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Dealing With Leaky Window Wells

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021
leaky water wells

Leaky window wells are one of several common causes of basement water damage. Basement windows that extend below ground level contribute natural light to the basement and also provide fresh air ventilation. The excavated well that extends around the window naturally collects water during rain. However, while most window wells include a gravel bed at the bottom to allow water to dissipate into the surrounding soil, basement water infiltration may still occur due to leaky window wells.  

Signs of leaky window wells include:

  • Visible water trickling down the basement wall from the window and/or puddles forming on the floor during rain.
  • Permanent stains, streaks, or other discoloration on the basement wall beneath the window well.  
  • Mold growth on the indoor window structure or on the wall and floor below.
  • Water-damaged items stored near the window.  

Restore Proper Drainage

A major reason for leaky window wells is the simple fact that the window structure becomes submerged in water during rain because well drainage is sluggish. To support proper drainage and eliminate leaky window wells, take these steps:

  • Keep the window well clear of material that obstructs drainage through the gravel bed. Make sure dead leaves, grass clippings, and other debris are not accumulating at the bottom of the well and interfere with proper drainage.  
  • Consider adding a drain. A window well drain installed at the bottom of the well includes a grated drain opening and pipe that extends underground to discharge water into the soil further from the house.  
  • Window well covers are available in common sizes. Clear polycarbonate plastic covers completely exclude both rain and debris while still admitting light. Alternatively, simple mesh screen covers keep out well-clogging debris like leaves but still allow water to enter the well.

Eliminate Water Sources

Keep excess water out of window wells by cleaning roof gutters to prevent clogging and during heavy rain. Also grade the slope of the ground to prevent pooling and direct water out into the yard, away from the window well. 

Leaky Basement in the Winter: Five Causes

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021
leaky basement

While a leaky basement is more often associated with severe summer storms, basement leakage during winter has its own set of unique seasonal causes. Consequences associated with a leaky basement include damage to the foundation walls and also the basement floor as seepage gradually deteriorates concrete. Water infiltrating a basement can also affect electrical wiring and major components such as the circuit breaker panel that is frequently installed there. Conditions inside a frequently wet basement also support the growth of mold that may eventually contaminate upstairs living spaces.

Here are some of the frequent causes of a leaky basement specific to the winter season.  

  • Snow accumulation around the foundation. As banks of snow that accumulate against the side of the house melt slowly, the water penetrates into the gap between frozen soil and the foundation of the house. This water may seep through existing cracks in the foundation wall or continue to penetrate underneath the foundation and seep upwards through cracks in the basement floor.    
  • Ice blockage in gutters. While snow melts on warmer portions of the roof, ice present in gutters may block the free flow of water. As blocked gutters overflow, water pounding on the ground below may penetrate deeply into the soil, eventually causing a leaky basement.
  • Frozen pipes. Plumbing pipes typically routed through the basement may freeze in frigid winter weather and leak or totally rupture, flooding the basement.  
  • Sump pump failure.  A basement sump pump discharges infiltrating groundwater through a pipe typically extending into the back yard. In frigid winter weather, ice may form in the discharge pipe, obstructing free flow from the sump pump. This may cause the sump basin in the basement to overflow and the pump itself may be damaged.
  • Window leakage. Basement windows extend partially below ground level into window wells. Water from rain or melting snow may accumulate in basement window wells. If the window well structure or the windows themselves are not properly sealed, a leaky basement is a frequent consequence.

How Dry Should a Basement Be?

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
basement water damage

In many cases, a dry basement doesn’t happen naturally. In fact, basements are almost a laboratory setting for the accumulation of humidity and moisture. Ideally, basement humidity should be kept below 50%. Factors working against maintaining a dry basement include:

  • Soil moisture exuding upwards through the foundation
  • Significant condensation as warm moist air contacts chronically cool basement walls and floor
  • Leaky or “sweating” plumbing pipes routed through the basement
  • Cracks in the foundation wall that admit groundwater seepage, particularly during the summer rainy season
  • Overflowing roof gutters or downspouts that are too short
  • Running clothes washing machines and driers in the basement

When a dry basement becomes chronically wet:

  • Moisture plus the unventilated basement environment provides ideal conditions for the growth of toxic mold that may continuously contaminate the living spaces above
  • Damp basements are often a source of musty odors that infiltrate the house
  • Household systems, including the furnace and main electrical panel, are frequently located in the basement and may be deteriorated by moisture exposure
  • Pre-sale inspections include inspecting and verifying a dry basement; a wet basement may discourage prospective buyers and/or attract lower offers

Creating a dry basement—and keeping it that way—requires a multi-faceted approach:

  • Purchase a hygrometer to determine moisture content inside the basement.
  • Have a plumber inspect pipes routed through the basement and repair leaks and/or insulate pipes that sweat.
  • Locate and repair cracks in basement walls that admit groundwater. Apply waterproofing paint to all walls to reduce micro-seepage.  
  • Install a sump pump in the basement floor to remove rising groundwater and reduce pressure against the underside of the foundation.
  • Make sure roof gutters are unobstructed and not overflowing during rain.  Gutter downspouts should discharge water at least three feet from the house.
  • Buy a dehumidifier sized for the square footage of the basement. The best choice is a model that integrates a hygrometer and automatically maintains the desired humidity setting at all times. Run the humidifier drain line into a basement drain.
  • Properly vent a clothes dryer installed in the basement to the exterior of the house.

Four Ways a Leaky Basement Can Damage Your Home

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020
 leaky basement

One way or another, a leaky basement ultimately becomes an issue for the rest of the house, too. It becomes impossible to separate water damage issues occurring down there from the overall integrity of the home’s structure, as well as its healthy indoor environment. A leaky basement may occur due to hydrostatic pressure pushing groundwater up through the foundation, over-saturated soil seeping through basement walls after heavy rain, sump pump failure, leaky plumbing pipes, or ruptured water heater.

Whatever the cause, the presence of water seepage or flooding in an enclosed basement just beneath your living space isn’t something you should live with for long. Here are four major consequences of a leaky basement:

  • Foundation damage. Groundwater infiltration through tiny fissures and pores in the foundation steadily degrades the structural integrity of the cement. Eventually, a water-damaged, deteriorated foundation no longer provides sufficient support and the house will begin to shift under its own weight, inflicting expensive damage to the structure.
  • Weakened walls. The sturdiness of basement walls can be compromised by leakage due to high soil water content. During periods of heavy rain, water seepage may occur through mortar joints between wall cinder blocks. This reduces the structure’s strength and can cause inward bowing of the wall, as well as widening cracks that admit more water.  
  • Electrical issues. Components relating to the home’s electrical system are located in the basement. The circuit breaker panel often installed there may be affected by water damage, particularly leaking or ruptured plumbing pipes. Electrical wiring is also routed through the basement. A wet circuit breaker panel in a leaky basement requires total replacement. Most electricians recommend that any submerged wiring should also be replaced for safety reasons, even if it appears to dry naturally.
  • Mold growth. A leaky basement is like a mold laboratory. Once water is added, all the required ingredients are present for active fungal growth. Microscopic airborne spores originating from contamination in the basement migrate upward and spread toxic mold into the living spaces of the home, presenting a health hazard to susceptible individuals. 

Water Damage: Basement, Attic, & Crawl Space Concerns

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020
water damage

While water damage is unwelcome anywhere it occurs in a house, the causes and effects often differ according to where it happens. While water tends to spread rapidly inside a house, certain parts of a home are simply more likely to be the origin, either due to the orientation of a particular space or the presence of certain contributing factors. Here are three specific areas often impacted by damage from water, as well as what’s typically involved in recovery:

Basement

Because water tends to flow downward to the lowest point, a home’s basement is typically ground zero for damage. Other factors include ruptured plumbing supply lines routed through the basement, sewage backups, and groundwater seepage through cracks in the foundation or basement walls.

A flooded basement holds water effectively and must usually be pumped out, then dried using high-volume ventilation. Mold remediation techniques are also required to inhibit contamination. Installation of a sump pump is advisable to prevent future flooding. Caution: due to electrocution hazard, never wade into a flooded basement. Contact an electrician to shut off all power first.

Attic

Usually the result of a leaky roof, attic damage from water may proceed unnoticed for some time. Ceiling stains and/or dripping into rooms below are often the first indication.

The saturated ceiling drywall must be replaced. Wet fiberglass attic insulation must usually be removed for drying, then treated to prevent mold. Saturated cellulose insulation cannot be effectively dried and must be replaced. Water in an attic may also infiltrate HVAC ductwork routed there, triggering mold contamination inside ducts.

Crawl Space

Water damage affecting a crawl space typically originates from heavy rain outdoors or a ruptured indoor pipe. A crawl space may remain wet due to a lack of ventilation and evaporation. This promotes mold growth as well as deterioration of wooden structures, including the subfloor. Moisture also creates a habitat for pests and vermin.

Outdoor water intrusion into a crawl space requires sealing entry points to keep out flooding. Grading the surrounding landscape to divert water is also helpful. Keeping a chronically wet crawl space dry may also require continuous fan ventilation.

Five Tips for Dealing With Basement Water Seepage

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019
basement water seepage

According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, basement water seepage is a problem in over 60% of homes that have a basement. A frequently wet basement becomes an increasingly unusable space in the house. Seepage threatens items stored there, attracts pests and vermin, and supports toxic mold growth. Most basement water seepage issues can be reduced to two principal causes: heavy rainfall seeping down and ground water rising up.

Rainfall Issues

Rain deeply saturating soil surrounding the house perimeter induces hydrostatic pressure against basement walls, promoting seepage through tiny cracks in the walls. Reduce rainfall-related seepage into the basement with these steps.

  • Keep gutters clear. Clogged gutters can overflow over 1,000 gallons of water during a 1-inch rainstorm. This torrent soaks deep into soil directly below, producing hydrostatic pressure and triggering seepage.
  • Extend downspouts. Gutter downspouts may be too short, releasing water where it saturates the ground adjacent to basement walls and causes seepage. Downspouts should be extended to discharge water at least three feet from the house—even more is better.   
  • Grade to divert water. Make sure landscaping surrounding the house slopes slightly to move water away from the structure. Add extra topsoil to create a downward slope of approximately 4 inches in the first six feet away from the house.

Groundwater Pressure

Where a high water table occurs naturally, groundwater may rise to a level higher than the basement floor. Seepage then occurs through cracks in the floor as well as at the joint between the basement wall and the floor.

  • Add a sump pump. Installed in a basin excavated in the basement floor, a sump system collects rising ground water to relieve pressure under the floor. The pump actuates automatically to pump water out of the basin through a discharge pipe and typically releases it somewhere in the backyard, far from the house.  
  • Install a footing drain. Buried around the perimeter of the basement foundation, a footing drain incorporates a perforated pipe surrounded by gravel backfill to collect and carry away rising ground water. This reduces seepage at the joint between the basement wall and floor.

Six First Steps After a Basement Flood

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
Basement Flood

Many types of water inundation inside a house will end up in the basement if the volume of water is significant. A flooded basement will not drain or dry out on its own. It rapidly becomes a stagnant source of structural damage and mold contamination, as well as a danger zone for hazards like electrocution. Several important steps must be taken as soon as basement flooding is discovered. 

First, what not to do: Don’t assume the basement is safe. All basements contain electrical wiring and often outlets and appliances. Electrocution is a real hazard in a flooded or wet basement. Never contact or wade into standing water in a basement until an electrician has cut off electrical power to any circuits that are affected by water.

Once electricity is off and it’s safe to do so, here are some suggested steps to take:

  • Determine where the water’s coming from. Is outdoor flooding due to heavy rain entering the basement? Or, is it clean water emanating from a ruptured supply pipe?
  • If the water originates from a ruptured household supply line, turn off water to the house at the main shutoff valve if the valve can be safely accessed. Call a plumber for emergency service if necessary.
  • Sewage backups frequently enter the basement first because it’s the lowest point in the house. Raw sewage poses a toxic hazard and must be handled by experienced water damage professionals equipped for the job. Avoid entering the basement and keep children and pets out, as well. If you must enter, it’s advisable to wear gloves, eye protection and a breathing mask.  
  • Seek professional advice about removing water more than a foot deep. Deeper basement water should be removed in stages. Pressure from saturated soil surrounding basement walls may cause the walls to collapse if all water is pumped out at once.
  • Mold growth is triggered in 24 to 48 hours after basement flooding occurs. After water is removed, qualified mold remediation services are required to prevent contamination.
  • To prevent recurrence of basement flooding, consider installing a sump pump in the basement floor

3 Common Basement Water Issues and How to Handle Them

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

basement water issuesIn your home, the basement is where destructive water damage can occur. In many cases, the basement is either the origin of unwanted moisture or its ultimate destination. Water infiltrating from almost any source typically affects the basement of the house first. An enclosed basement can quickly become an unhealthy environment for moisture formation due to high humidity and condensation.

Here are three common basement water issues:

Condensation

Moisture condensing from clammy basement air creates chronic dampness that spawns basement mold growth. It also deteriorates exposed wooden structural components. To eliminate condensation, reduce your basement’s humidity level:

  • Ventilate with fans or by opening basement windows. A basement ventilation fan permanently installed in the rim joist or upper segment of the basement wall exhausts damp air directly to the outdoors.
  • Install a dehumidifier. For continuous humidity removal, a basement dehumidifier with an integrated humidistat maintains basement humidity to specific settings.
  • Vent the dryer. If a clothes dryer is installed, make sure it exhausts through a duct that extends outside the house’s exterior.
  • Insulate plumbing. Uninsulated water pipes routed through the basement form a cold surface that condenses water from the air, dripping and saturating the pipe’s surroundings.

Soil Water Infiltration

Water in soil surrounding the basement may seep in through cracks and gaps. Sealing basement walls is usually only a partial solution. Reducing soil moisture content is also required. Make sure clogged roof gutters aren’t overflowing and contributing to the saturation of soil adjacent to the basement. Grade landscape around the foundation so rain water flows away from the house instead of soaking in. For persistent soil water issues, a drain tile system can be installed in the ground surrounding the foundation to collect and carry away excess water.

Rising Ground Water

In locations with a naturally high water table, rising ground water may penetrate the basement floor. A sump pump installed in the basement floor collects ground water and automatically pumps the water through a pipe to discharge outdoors. A sump pump performs double duty and prevents flooding in case a pipe ruptures in the basement and causes flooding.

3 Possible Causes Of Water Damage To Check On Regularly

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

ceiling water damageWaiting for it to happen isn’t the best strategy to avoid water damage in the home. Many water damage crisis events are actually the culmination of an ongoing problem that’s been worsening for some time. Keeping an eye on a few of the most likely suspects—and taking prompt preventive action, ASAP—is always preferable to reacting after the fact. To avoid water damage in the home before it happens, here are three possible causes to check on regularly:

Roof Leakage
Chronic roof leakage can severely damage wooden attic structure, ruin insulation and spawn toxic mold before you’re aware of it. By the time roof leakage finally drips through the ceiling down into living spaces, extensive attic water damage is a fait accompli. A couple of times a year, climb into the attic and look for evidence of leaks. If it isn’t raining, you may only see evidence of previous water intrusion such as dark streaks on the underside of sub-roofing, rotting wood structure, saturated or deteriorated insulation and the telltale musty odor of mold contamination.

Plumbing Issues
Drips and other signs of plumbing dysfunction shouldn’t be accepted as “normal.” A dripping water supply line is a red flag warning of a potentially catastrophic pipe rupture that could flood your house with hundreds of gallons. Inspect water supply lines anywhere they are visible including inside kitchen and bathroom cabinets and behind fixtures. Shine a flashlight into the crawl space and look for wet spots or dried mineral residue on pipes that indicates seepage.

Sewer Problems
Buried under your yard, the household sewer line can harbor a hidden source of water damage, poised to strike. Tree root intrusion, collapsing segments and other unseen dysfunction can trigger reflux of raw sewage into the house—a toxic biohazard that requires extensive professional decontamination to make the premises safe again. Video inspection of the sewer line is the gold standard to check for developing problems before a backup occurs. Schedule inspection with a qualified plumber every three to five years.

Preventing Winter Water Damage To Your Furnace

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018

furnace

Exposure to water is potentially damaging to gas-fired furnace components including internal valves, burners, as well as electronic boards that control the system. For this reason, a furnace contacted by water is often declared a safety hazard and must be replaced.

To help prevent winter water damage to your furnace, keep these common issues in mind:

  • Prevent frozen pipes. During frigid winter weather, water gushing from a water supply pipe that has ruptured due to freezing often floods the basement where the furnace is installed. Insulate vulnerable spans of pipe and close any openings that allow cold outdoor air to infiltrate into areas of the house where pipes are routed. If a hard freeze is forecast, turn on household faucets and allow them to trickle overnight.
  • Manage melting snow. A deep snow bank accumulated next to the house may seep water into basement walls below as it melts. Basement contents including the furnace can be damaged. Landscape around the house perimeter should be graded to divert snowmelt away from the foundation. Where possible, shovel or blow deep snow away from the house before it melts.Installation of a sump pump helps avert repeated basement floods.
  • Keep condensate flowing. High-efficiency residential furnaces with AFUE ratings above 90 produce gallons of liquid condensate, usually discharged outside the house through a drain pipe. Under frigid conditions, the drain pipe may freeze and obstruct flow. Blocked condensate backing up into the furnace will overflow and shut down the furnace, potentially damaging components and/or the interior area where the unit is installed. If condensate freezes occur, contact a qualified HVAC contractor to relocate and/or insulate the drain line.

For prevention techniques and professional recovery services if winter water damage strikes, contact Rytech, Inc.