For many homeowners, their basement has become a welcome extension to their living space in recent months. The formal and official finishing of basements across Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio, has risen sharply and, as a result, basement waterproofing has become more vital than ever. Basement condensation, dampness, and humidity do not contribute to a healthy living environment, and can lead to serious damage to your home and your belongings.
In fact, dampness and moisture are some of the most destructive forces that can be at work in any home. Nothing can cause rot, instability, and a generally unhealthy environment quite like dampness in an enclosed space.
Of course, while humidity and condensation are issues on their own, the real concern tends to be whatever is causing the increased level of humidity in a property. That is whatever these issues are problem signs for.
What Basement Condensation Can Signify
At the very heart of the matter, condensation in a property is simply a sign that the relative humidity in the room or property has reached a peak. Condensation only occurs when the air in a property or area cannot take on any more moisture.
This can occur because there is an active source of moisture somewhere in the vicinity, because temperature changes have lowered the air’s capacity to hold moisture, or both. As for what this humidity and condensation are problem signs for, there are a few different possibilities that you should not overlook.
Potential, internal sources of moisture are numerous; but the sources most likely to produce sufficient water to cause basement condensation are plumbing leaks and appliance breakdowns. Plumbing leaks and appliance leaks happen in almost any area in a home, but the water is most likely to pool in a property’s basement because this is the lowest part of any property. Likewise, many water-reliant appliances such as water heaters and washer-dryers are in the basement or in utility rooms that are adjacent to the basement.
Other than visible leaks and pooling water, plumbing leaks have easily identifiable warning signs. These can include a sudden loss of water pressure, banging pipes, and appliance malfunction or breakdown.
Leaking Window Wells
Any property basement that has been formally finished to act as a living or sleeping space must have an egress window that meets certain requirements. Even non-finished basements commonly have windows. Any window that is mostly or partially below ground level will have a window well.
These wells are designed to ensure the windows are capable of functioning properly, but when their drainage capabilities are compromised or blocked, it can lead to them filling with water. If their seals are not as robust as they should be, this can end up in them leaking and causing issues with moisture and humidity, as well as unsightly staining, in the basement beyond.
Water seepage is a relatively benign issue that occurs because of the porous nature of concrete as a material. Seepage happens when the soil around a property becomes saturated. The pressure of the wet, often expansive soil against the concrete can cause many problems (including cracking), and water will often start to seep through.
This process can allow water into a property, though it is not necessarily damaging to the wall itself. Neither does it need to be the result of damage, though you are likely to find more extreme amounts of water in cases where the wall has some form of structural cracking too, as these cracks act as channels for water.
Foundation damage results in dampness and humidity because of how it lets groundwater seep into a home from the soil. The most common kinds of foundation damage are subsidence and settlement. While one is primarily caused by dry soil and the other is most often caused by wet soil, both tend to result in humidity and dampness.
Subsidence is a process of sinking that generally occurs on wet, marshy, or unstable soil and can lead to cracks appearing in a property’s foundation and walls as a result of the uneven distribution of the weight of the property. Settlement, by contrast, is most common when the expansive soil under a property recedes as a result of prolonged drought. Sections of a property’s foundation break away from the rest of the structure and sink into the voids left behind, allowing water to flow up into a property once the drought breaks. Either will cause sharp rises in humidity.
These are extremely common issues that basement condensation points to. You can start to identify the most likely cause of the moisture by looking for other red flags.
Other Problem Signs to Watch For
If you think that there may be basement condensation at work in your home, there are a few extra warning signs you can look out for to help you decide whether or not it is time to contact a professional for a second opinion. Most of these issues are directly connected to dampness and humidity, but some are signs of wider structural damage. Either way, you should not ignore these issues.
Mold and Mildew
You will recognize mold and mildew by the way they look and their texture. These tend to be patches of discoloration in rounded, organic-looking shapes with a slightly slimy or furry texture. Mold and mildew may also give off a strange, musty, or unpleasant smell. As well as being inconvenient and unsightly, this growth can be dangerous to your home and health.
Some forms of mold will eat away at any organic material that they rest on, while others can cause serious skin, ear, nose, and eye irritation. In fact, some, like black mold, can even cause breathing problems. Those with pre-existing medical conditions are, of course, the most at risk of serious side effects from mold and mildew.
Cosmetic damage like staining tends to be found in the vicinity of a leak of water source in any property. As such, you should look carefully for signs of an active leak when you find staining. If the surface is dry to the touch, it may be evidence of an older leak that isn’t active.
Some of the most common examples of this are stains below basement windows, which may indicate a leaky window well, and white stains or formations on a concrete wall. Known as efflorescence, these are evidence of seepage at work.
Pitting and Flaking Concrete
Pitting, flaking, and scaling concrete is a form of cosmetic damage, though it looks a little more dramatic than stained wallpaper. This can be caused by a number of issues, including a fundamental flaw in the concrete itself. If you see it in conjunction with basement condensation, however, there is a chance that they are connected and you should investigate.
Pitting and flaking happens through sudden and frequent changes in temperature. Repeated freezing and thawing, for example, can cause concrete to flake, spall, and pit. Likewise, seepage can cause spalling in concrete that already has weaknesses and defects.
Standing water is one of the strongest signs that you have an active leak somewhere in the vicinity. Even a small area of pooling water should alert you unless there is an immediately obvious cause.
Of course, extreme basement condensation can cause very small areas of pooling water if it is serious enough. This creates a kind of vicious cycle that is very hard to break without professional help. You need to get to the root cause of the dampness and cut off the source of moisture before you can properly dehumidify the space.
Uneven or sunken sections of basement flooring are a serious warning sign that you should not ignore. This may be a sign of foundation damage and could be the reason your home is struggling with basement condensation. Look for things like cracks and cosmetic concrete damage to help you identify where the issue is worst.
If the uneven flooring is above your basement, this is more likely to be an issue with the joists that support the floor. These can be damaged or shifted by foundation problems. They can also be impacted by dampness and humidity in a way that causes them to rot.
Sticking Doors and Windows
Sticking windows and doors may seem like a strange addition to this list, but they are actually one of the earliest signs of foundation damage like subsidence or widespread settlement. First and foremost, you should make sure that the windows and doors in question are not sticking because of damage to their hinges.
If there is no obvious damage to the hinges or door/window itself, the most likely cause of this sudden sticking is a deformation in the frame as a result of structural shifting. Foundation damage, bowing walls, and anything that damages the structure of a home as a whole can cause this issue.
If you notice any of these problem signs at work in your home, it is time to contact a professional. Getting expert help early on can help you to take care of your home before further, avoidable damage is caused by the issues already at work. Of course, getting the right expert for you can be tough. This is why we suggest looking for a local Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio. firm to help you.
If your property’s basement has a musty, unpleasant smell, there are a number of potential causes you should be aware of. Generally speaking, however, a musty odor is a warning sign that something is not quite right in a space.
Infestation and Hygiene
Basements are not always the most inviting of spaces for people, but they can actually be very tempting for pests of all kinds. The dark, rarely traveled, cool, and often damp environment can attract pests of all kinds, including cockroaches, spiders, and even rodents like mice and rats. The presence of these pests, and their nests, can be incredibly damaging for your home, but it is the hygiene issues that are most pertinent here.
The droppings, shed skins, and nesting material that come with pest infestation are breeding grounds for bacteria and can create quite a pungent smell when left alone. This will only intensify if some of the pests die off and start to decompose inside or around their nesting area. As such, a full assessment and deep clean of your basement could well solve the smell by removing the evidence of infestation. Of course, if the infestation is active, you will still need to contact an exterminator.
Dampness and Mold
If infestation is not the issue within your home, the most likely cause of your basement’s moldy, musty smell is the presence of serious dampness, humidity, and mold or fungal growth. This growth is almost guaranteed to form in areas that have persistent, high levels of relative humidity. While they can be fairly benign, they do produce a recognizably musty smell that is both unpleasant and intense.
You will be able to recognize mold by the discoloration and changeable texture of affected areas. You should look for it in secluded, hidden areas, where mold is most likely to thrive, but it is important to remember that mold and mildew can grow almost anywhere. From your HVAC vents to textiles and even inside insulation, these are hardy and versatile substances that are perfectly tailored to harsh environments.
Waterproofing your property’s basement is one of the most important things that you can do to protect your home from the stresses of environmental factors and pressures. It is also an essential part of basement finishing for homeowners who are looking to convert their basement into a living or sleeping space.
When You Are Finishing Your Basement
Basement finishing and conversion are very common these days, as more and more people look for ways to make the most of the space in their homes. Waterproofing is a very important part of the process of finishing a basement. In fact, it is fundamental to the continued health of any space that is created inside a basement. Waterproofing as a matter of course when you convert a basement has many benefits.
Most obviously, this process will make the space far more comfortable and healthy to live and sleep in. Waterproofing lowers humidity, prevents mold formation, and makes the likelihood of pest infestation far less likely. This clean, dry, stable climate will also be easier to heat and cool, thereby keeping your energy usage to a minimum and even lowering your property’s energy bills as a whole. After all, your basement has an effect on your whole home.
Do Not Wait for Damage
Waterproofing is generally a part of any basement or foundation repair process because it can contribute to preventing the recurrence of the issues. However, we urge you not to wait until there is damage to your home before waterproofing your basement. You see, while there are benefits to pre-emptive waterproofing, there are also very serious drawbacks to waiting until your property is damaged to begin the process of waterproofing.
The most obvious issue, of course, is that by waiting for damage to take root before you waterproof your basement, you will leave yourself with damaged property and potentially hefty repair costs to grapple with. This will cost you far more money in the long run and could even impact your health and well-being, depending on the issues that develop in your home before you act. As such, it is best to pre-emptively waterproof your basement (even if you are not planning on using it as a living space).
We do not recommend that you attempt a DIY waterproofing process. The potential drawbacks are many. It is far safer and more effective to let a professional with the proper skills and experience undertake the work for you.
The problem with DIY waterproofing has two main elements. First and foremost, it is very hard for non-professionals to fully assess the needs and complexities of a basement that is dealing with damage and dampness. This is partly because of a lack of experience, but also because there are often structural issues at work. If you do not account for these issues, your waterproofing will be ineffective and could even create an incubator environment for dampness, mold, and pests.
Likewise, non-professionals often find it hard to get all of the best and most up-to-date products for basement waterproofing. This means that even if you successfully waterproof your basement alone, you are likely to pay more for a less effective and durable result because of the quality of the products. As such, it pays to hire a professional.
Professionals Get the Job Done
Not only do professionals have access to the best possible products and tools, they have the skills to put them to most effective use. Furthermore, professionals can deal with any complications that present themselves. Unlike most amateurs, professionals will have dealt with most situations before, even if the specifics differ a little. This means they will be able to act and react seamlessly without the need for unnecessary pauses or the redoing of work that has already been completed as a result of miscalculation or accidental damage.
This becomes incredibly important when you are dealing with structural and foundational issues like settlement, subsidence, and things like bowing walls. Professionals will also have the equipment and tools needed for structural repair to hand, meaning that you will not have to wait for them to be able to deal with your property’s subsidence, deteriorating walls, or damaged basement window wells. Instead, they will be able to keep the process of repair and waterproofing moving at a steady pace, while offering a consistently high-quality result at a reasonable cost. In fact, because of all these issues, professional waterproofing is very often cheaper than DIY in the long run.
Choose Ohio Basement Systems for Professional Waterproofing
Ohio Basement Systems has been serving the greater Cleveland area since 1999. We are proud to be one of the most trusted basement and foundation repair firms in the state. Our team of dedicated professionals can identify and resolve every kind of issue, from leaky pipes to serious foundational problems. We guarantee you a quick, efficient, and effective service that is minimally disruptive to your life and schedule.
You can book an initial inspection appointment (complete with a written estimate) for free and schedule the assessment for a time and date that suit your schedule. Our team will attend promptly, make a thorough inspection of your property, and give you an unbiased opinion as to what they think is best. More importantly, they will never push you to book repairs on the day of your assessment. Take all the time you need to make the right decision for you and your home. If things get worse before you make a choice, please do not hesitate to call us for emergency assistance. We are always happy to help.