Basements are an attractive feature for many homebuyers. They provide storage, recreational, and utility space, and last but not least, shelter from the storms.
The drawback comes with being below ground. Water seeks its lowest level, and from excess humidity to potential flooding, basement water issues can cause major problems for homeowners.
The problems can grow as the house ages. As time goes on, small cracks form along walls and the foundation. Rain and groundwater water can trickle through these cracks and cause major issues over time.
Someone has to do it
And even without settling, basement walls can absorb water from the soil around them (concrete is porous, after all), which can make basements feel and smell humid. Mildew damage can also occur. Fortunately, a good dehumidifier can usually handle that issue.
Some remedies for damp and wet basements can be a simple DIY fix for around a few hundred dollars or less. But hiring a professional can set homeowners back $2,000 to $6,000, according to HomeGuide.
Here's what you can do
But before committing to that cost, bobvila.com recommends the following:
1. Find the source of water
Basements tend to have cement or other solid-surface floors. That should help you trace the source of those streams and puddles of water. Likely culprits include areas around windows and pipes or other water lines coming into your house. Another common cause is cracking along the bottom of walls. Examine closely.
2. Fill in cracks
If cracks are the cause, this can be a relatively easy fix that you may be able to tackle yourself using hydraulic cement. But you'll need to work fast -- this type of cement sets in three minutes!
3. Fix window leaks
Window wells can hold water, especially if a drainage system wasn't put in under the window wells when your home was built. That water can end up in your basement. Fitting window drainage structures can be a more difficult undertaking post-construction; however, there are ways to remedy window issues. One solution is to dig out an area about two feet lower than your window and pack that area with gravel.
You can also consider installing a window well cover, which will also help direct water away from your windows. Additionally, you may want to recaulk your windows.
4. Protect bare walls
If your basement walls are bare -- meaning cement or cinder block walls -- you could consider painting them with a waterproof paint. Waterproof paint has a sealant mixed in, and when applied correctly, it will create a waterproof surface.
While waterproof paint is a great option for bare walls, it cannot be applied over other paint. You have to remove existing paint, if it's there, before putting on the waterproof variety.
5. Stop more water damage
Sometimes this can be as simple as rethinking your landscaping and moving plants and shrubs that require frequent watering away from your home's foundation. Also, look for other ways water may be damaging your foundation and basement walls. For example, check your gutters or other drainage systems to make sure water isn't collecting around your foundation.
6. Call in the professionals
If all else fails or you can't find the source of water, you may have to consider hiring a specialist who can install indoor and/or outdoor drainage systems. But be aware that indoor drainage systems can run around $5,000, while outdoor drainage systems can cost around $10,000.
Friends in low places
Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, there's no reason you can't waterproof your basement with some time, thought, and a bit of money. It's something to especially consider if you're looking to use your lowest level as living space for yourself or a tenant.
Proactive maintenance will help keep you high and dry while protecting the investment in your house from the bottom up.