Water is great for a lot of things—like flower beds and warm showers—but not your basement. If you’re experiencing a leaking basement or wanting to take the proper precautions to ensure you never have to deal with one, you’ve come to the right place.

To fix your leaking basement, you obviously must start with locating the source of the unwanted moisture. In this guide, we’ll begin by discussing some of the common wet basement warning signs. Once you’ve detected water in your basement and have approximated its source, you’ll want to protect your belongings and attempt to discover the cause. Whether your leaking basement is caused by a plumbing problem or a cracked foundation, for example, will dictate who you contact for repair and the repair method. Finally, protecting your basement from future water damage is all about investing in the proper prevention solutions. Not only do drainage systems and basement waterproofing play a large role in repairing your leaking basement, they also prevent the same issues from occurring later down the road.

In this guide, we’ll discuss what to do when you notice water in your basement, as well as how to determine the cause and implement the best repair and prevention methods.


Discovering Your Basement is Leaking photo

Discovering Your Basement is Leaking

What Are the Most Common Signs of a Leaking Basement?

A leaking basement isn’t always as obvious as standing water in the middle of your floor, and even small leaks can lead to significant damage when they go undetected or ignored. Fortunately, any moisture problems you might encounter are easy to catch when you know what to look for.

Here are common warning signs of a leaking basement:

  • Mold Growth: Mold thrives in damp spaces and is often an indicator of a leaking basement. If you suspect mold growth, you’ll want to first ensure that you and your family are safe by getting it tested by a professional. A mold test can determine what kind of mold you have and if it poses a health risk.
  • Water Stains on Basement Walls, Floors and Ceilings: If water is seeping into your basement through wall cracks, windows, or the ceiling, it’ll likely leave behind stains. These stains can be yellow, white, or gray, and all are a cause for action, whether you need to call a plumber or foundation repair contractor.
  • Concrete, Brick, or Stone Spalling: When water damages concrete, it can start to flake away or peel off. This is caused by the salt deposits that water leaves underneath the surface. If your basement or foundation walls are chipping away due to water damage, you’ll want to take immediate action to reduce the threat of structural damage.
  • Musty or Damp Odor: It’s pretty common for basements to smell different than the rest of your home—especially if they’re just used for storage—but it’s not normal for them to smell musty or damp. Even if you don’t see visible signs of water, it’s wise to have your basement thoroughly inspected for water leaks.
  • Increased Humidity Levels: Excess moisture can lead to increased humidity. Humidity makes your heating and cooling systems less efficient, meaning that you might notice a spike in your utility bills if you’re dealing with a leaking basement.
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Determining the Cause of a Leaking Basement  photo

Determining the Cause of a Leaking Basement

What to do When You Notice a Leaking Basement

Whether pools of water or higher utility bills warned you of a leaking basement, taking the following three steps will help ensure you restore your peace of mind and protect your home and belongings from future damage.

1. Protect Items that Could be Damaged (Including Yourself)

First things first, you’ll want to make sure that you and your belongings are safe. Eliminate electrocution concerns by staying away from wet electrical wires and not operating equipment using wet electrical outlets. If you’ll be wading in water, wear rubber boots to prevent electric shock.

If you’ve found the source of excess water, you’ll also want to make sure that there are no valuable items on the floor or placed directly below leaking windows, wall cracks, or ceilings. As a general precaution, basement storage items should be placed on shelves above ground or in water-tight boxes in case more severe basement flooding occurs.

2. Try to Determine the Cause of Your Leaking Basement

Once you and your possessions are safe, try to determine the general cause of your leaking basement. Knowing where your basement’s extra moisture is coming from can help you decide who to call for repair, as well as get you familiar with the repair methods that might be suggested.

Here are several of the most common causes of a wet basement:

  • Foundation Cracks and Wall Gaps: Soil moisture can leak into your basement through cracks in the floor or walls of your foundation, floor joists, and mortar joints on block walls. If you’re concerned about foundation wall cracks being the cause of your leaking foundation, you’ll want to call a foundation repair contractor.

  • Inadequate Drainage and Gutter Systems: Inadequate drainage and gutter systems are one of the most common causes of foundation damage. When heavy and persistent rain strikes, overflowing gutters, down-grading slopes, and poorly-directed groundwater can cause water to pool around your home’s foundation. This water can place thousands of pounds of pressure (“hydrostatic pressure”) on your foundation walls, pushing water through even the smallest cracks and into your basement. A foundation repair contractor can help you find drainage solutions to prevent a wet basement and foundation damage.

  • Window Wells: If your window wells aren’t installed and sealed properly, they can fill with water and leak into your basement. Check for water stains and efflorescence marks around your basement windows to determine if they’re the culprit. Window well covers are a simple fix that ensure leaves and debris don’t clog drains.

  • Plumbing Leaks: Old tank water heaters, rubber supply hoses, frozen water lines, and damaged pipes are all common causes of basement water damage. If you notice water stains on ceilings and drywall and suspect the cause is faulty plumbing, you should call your local plumber to address the situation.

  • Overflowing Tubs, Toilets, and Floor Drains: Broken toilets, toddlers gone rogue, and forgotten faucets can all be cause for expensive repairs if the situation isn’t controlled quickly. Accidently overflowing fixtures is a common cause for a wet basement.

3. Call a Contractor for Water Damage Repair and Waterproofing Solutions

Once you’ve determined the probable cause of your leaking basement, your next step is to call a contractor. The foundation repair contractors at United Structural Systems can help you repair any structural damage that may have been done to your home, as well as install basement waterproofing solutions to prevent future damage. Still not sure about the cause of your wet basement? We provide free foundation inspections to assess water damage and suggest the best possible solutions.

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Deciding on a Solution for Your Leaking Basement photo

Deciding on a Solution for Your Leaking Basement

How to Fix a Wet Basement and How to Keep it Dry

United Structural Systems offers the following basement waterproofing methods so you won’t have to worry about leaking:

How to Fix a Leaking Basement from the Inside

Interior drainage systems work by pumping out and directing away water that has made its way into your basement. At USS, we install lifetime warrantied interior drain tiles in homes where groundwater is a concern. By installing drain tiles, you can capture water coming through foundation walls and direct it towards a sump pump that pumps water out of and away from your home.

How to Fix a Leaky Basement from the Outside

Exterior drain systems, including french drains and footing drains, can help lead water away from your foundation. Ideally, the grading of the land around your property would naturally direct water away from your home to prevent it from pooling around foundation walls. When the ideal slope or grading cannot be achieved, United Structural Systems helps homeowners install exterior drainage systems to act as a first line of defense against hydrostatic pressure.

Decrease the Risk of a Leaking Basement with Gutters and Downspouts

Gutters and downspouts are an important part of the drainage system that keeps water away from your foundation walls and thus out of your basement. Clogged and poorly maintained gutters and downspouts that don’t direct water at least four feet away from the building can increase the risk of a leaking basement. Clean gutters of debris often or install gutter guards and downspout extenders to properly direct water away from your home.

Directing Water Away from Your Basement with Proper Grading

If the land around your home is sloping towards your foundation, the odds of rain—even runoff from your sprinkler system—causing your basement to leak is high. If possible, regrade your yard to slope down and away from your home. This will naturally direct water away from your foundation.

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Contact USS Tennessee photo

Contact USS Tennessee

Call USS to Repair Your Leaking Basement

Ready to protect your home and restore your peace of mind? The foundation repair contractors United Structural Systems of Tennessee provide basement repair, basement waterproofing, and free foundation inspections to ensure that the days of dealing with a leaking basement are over. Call us today to talk to one of our specialists, get further information about our services, or schedule your inspection!

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