Is Water in the Basement a Problem in the House You Want to Buy?

Is Water in the Basement a Problem in the House You Want to Buy?


You’ve finally landed your dream home. You see some warning signs on the property, but you love everything about the interior, and the front porch is absolutely charming.


You’re getting ready to place an offer on the house when a huge rainstorm hits. After another walk-through, you discover water in the basement of your perfect property. What do you do?


A wet basement is cause for concern for a home buyer. It could be nothing at all … or it could also mean a costly foundation repair. You’ll have to do some research to be sure whether you have a serious water problem before writing an offer.


Common Causes of a Wet Basement


Water in the basement can be the result of many issues. Most of the time, it starts in the soil around the foundation.


After a heavy rainfall or when the snow melts, the soil sucks up the water, which can seep into your basement. If you have overflowing gutters and downspouts, or too few gutters, you may also have problems with water seepage around the foundation.


It’s more common for the soil around a foundation to absorb water because the ground is less compacted from the original excavation. Clay soil is also more likely to absorb and hold a great deal of water, which makes midwestern homes more susceptible to leakage.


As the water pools around the structure, it will find entry into your basement through an opening somewhere in the foundation. This might be a crack caused by settling or a small error committed during the construction.

Often, water issues are caused because the soil around the foundation is not sloped away from the house. Over time, water absorption over an extended period can begin to erode the concrete of your foundation or your siding, and allow water to enter into your home.


Seepage may also occur through floor cracks, the “cove joint,” or poorly fitted basement windows. Improperly sealed utilities or electrical conduits can also create a water problem.


The potential entry points for water into your basement are many. In some cases, it’s a tiny issue, and if the basement is unfinished, you need not regard it as an inherent deal breaker.


How to Spot a Serious Problem


If possible, visit the property when it’s raining heavily or during the time of year when snow is apt to be melting swiftly. That should give you the chance to witness the situation at its very worst.


You might also find water stains along the walls or floor, smell a musty odor, spot black mold, or note salt deposits on the wall. A sump pump sitting in the corner of the home is another sign that the previous owners had to deal with water problems in the basement.


Look for major signs of foundation issues. Large, stair-step cracks on the interior or exterior of the basement walls are a sure signal that the foundation has been settling, sinking, or damaged. These can create large gaps that exacerbate invasion by moisture and place the structural integrity of the structure at risk.


Inspect the other elements of the basement as well. Gaps or cracks around windows might reveal a major water problem that will cause more serious damage over time. Sagging or uneven floors, a damp crawl space, or doors that don’t stick can also be signs of foundation damage attributable to water problems.


How to Repair a Wet Basement


If you still absolutely love the house, you might consider repairs. Depending on the problem, the fix could be either simple and affordable or complex and costly.


For some, the prospect of fixing a problem is an exciting opportunity to add extra value to their home. For others, it’s a headache they’d rather not touch.


If you have cracks in the foundation that are letting water in, you could repair them with an expanding polyurethane that will seal the cracks. This is a flexible material that will discourage re-cracking if the foundation continues to settle, but it won’t prevent it from cracking in new places. To avert future cracks, you’ll have to stabilize the foundation walls with anchors.


If the problem is attributable to improper grading around the foundation, you might also need to contact a landscaper to loosen up the dirt and grade it away from the structure. This will limit the amount of water that pools around your house to cause problems.


Make sure there’s a functioning sump pump on the premises as well. This will forestall flooding throughout the rest of your house if a substantial amount of water finds its way into your basement.


As long as the basement is unfinished and your sump pump is working, water in the basement won’t necessarily pose a huge concern.


Overall, you’ll have to consider the cost of fixing a wet basement, and its worth to you, before you move in. Many prospective homeowners feel it’s easier just to move on and find another home that will require no such repairs.


Others aren’t phased by the challenge because they can envision the true potential of the place. The choice is yours.

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