When your home inspector issues the inspection report and points out that there is unwanted moisture in the basement you need to heed their recommendations and get the problem fixed. If you are a homeowner planning to sell your home, for instance, a damp basement could potentially frighten away qualified buyers. If you’re a buyer or already live in the home, you should know that moisture accumulating in the basement can be a breeding ground for all sorts of headaches.
Moisture attracts mildew and mold, for instance, and some strains of mold are highly toxic or even life-threatening. Your basement may also house systems and components like the furnace, electrical wiring, or appliances like a clothes washer and drier. Having water present can combine with those to shorten their working life or to create safety hazards such as the potential for a fire or accidental electrocution.
Meanwhile – even if nothing of significance is in the basement – moisture beneath your home will have a tendency to migrate upward as the temperatures change and cause evaporation and condensation. The floor joists under your living room, for instance, might attract moisture and start to rot, or water could wick it way up through the walls of your home, where a basement problem will suddenly become a bigger problem spreading throughout your home.
To cure this kind of issue you’ll want to hire a contractor who can isolate the source or sources of the unwanted moisture and then provide appropriate solutions. Typically water gets into basements either because the walls of the structure don’t have an adequate moisture barrier. Brickwork is porous, for instance, and may be wicking water from outside, and if that is the case it may need to be treated with a sealant. Or it could be that you have inadequate drainage around the home’s foundation perimeter, and that lets rainwater flood into the basement. Grading the landscape and installing drain pipes or a French drain below grade may be the way to fix that problem.
But many basements that are properly sealed still get damp, because they do not have sufficient ventilation. Moisture in the air condenses when temperatures change, and then without a way to vent it collects inside the room. Sometimes installing windows that can be opened and closed will resolve the issue, and venting fans are another way to attack the problem. The idea is to create healthy circulation of air within the enclosed space, and a qualified contractor can show you how. Even insulating water pipes in a basement that drip can help to mitigate the problem, as can the installation of a dehumidifier.
But if your inspector reports unwanted wetness in the basement, it is also prudent for you to have a follow-up inspection performed by a termite specialist. They can look for any signs that the dampness in the wood has attracted wood-destroying insects such as carpenter ants or termites. You’ll also want to repair or replace any damaged wood, insulation, or other materials or structures that have suffered because of expose to moisture. That way once you cure the source of the moisture and you repair any existing damage you will be good to go, with systems in place to prevent recurring problems.