While you shouldn’t rule out a home with a wet basement, you do need to do some further investigation before going ahead with a purchase agreement. We’ve been a part of hundreds of home inspections in Mountain View over the years. Many times we get called in when a home inspector or buyers agent discovers a potential problem and recommends an experienced remodeling contractor come in and give an assessment.
Since basements are basically a hole in the ground, kind of like an inground swimming pool, and rainwater will naturally flow to low lying areas, basements are bound to have some sort of water problems. Sometimes the seller of the home you buy may not even know of them. At other times, they may try and conceal them. At best you have a repair job ahead of you. At worst, you could be in a legal battle trying to recoup the cost of repairing your basement.
Along with seeking the advice of a traditional home inspector, if you suspect water problems in the basement, your safest bet is to have a waterproofing contractor inspect the basement before you buy the house. After all, you wouldn’t purchase a second-hand car without asking an expert for an opinion, and having the vehicle tested too. It makes sense to apply the same logic when buying a second-hand home. The waterproofer’s report shouldn’t cost you an arm or a leg either, but could potentially save you from tens of thousands of dollars in home repairs.
Things to Look Out For
Insist on doing the inspection without the seller or their agent hovering nearby. Alarm bells should start ringing in your head the moment you spot any of the following:
- The characteristic musty smell of damp or mold. If you find it in a basement, there’s bound to be moisture down there somewhere too.
- Water staining anywhere on the ceiling, floor and walls. Make sure you bottom out on the cause, and find out if it’s still happening.
- The white powder the experts call efflorescence. Water leaves this behind over a period of time after it evaporates.
- Plaster rendering is coming away because of spalding happening inside the wall itself.
- Black, brown, green or yellow mold that needs a damp environment in which to take root and multiply.
Things that You Could Attempt Yourself
Sometimes the cause of basement damp is a leaking water pipe or a faulty appliance. If it’s a transient problem like that and you’re a handy person, you may just need to tighten up a joint or two. In other words, the basement is not the problem – it’s the way it’s being used.
The solution can also be as simple as redirecting rainwater where it’s discharged from a gutter, adjusting a garden sprinkler system, or unblocking the drain in a window well. Again, here the basement is quite sound. But no basement will perform well if there’s water dammed up around it.
More Serious Problems
If the above issues are not present, and there’s moisture penetrating through the basement walls from outside, then you have a real problem. Either the drainage systems that were put in place have failed, or they were inadequate in the first place. It’s pointless even trying to stem the flow of water with a cheap kit from a hardware store. You’ll most likely need a professional to assess the situation.
Avoiding All of This
We alluded earlier to the wisdom of arranging a proper survey before bidding for a home that includes a basement. Why take chances with your biggest investment? Obtain peace of mind. Have it checked out first by a certified waterproofing contractor. Know what’s on offer before you buy.