Look Up, Look Down!

Follow these simple steps to troubleshoot your wet basement.

The problem.

Flooded, Wet Basement
Looking Down into the Abyss!

The area around Evansville, Indiana is especially prone to wet winter and spring times. Unless you’re a fish, water in the basement is one of the most frustrating things that can happen to a home owner. It can destroy cherished items stored there, create dangerous mold or charged electrical situations, lead to structural problems, and just generally make you feel like things are not under your control in your own home.  Peace of mind is gone the the moment you see water running down your walls or pooled in your corners. If you notice water in your basement, or even just damp basement walls, here are a few questions to help you troubleshoot the severity of the problem, and ways to fix it.

1. Look up!

Look up in your basement and around your home!
Make sure to look UP^

1.1 Are your gutters still there?

It may sound as obvious as “Is it plugged in?” but that’s what makes it the best starting point, and a good rule of thumb: eliminate the obvious first. If your gutters are missing or damaged/bowed in places, repairing them is a clear first step. But what if your gutters look just fine from where you’re standing? Are we ready to move on? Not quite. Keep those eyes on the roof!

Home Run!

1.2 Are your gutters clogged?

You may have to break out the ladder, or better yet your neighbor’s irritating drone, for this one. What you’re looking for are leaves and twigs and anything else that might be preventing your downspouts from emptying where they should. If you have clogged gutters, the water will find its way out any way it can. Which means it’s probably dumping it right over the edges, right next to your foundation. If you notice a gutter clog, it’s time to not only remove the debris, but to think about preventative measures. Midwest Structural Solutions has a forthcoming post outlining the best options, but in the mean time, you can’t go wrong with advice from This Old House!

1.3. Are your gutters sloped to channel water toward the downspouts?

You’d be surprised by how many homes have gutters that sit level, or, even worse, with their highest end opposite the downspouts. We’ve even seen gutters that form a valley in the middle between two downspouts! Some of this is due to shoddy installation, some due to settling and wear and tear. Either way, it’s a problem that’s crucial to address as soon as possible, as it could be channeling water right to your foundation.

2. Look Down

Make sure to look down at your downspouts and grading.

2.1. Check your downspouts.

This bleeds into the topic of the next question, as both involve the grading of the property around your foundation. But for now we’ll focus on the downspouts.

Are your downspouts correctly spaced and connected?

2.1.1. Are your downspouts correctly spaced?

Typically, downspouts should be placed every 20-30 feet along the roof line, but this depends on factors such as type of roof, the slope of your property’s grade, and so forth. If you’re unsure whether the spacing is causing an overflow (you can always don a raincoat and take a look up at your gutters during a good rain), call a professional to investigate.

The most accurate way to check the grading of your property is to use a laser, but if you’re like most homeowners, you don’t have such high-tech landscaping equipment lying around. A less tech-y way to accomplish this is to use an 8-foot board with a 4-foot level placed on it. Measuring from your foundation, over eight feet, you should see at least a 1″ drop away from the house. Sometimes this is more complicated (isn’t everything?). If there’s a sidewalk running alongside your house, for instance, it might make re-grading your property difficult. These are just the first steps toward troubleshooting how water might be getting into your basement or crawl space. At Midwest Structural Solutions, we always hope you can solve the problem simply and inexpensively, and we’re here to help you figure out the best way forward. If you’re in the Evansville, Indiana area–including nearby towns Newburgh and Boonville, as well as Owensboro and Henderson, Kentucky–Contact us today for a free inspection, or even if you just have a question about doing your own home inspection. We love talking shop!

2.1.2. Are your downspouts optimally placed?

Water should not be emptying out close to a crawl space or basement window. If you find this kind of poor downspout placement, it’s time to engineer a solution. You might be able to solve this with a few home improvement tools and a trip to your local home improvement store. Otherwise, call a professional. Many roofing or foundation repair companies like ours will offer a free consultation.

2.2 Check the grade of the ground around your house.

Make sure the grade moves down and away from your foundation so water moves away from your home.