It’s not uncommon for water seepage to happen at random places in basements, sometimes even in the middle of the floor. And the first thought that comes into most people’s heads is a sump pump, which is an expensive proposition. Here are five fixes for water seepage in a basement to try first.
It’s possible that the problem does call for a sump pump. But before going to that expense, there are a number of things you can do that cost little or nothing. You should do those things anyway because the sump pump will work better when you do.
Remember that water wants to do one and only one thing: flow downhill. If the furthest downhill it can get is the middle of your basement, it will end up in your basement. If it can possibly get one hair’s width further downhill by going somewhere other than your basement, it will happily go somewhere else.
Clean the gutters
Frequently the cause of seepage is merely clogged gutters. When your gutters can flow properly, the water flows away from your house. When they don’t, hundreds of gallons of water drop off your roof and into the ground near your foundation, saturating it. So if the gutters and downspouts aren’t full of leaves, the water will happily flow away from the house.
Divert your downspouts
Ideally you want the water to flow six feet away from the house. If your gutters just drain onto bare ground, the water is probably only going a few inches away from the house. Putting a splash block under the downspout gets you a few more feet and is often enough. Putting a downspout extension on your drain, whether above ground or underground, helps even more. An above-ground extension is easier of course. By far the easiest underground extension is a ready made French drain, which will drain better than merely burying a black flexible pipe.
Slope the yard away from your foundation
You want your yard to slope down one inch per two feet of distance away from the foundation. More is better, of course. If you have a pile of dirt from another project, the best thing to do with it is to use it to raise the ground around your foundation. Then water flows downhill rather than pooling up next to the foundation.
Caulk the concrete against your foundation, if you have any
If you have a walkway, patio, or any other concrete up against your foundation, make sure the caulk in the gap between it and the house are in good condition. The caulk generally is good for about 30 years, but nobody ever thinks of it. Shore it up with some concrete/masonry caulk if you see any cracks in yours. If the concrete has started to slope downhill toward your house, you’ll eventually need to mudjack it to correct the slope. But the caulk will at least reduce the amount of water that’s pressurizing your foundation.
Shore up any active leaks, especially in the wall
I once bought a house for well under fair market value because the basement was leaking in spite of it having a sump pump. My building inspector found a quarter-sized spot in the wall where it was leaking. It was easy to find because it happened to be raining that day. But there were telltale marks under the spot even when it was dry out. We had a foundation specialist look at it as well. He agreed with the building inspector, who recommended I fill in the spot and build up around the area with some plumber’s epoxy putty. The problem cost literally $4 to fix. For a large active leak, you may need to call in a professional, but the cost of fixing a leak in a wall usually runs three digits. Installing a sump pump will run four.