ideal home. But a smart homebuyer also needs to be aware of potential problems, and learning how to spot basement water problems is vital during the home buying process. What kind of signs should you look for? And where do basement water problems typically appear?

Signs to Watch for in the Basement

Many homebuyers hire a professional home inspector to assess the house before finalizing a purchase. While trained inspectors have the experience and know-how to spot basement water problems of any degree, homebuyers can detect water using keen senses. Your eyes and nose can help to spot water problems in the basement.

Moisture often leaves a mark, especially on organic building materials such as lumber, drywall and plaster. Look for these signs of moisture in the basement:

  • Water stains of any size, especially on the floors or ceiling
  • Mold spots or streaks, especially black, brown, green or white mold
  • Mildew, a green, furry type of fungus on walls, window frames and other organic materials
  • Efflorescence on the walls or flooring, more of a white, chalk-like powder, but often mistaken for mold
  • Cracking in the foundation walls or floor, from hair-line fissures to gaping cracks
  • Bulges or dips along the wall
  • Cracking or peeling paint

Use your sense of smell to detect any unpleasant odors, such as:

  • Dampness, like the smell of caves or standing water puddles
  • Mustiness, like the smell of a locker room

Where to Look

Homebuyers are attracting the high function areas of a home, namely the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. But you need to spend a fair amount of time in the basement as well, looking for potential issues and water problems.

If the basement is unfinished, have a good look at the foundation for cracks. Inspect the corners and around any ledges or bulkheads. Use a flashlight to look into window wells and frames for any signs of basement water damage. Sniff around and get a clear visual of every surface of the basement area.

Inspection work is more difficult with a finished basement, although water damage is typically more obvious in a finished living space. Look at the walls and flooring, especially in corners and closets. Check the window frames and window treatments for signs of mold and mildew, and inspect the bathroom, laundry, furnace room, sump pit and water heater for signs of leaks and floods.

Signs of water entering from above (caused by grading issues and flash floods) often include water signs along the wall and around the windows. Signs of water entering from below (caused by a high water table or sewer back ups) often include musty odors and mold or water stains on the flooring.

What Homebuyers Can Do About Water Problems in the Basement

Although the signs above often indicate an issue with water in the basement, they are not necessarily deal breakers. Water stains, bulges and peeling paint can be repaired, and mold and mildew can be removed from the house. The most important issue to consider is whether or not the source of those water problems can be detected and dealt with.

Talk to the seller or your agent about accommodating for water damage repairs in the selling price. Or find out whether these issues can be taken care of before the closing date. Either way, have a professional basement waterproofing company take a look at the property.

Waterproofing contractors will locate the source of those basement water issues and propose the potential solutions. Use that information to decide whether this home is worth the hassle and expense of basement repairs.

Homebuyers that know how to spot water problems in the basement will make better buying decisions. Spend your money wisely and end up in the ideal home for your family, free from basement water issues.

Shannon Ryan is the online community manager for the Nusite Group, a Toronto waterproofing and specialty trades company.