Extension Connection: Keeping basement, crawlspace dry in summer

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As homeowners try to utilize every inch of space in their homes, many are transforming basements into extra bedrooms, recreation rooms and offices.

Unfortunately, all basements are vulnerable to some water penetration during their lifespan. Because many of the components of a dry basement -- such as drainage systems and exterior basement walls -- are not visible, their disrepair oftentimes only becomes evident when a problem occurs inside the house, such as when mold and mildew appear or a musty smell develops.

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Regardless of the home's age, the entry of moisture into crawl spaces and basements frequently is because of poor drainage on the outside of the home, so the best strategies for reducing moisture in a crawl space or basement are to:

  • Make sure gutters and downspouts are operating properly and removing moisture away from the house
  • Make sure the soil is graded sufficiently away from the home to force run-off from the roof to drain away from the structure
  • Use or install exhaust vents or windows to increase air flow in the crawl space or basement.

More tips for keeping your basement or crawlspace dry include:

  • Ensure a roof drainage system is installed. Gutters not installed at a roof's edge allow water to accumulate at the base of the house, next to the foundation walls. As a result, the increased presence of water may eventually end up in the basement. Where a roof drainage system is installed, ensure it is functioning properly. That is, water is effectively collected from the roof and conveyed to the downspouts. Likewise, make sure the downspouts are directed as far away from the home as possible. Quite frequently, downspouts will terminate at the base of the house. As a result, all the water collected from the roof is deposited at a very localized area at the base of the home thereby increasing the opportunity for infiltration to the basement.
  • Check the lay of the land. Attempt to provide as positive a slope of the soil away from the home as possible. Correct reverse or negative grades to make sure water flows or drains away from the home.
  • Keep vegetation in check. Certain species of trees and bushes will hold greater amounts of water and attract some through their root systems. Keeping these plants to a minimum and an adequate distance away from the home may assist in reducing water infiltration to the interior.
  • Where paved areas adjoin the foundation wall, ensure that a positive slope away from the house exists. Where a negative slope exists, undertake efforts to reduce the amount of water flowing along the foundation wall by sealing the joint between the paved area and the foundation with an appropriate resilient caulking or sealant material.

Following each of these steps may not totally eliminate water infiltration to the basement or crawl space area. However, they often will significantly reduce its presence. In some instances, additional steps may be warranted in terms of repairing cracks in the walls or other more intrusive water proofing efforts.

If this type of work is needed, you may want to engage the services of a qualified home inspector, engineer or other objective third party to more fully evaluate the conditions and recommend appropriate remedial action.

For more information, contact Elisa at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay St. or at 824-9180.

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