Fast Fixes for Wet Basements: A watertight bonus space depends upon conditions upstairs and outside

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Got a basement space that’d be perfect for finishing if it weren’t for moisture and leakage issues? Don’t give up─instead, look up. Most of the time, basement conditions originate at the roofline of your home, where faulty drainage can send water in the wrong direction. The resulting runoff ends up in the soil surrounding a structure’s foundation, where it can easily leak into a basement through the walls or even up through the center of

Got a basement space that’d be perfect for finishing if it weren’t for moisture and leakage issues? Don’t give up─instead, look up. Most of the time, basement conditions originate at the roofline of your home, where faulty drainage can send water in the wrong direction. The resulting runoff ends up in the soil surrounding a structure’s foundation, where it can easily leak into a basement through the walls or even up through the center of the floor.

You don’t need to sign up with a waterproofing contractor to detect and correct such moisture issues…Just invest a little of your own time in careful investigation and minor adjustments, and you’ll soon have a properly dry, watertight basement ready to be transformed into an enjoyable and highly valuable bonus living space.

Up on the roof

Moisture problems begin on the roof of your home, which serves as the main collection point for water during every rainstorm. Stop potential problems at that level with a functional, well-maintained continuous gutter system equipped to carry rainwater in the right direction. For maximum effectiveness, there should be at least one downspout for every 600 to 800 square feet of roof surface, and all downspouts should extend to discharge at least four to six feet from your home’s foundation. Gutters must also be kept clean and clear of the debris that can dam up water’s flow, sending it straight to the foundation line rather than out through the downspouts and far away.

Down on the ground

After you’ve ensured that drainage conditions are tip-top where the roof and gutters are concerned, some ground-level investigation is due. The angle of the soil around a foundation’s perimeter is the second major cause of wet basement woes, so adjust its slope and drainage properties accordingly. The ideal setup is one in which the soil slopes away from your house on a downward angle of six inches over the first four feet from the foundation wall. From there, it can be graded more gradually, but should never allow water to flow back toward the house to collect against outer walls.

Also keep in mind that the type of soil surrounding your home can ground the best-laid drainage plans. Heavy amounts of landscaping topsoil can hold water against the foundation, so if you need to improve your grade, do so with clean fill dirt and add just a small layer of topsoil over that to support grass or other plantings. And speaking of plantings, don’t allow poor placement and neglected maintenance to get the better of you and your drainage system. Brick or wood planters and decorative edging can be foils if they’re stationed too closely to the foundation, as can dense groundcovers and overgrown bushes and trees.

Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show’s podcast or sign-up for Tom’s free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program’s website.

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