Even though you might not see many houses with basements where you reside in the Tampa Bay area, you’d be surprised to learn that there are quite a few. Because of the risk of hurricanes, most homes in Florida do not have basements. Home floors must be constructed above the expected level of storm surges, as per building rules. If a basement is permitted, it is often built as a “non-livable” space, meaning that residents may use it for extra storage but not as a living area. Basements are great for storage and can be a nice spot to chill out on hot days; nevertheless, they can have their share of moisture-related issues.
Wetness is by far the most typical issue that might arise down there. Although condensation can be formed indoors, most moisture comes from the outside. In many cases, homeowners don’t realize that the dirt outside their basement walls can hold much water. A high water table or percolating surface water are also potential causes of excessive soil moisture. Heavy rains could cause the water table to rise over the basement floor, which would explain the presence of a high water table. Water can seep into a basement because of gravity, or the foundation’s waterproofing layer is damaged. As an alternative to being “pushed up” by hydrostatic pressure, water can be “pulled up” by a “wicking action” from the soil beneath the walls or floor. Condensation on the basement’s cool walls and floor is a common problem in the summer when warm, humid air from outside enters the home. Water can seep via a fissure and freeze and expand if it is located where freezing temperatures are possible. Due to the expanding qualities of frozen water, the crack will grow with each successive cold season.
Leaking foundation cracks, puddles or flooded flooring, chalky stains (efflorescence), mold growth, wet insulation, damp carpets, stuffy aromas, high humidity, and rotting wood are common symptoms of water damage in the basement. If a homeowner encounters any of these issues, they should thoroughly check their basement and its environs. When inspecting the outside of a property, it’s essential to ensure that the land slopes away from the house rather than into the basement. How does water leave your property when it rains? A basement drainage system may become clogged or leak if an inadequate rain drainage system is in place. Is the structure showing any signs of cracking, either externally or internally? Extreme or ongoing cracking could be a sign of impending structural concerns or perhaps existing danger. They may also represent a sinkhole under your Florida home. Look for signs of water damage around the window wells. If the wells fill with water, they could seep into the basement through the window or the framing.
Preventing basement moisture issues can be done in a few different ways. First and foremost, no basements made of dirt. Although dirt floors are less frequent today, it is essential to note that they can hold a lot of moisture and emit several gases. Ensure that the basement floor’s lowest point has a floor drain and trap installed when you are building a basement. Any water spilled within the house cannot escape because there is no floor drain. If a sump pump is required, install it and make sure the lid is watertight. In areas where a high water table poses a risk of flooding, sump pumps are frequently installed. A perimeter drainage system should be installed, and the exterior foundation walls should be waterproofed.
Humidity-caused dampness is a common but largely ignored issue in basements. Water vapor produced inside the house can be easily managed by venting it outside through an exhaust system. Condensation on windows, pipes, or other surfaces, along with an overall feeling of dampness and unpleasant aromas, are all indicators of high humidity. Wet laundry hung to dry, keeping firewood in the basement, and a dryer vent that exhausts indoors are all common causes of moisture in the basement. Installing energy-efficient windows, insulating walls and cold water pipes, protecting floors if possible, routing dryer vents to exhaust directly outdoors, and not drying laundry or firewood in the basement are all great ways to reduce humidity in the home. To combat the high humidity of summer, use an air conditioner or a portable dehumidifier. Keep the windows shut in the basement during hot and muggy weather. Keep the house’s air circulating by always leaving the heater’s fan on. Proper ventilation and preventing the entry of new moisture are the keys to maintaining low relative humidity in a basement.
Maintaining a dry and mold-free basement also involves considering where to put things. If many things pile up, especially on the floor, moisture can collect in the cracks, and mold can start to grow. Get rid of clutter and put things away on shelves. Avoid using cardboard boxes for storage since they are susceptible to mold growth when exposed to dampness. Allowing enough ventilation is essential while storing items in a basement.
The accumulation of different kinds of water leads to moisture issues. Managing water seepage from all sources, including groundwater, surface water, wicking, and condensation, is essential. Do not add water-sensitive insulation or interior finishes if you anticipate recurrent floods, as they will provide a breeding ground for mold and increase the complexity and cost of flood clean-up. The health of your family and your home’s longevity can benefit from addressing moisture issues in the foundation. When dealing with massive or shifting foundation fractures, concrete placement, or substantial structural repairs, it is best to use a professional renovator. A heating contractor could be helpful if you plan to install new HVAC components. A healthy, mold-free house starts with a dry, clean basement.
Jon’s essays on water damage and mold education are a must-read for everybody in your household, furry or otherwise. Visit Water Damage Tampa’s website for further information.