- Written by Allen Taylor Allen Taylor
When it comes to water and mold issues, the basement is as low as it gets.
How to Tell if You Have Water Damage in Your Basement
First, understand that your basement is a big hole in the ground.
Mid-Atlantic Waterproofing event coordinator Wesley Pfleiger said, “When it rains enough, this hole in the ground will [want to] fill up with water. As [this happens], pressure builds up around your basement walls.”
This pressure is called hydrostatic pressure and pushes against the walls of your basement. Enough pressure over time can push a wall inward and cause cracks to appear.
Water will then begin to seep into your basement, either through the floor or cracks in the walls, and can eventually do enough damage to cause a mold issue.
“Water can break down the waterproofing that may or may not have been installed when the house was built,” Pfleiger said. “But it’s not the water you see that’s a problem. It’s the water you don’t see.”
You clean up and dry the area where you see water, but water can also get between the cinder blocks of a house or between the walls of the foundation and erode the concrete. This can take place over a period of years, sometimes as many as 40.
Pfleiger said water can also push itself up through the basement floor as the water table underground rises. The more common place homeowners may see water, however, is where the walls meet the floor.
“Water only needs one-sixty-fourth of an inch to penetrate an area,” Pfleiger said. “It will follow the path of least resistance.”
There is a natural path for water to enter the basement because the wall, floor, and footer are all separate structures. Over time, water underground will erode the sealant, creating a way for water to enter the basement.
If you smell a damp, musty odor; require excessive use of a dehumidifier; see white, chalky residue on the walls or floor; or see cracks in the walls or floor of your basement, then you may have a water problem.
Pfleiger recommends a little preventive maintenance, such as:
- Install rain gutters around the house to push water away from the building.
- Check the grade of your property. Is it sloping toward the house? If so, fix the grading so that it channels water away from the foundation rather than toward it.
- Have a sump pump installed, making sure it is the necessary depth and horsepower to meet your requirements.
If you suspect a water problem in your basement, contact a professional to evaluate your foundation and make recommendations based on your unique property situation. Some companies, including Mid-Atlantic Waterproofing, will come to your home and make remedial recommendations, free of charge.
How to Tell if You Have a Mold Problem
There are many different types of mold that can grow in a home’s basement. While all of them can lead to health issues, each type of mold affects individuals differently.
Amos Martin, emergency services manager at Service 1st Restoration, said, “People are often scared of black mold, but I have found that other types of mold are more harmful to me. Everybody’s susceptible to different types of molds.”
Infants and elderly people are most at risk, he said, because they tend to have weaker immune systems. People with allergies are also susceptible to certain types of mold. In general, the brighter-colored molds are the most dangerous, Martin said.
On the flip side, mold is a natural part of the earth’s ecology.
“Mold levels inside are safe when the levels are the same or less than those outside the home,” Martin said.
To determine that, you have to have an air-quality test performed both inside the home and outside the home. To determine if you might have a mold problem and need to call a professional, check for these signs:
- You’re sick and don’t know why, usually resulting in unexplained respiratory or congestion problems.
- Your basement smells damp and musty.
- The mold is visible (if you can see it, you don’t need an air-quality test).
- An excessive need for a dehumidifier can also be a sign that you have a mold problem.
Mold can be a serious problem if left untreated, even in the basement. Replace your furnace filters often to prevent them from spreading mold spores throughout your house.
Martin recommends upgrading your filter to the best brand and leaving behind the paper filters, which tend to collect mold spores.
He also recommends using a maintenance-free dehumidifier so that you don’t forget to empty the water bucket, which is a common problem.
Moisture is the leading cause of mold problems and is often caused by leaking pipes, roof leaks, condensation, poor ventilation, wet clothes, and flooding. If you experience water loss or spills in the basement, hire a professional to clean it up.
For treating mold in the basement, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends a 10 percent water-bleach solution. However, you can get a professional-grade solution over the retail counter to help you fight mold in your basement.
Sunlight and air movement are also good, so open up the cellar door on occasion.
Caution must be taken when removing mold. Depending on the amount of mold you see, it may be a simple or complicated process and it may be wise to hire professional remediation experts, such as Service 1st Restoration, who have trained technicians.