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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.

Extending the Life of your Sump Pump

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

sump pump maintenanceIf your sump pump fails, you probably won’t know it until the worst possible time: after your basement incurs water damage due to flooding, a plumbing rupture or ground water infiltration. Because sump pumps are concealed inside a covered basin in the basement floor, a defective pump may not be obvious until that critical moment when it’s needed most.

The average service life of a residential sump pump is seven to ten years. To maximize your sump pump’s lifespan and avoid unexpected damage due to premature pump failure, here are some tips to follow:


Run it. Because sump pumps often go extended periods without activating, some manufacturers recommend routinely test-running the pump every three or four months to confirm proper function as well as keep moving parts operating freely.

  • Fill a 5-gallon bucket of water and pour it into the basin.
  • Confirm that the float switch activates the pump.
  • Make sure the pump empties the basin, and the float switch turns it off promptly.
  • Also verify that water doesn’t flow back into the basin after the pump stops, reactivating the pump. This is a sign of a defective check valve in the discharge pipe which can shorten pump service life.

Once a Year

Clean the sump basin. Pull the pump up out of the basin and clear out any debris. Also clean the pump inlet screen to ensure that water flows into the pump chamber.

Check the GFCI outlet. Most sump pumps are plugged into GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt) outlets. GFCI outlets may switch off due to transient power surges taking place without your knowledge. Verify that the outlet has not switched off and that power is still going to the pump.

Observe pump discharge. Go to the outdoor termination point of the discharge pipe and make sure it’s not obstructed by dirt or other debris. Confirm that water flows freely out of the pipe.

Check the battery backup. If the pump has a battery backup feature, unplug the AC power cord and confirm that the pump activates on battery power when water is poured into the basin.

Sump Pump Failure… Dealing With the Aftermath

Friday, June 29th, 2018

wet basementA sump pump spends most of its time on standby, waiting for water. Should it fail to activate at a crucial time when water enters the sump basin, a flooded basement and associated water damage are the usual consequence. If your sump pump lets you down just when you need it most, here are some suggestions to deal with the aftermath.

  • First, be safe. A flooded basement is hazardous. Never enter a wet or flooded basement until the electricity to that area has been shut off at the main panel or the meter.
  • Stop the source. If the water originates from a ruptured plumbing pipe, turn off water to the house at the main shutoff valve.
  • Determine type of water. Flooding from a broken supply pipe is generally safe if less than 48 hours has elapsed and gloves, boots, waders and other protection are worn. Outdoor ground water seeping through basement walls is questionable and may contain bacteria or other toxins. Sewage backup into the basement is classified as a toxic biohazard and requires intervention by qualified water damage recovery services.
  • Remove what you can. If clean water is limited to shallow pooling, use mops or wet/dry vacuum to remove it, open any basement windows leading to the outdoors and run fans to circulate air.
  • Don’t attempt to pump it out yourself. Get professional advice first. If deep water is pumped from a flooded basement too rapidly, external pressure exerted by over-saturated soil pressing against basement walls may cause major structural failure.
  • Take preventive measures against mold. Mold growth in a basement following water damage should be considered inevitable unless proper remediation steps are taken within 48 hours. Contact qualified mold remediation services.
  • Avoid future sump pump failures with annual maintenance including clearing the sump basin of debris that could clog the pump inlet, as well as testing function of float switches by pouring five gallons of water into the basin and observing proper activation. If your sump pump failed because of a utility power outage, consider upgrading to a pump with battery backup feature.


Leaky And Wet Basements: A Disaster In The Making

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

leaky basementLeaky and wet basements pose a threat to home and health. A source of perpetual moisture just beneath your living spaces, a chronically wet basement creates issues that—unfortunately—don’t stay down in the basement. Deterioration from chronic basement moisture compromises the structural integrity of the house. Critical whole-house systems such as HVAC and electrical located in the basement are also vulnerable to water damage. Leaky and wet basements provide an ideal environment for toxic mold growth that spreads contamination throughout the entire home.

Moisture accumulation in a basement generally results from one or more of these sources:

  • Ground water rising or outdoor rainwater seeping downward into the basement.
  • High levels of indoor water vapor caused by an unvented clothes dryer, a bathroom and/or kitchen added to the basement and even residual moisture contained within the concrete foundation and walls that gradually weeps into the basement.
  • Dripping condensation as humid air condenses on cooler basement fixtures, particularly plumbing pipes typically routed there.

To mitigate basement moisture sources, several alternatives—often in combination—must be considered:

  • Where a high water table is pushing water up through the foundation, install a sump pump in the basement floor. If soaking outdoor rain is penetrating basement walls, verify that the landscape gradient diverts water away from the home. Make sure roof gutters aren’t clogged and downspouts discharge water at least four feet from the house. Installation of a french drain in the ground around the perimeter of the foundation also conveys soaking water away from the house.
  • Remove accumulating water vapor from the basement by installing exhaust fans that move moist air outdoors. Vent any appliances such as dryers or stoves.
  • Reduce basement condensation by installing slip-on foam pipe insulation on exposed water lines. Consider using a dehumidifier to continuously dry basement air.
  • Where toxic mold growth is suspected, get an inspection by a certified mold remediation professional to verify the presence of mold and specialized treatment to locate and neutralize active growing mold.

For more information about dealing with the causes and consequences of leaky and wet basements, contact Rytech, Inc.


4 Steps for Drying Out a Wet Basement

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

If drying out a wet basement is on your to-do list, you’re not alone. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, the majority of residential basements have moisture issues. In almost 40 percent of those, toxic mold growth is the unwelcome result. Other downsides of dampness include mildew, musty odors that permeate the entire house, water-damaged structure and inability to utilize basement space for storage or other purposes, due to the constant presence of moisture.

Drying out a wet basement often requires a multi-faceted approach to eliminate all potential moisture contributors. Here are four main sources of wetness and what to do about them.

drying out a wet basementReduce Condensation

“Sweat” on cool concrete basement walls and cold water pipes indicates a condensation problem. Warm, moist air migrating into the basement naturally condenses when it contacts these and other cold, underground components. To cut condensation; keep air moving with fans, heat a clammy basement during winter, insulate pipes and install a dehumidifier.

Clear Gutters

What’s a gutter on the roof got to do with moisture in the basement? Overflowing gutters cascade water around the perimeter of the foundation, deeply saturating the soil and permeating basement walls. During rainy seasons, clogged gutters serve as a continuous source of moisture infiltrating the basement.

Resolve Runoff Issues

Rainfall and snow-melt should flow away from the foundation. When it accumulates in pools instead, water soaks into basement walls. Grade landscape away from the house to encourage runoff into the yard. Also, flower beds around the perimeter of the house with open soil readily admit more water into the ground than areas covered with turf.

Drain Away Ground Water

If the natural water table beneath your house fluctuates, it may exert pressure on the underside of the foundation, allowing moisture into the basement. To relieve the pressure, a tile drainage system can be installed around the perimeter of the foundation. Usually, this is accompanied by installation of a sump pump in the basement floor.

Find out more about drying out a wet basement before mold growth and water damage result. Contact the professionals at Rytech, Inc.