Is it possible for water to leak up through your basement floor? Unfortunately, yes, it is. We have dealt with hundreds of leaky basements in the past and they’re never any fun to deal with. It’s also possible that water is leaking in through cracks in your basement walls. In either case, there are techniques and troubleshooting tips that can help you discern the exact origin of the leak and take steps to fix it.
This article looks at several different possible causes of water in your basement, and what you can do to resolve the situation.
What causes water seeping up through the basement floor?
If you have a concrete basement floor and the concrete has cracks in it, it’s possible for water to find its way up through those cracks. This typically happens during the wet season after heavy rain, or in the early spring when the snow is melting.
The excess water builds up in the soil around your house. As the ground becomes oversaturated, a physical phenomenon known as “hydrostatic pressure” increases.
Hydrostatic pressure refers to the downward and outward pressure that standing water causes by pushing against objects. In this case, the standing water is in the soil around your house, and the objects that it’s pressing on are your basement floor and walls.
Unless your basement was properly waterproofed when your home was built, in time, it’s likely that water will find its way in. The water has nowhere to go and just sits up against the walls of your basement, eventually finding its way underneath the basement floor as well.
If your home is older, it may not be equipped with weeping tiles, which direct standing water away from your house. Likewise, your gutter system is very important for directing water away from the house so that it doesn’t pool up against your basement walls.
Let’s look at some of the most common reasons why water seeps up from your basement floor or leaks in through your basement walls. Understanding these will help you to rule out what you don’t need to worry about and decide whether you need professional assistance resolving your basement leaking issue.
Your drainage system is not functioning properly.
If your weeping tile system or your gutter and downspout system is not functioning properly, you could end up with a leaky basement.
Weeping tile, also called drainage tile, is an underground ceramic pipe that directs water away from your home. It is installed to direct water to a sewer system, a sump pit, or just further out in the yard away from the house. It stops the water from building up directly against the basement walls and moves it somewhere else. If there’s a problem with your drainage tiles, you might see water starting to leak down the sides of your basement walls as it never has before.
Your gutter and downspout systems are equally important. Its entire purpose is to collect water that hits the roof and channel it away from the house so that it doesn’t pool up and cause basement leaks. If the gutter is not hung properly, then the water will not make it to the downspouts. The gutter will accumulate water and it will flow over the top and onto the ground by the basement walls. If the downspouts are clogged, then the water will not be able to exit the gutter, and it will again overflow from the top of the gutter, landing near the basement walls.
If the gutter is hung correctly and the downspouts are not clogged, but the downspouts do not kick out away from the house far enough, then leaking in the basement can also occur. This is because water exiting the downspouts accumulates too rapidly and pools. It has nowhere to go but down, alongside your basement walls. In this case, you need to invest in some downspout extensions, which will direct the water as far away from the home as you care to have it.
Your yard is not graded properly.
The grade of the earth around your home has a lot to do with how the water sheds away from the structure. Ideally, your yard will slope away from your home on all sides. If the grade of the earth is sloped down towards your house instead of away from it, water will naturally flow in that direction, right towards your basement walls.
It’s possible that your yard was not graded properly when the home was built. Or it could be that the grade has shifted overtime due to natural forces. In either case, an improper grade in your yard will increase the likelihood of developing a leaky basement.
Your home’s foundation is fractured
If your basement floor or walls are fractured, it won’t be difficult for water to find its way inside. During heavy rains or snow melts, the water seeps downward into the earth. As the water continues to accumulate and oversaturate the soil, the hydrostatic pressure against your basement walls and underneath your basement floor builds. This can cause the water to enter your basement.
Think of your house like a paper drinking cup. And think of your yard like a bucket of water. If you take the empty drinking cup (your house) and push it downward into the bucket of water (your yard), the cup should remain dry on the inside.
However, if you crack, cut, or otherwise damage the outside of the drinking cup, and then try to push it into the bucket of water, water will be able to enter the cup. So, you want your house (the cup) to be airtight, without any cracks in the foundation walls or floor.
You have a clogged plumbing drain
If your home’s plumbing system has a clogged main drain, it could cause water to back up into the basement. As the water is on its path to the sewer or sump pit or wherever else it may be going, and encounters a blockage, it has no recourse except to go back to where it came from and find its way into the lowest point in your house, which is your basement.
Another possibility is that your backwater valve is not functioning properly. A backwater valve is a plumbing device that’s positioned inside of a drainage pipe that prevents wastewater from flowing back into the structure. If your backwater valve is broken, you’re likely to find pools of stinky water in your basement.
Your plumbing system or appliances are leaking water.
If your furnace, water heater, refrigerator, ice maker, clothes washer, or any other part of your plumbing system is leaking, the water can travel down the plumbing pipes, through your framing of your home, behind the walls, and end up in your basement.
If you have had a plumber in your home lately, he could have unintentionally bumped into something, causing it to leak. Or perhaps you’ve been hanging pictures lately? If so, you could have nicked a plumbing pipe with a nail and caused it to leak. Even a very slow dripping leak will eventually cause water to pool up somewhere.
What to do about water seeping up through the basement floor?
Now that we understand better the likely causes of water seeping through your basement floor or walls, let’s examine what we can do about it. There are some things that you can tackle on your own before having to call a professional plumber, a waterproofing service, or an excavator.
Inspect your gutter and downspout system
If you can, take a look at your gutter and downspout system. See if leaves are accumulated in the gutters, causing them to hold water. Likewise, inspect where the gutters drop into the downspouts to make sure there are no blockages there. If you are unable to do this yourself, contact a local gutter service and have them come and inspect and clean your system for you.
Inspect your plumbing system
Take a close look at all exposed plumbing pipes, appliances, and devices. Look at the connectors on your freezer, water dispenser, and refrigerator. Look underneath your sinks to make sure everything is tight and dry. Inspect the top and bottom of your water heater for leaks. It may be that you find nothing out of the ordinary, but at least then you’ll know a few things that are not causing your basement to leak.
Make sure your drains are flowing freely.
If your drains are operating correctly, you should see the water swirling as it goes down them. A drain that is partially clogged will displace water very slowly, and no swirling may be present. You can use a drain cleaning solution that you can buy from your local grocery store and see if it helps. If your drains are still sluggish, consider calling a plumber who can bring out a snake and the camera to assess the situation properly.
Ensure that your sump pump is working properly
If your home is equipped with a sump pump system, you’ll want to make sure that everything is working properly there. Sometimes a sump pump can get stuck in the on position or off position or burn out completely and not be kicking on when it’s supposed to. It’s smart to get in the habit of regular sump pump maintenance so that you always know the condition it’s in.
Consider installing an interior basement drainage system
New construction technology and products make it possible to install a drainage system inside of your basement, as opposed to having to dig up the earth around your house outside to install an exterior basement drainage system. Interior basement drainage systems are positioned where the foundation meets the walls. It accumulates any moisture or water that pools there and directs it outside and away from the home.
Consider having an excavator regrade your yard
If water is seeping into your basement floor or through the walls because of improper land grade, consider calling an excavating company to come in and assess the situation. The excavator can recommend the most practical and cost-effective steps to take to remedy your basement leaking situation.
What should you do about water seeping in through your basement?
Depending on the cause of the leak or seepage, you will need to contact one of the various types of service professionals. If you have leaking pipes, you will need to call a plumber. If your leak is caused by excessive hydrostatic pressure build-up, then you’ll need to call a waterproofing specialist. And if you have a cracked foundation or basement walls, you need to call a building contractor who specializes in that area.
In either case, it’s better to act sooner than later. Once water begins finding its way into your basement, it typically indicates a problem that will not self-resolve.