The Top 4 Causes Behind Basement Leaks and What to Do About Them

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    Letting small leaks become bigger problems is a common and costly mistake. Many homeowners are apprehensive about the cost of foundation repair services, but early-stage fixes are preferable to the alternative. Learning to recognize the usual suspects behind basement leakage helps you save time, money, and property damage.

    Consider the expense to remove only an inch of clean basement water: This can range from $500 to $1500 while the price of basement drainage repairs could hit $8500. The best (and least expensive) way to keep your basement from being flooded is to be proactive about leaks and speak to the pros in foundation maintenance services.

    The 4 Most Common Causes of Basement Leaks

    Leaks may seem like they appear from nowhere, but most can be traced back to a few root problems. Here are the four most common causes of basement leaks.

    1. Compromised Walls

    Basement walls are prone to contraction and expansion through temperature change, foundational shifts, and exterior water influence. These can cause vertical, diagonal, and horizontal cracks that worsen over time.

    These classic weak spots often leave small spaces open that can become leaks:

    • Cove joints (where basement walls meet the floor)
    • Mortar joints (which bind foundation blocks together)
    • The tops of foundation walls 
    • The areas where pipes enter and exit a basement wall 
    water type image

    Any sign of a compromised wall means it’s time to consider foundation repair services. A hairline crack today can quickly become a future headache.

    2. Weak Window Wells

    Window wells are designed to keep water and other damaging debris away from your basement windows. Shabby wells don’t do their job and the problem is doubled if the window frame itself is already compromised.

    Backed-up water in an underperforming well creates the risk of slowly eroding windows, even if the windows themselves are in good condition — water causes steel frames to rust and wooden ones to rot. The sealant around window frames can then start to give way, and the frame can split or crack. Both of these allow water to leak into the basement and start trouble.

    3. Home Exterior Issues

    Downspouts are great for redirecting rain from the front of a house. They’re not so good if they’re pointing right at the foundations. All that moisture goes straight into the ground, where it gets absorbed through soil or cracks in the concrete and ends up seeping into your basement.

    4. Lateral and Hydrostatic Pressure

    These two forms of soil-based water pressure can lead to basement leaks by causing or exploiting foundational weaknesses like cracks. Lateral pressure is caused by the expansion of moisture-logged soil around a structure’s foundations.

    Hydrostatic pressure also comes from moisture-logged soil and causes pre-existing underground water to rise, pushing it from below into the basement. This can be the most complicated basement leak problem of them all, both to guard against and fix. Such work will require a specialized method of basement waterproofing.

    Not all of those issues can be tackled with home repairs, but many leaks can be patched up by the owner or a quick call to your contractor. Think hard before taking them on yourself, though, because a poorly repaired leak can hide the moisture rather than keep it out, and that can lead to bigger problems down the line. 

    DIY Basement Leak Repairs Techniques

    There are low-labor ways to address some of these issues assuming they’re not too serious. These four fixes are fairly easy and safe for home handymen to try:

    • Interior wall cracks and pipe access points can be plugged with polyurethane, hydraulic cement, or caulk.
    • Window wells should be checked regularly for signs of disrepair and any accumulated debris, which can be removed with gloves or a small vacuum.
    • Window wells can also be covered. The window frame can be inspected from inside to see if fixes are necessary for cracks, but replacing the sealing is a more complicated job best left to professionals.
    • Downspouts can be extended to reposition water flow away from the foundations, and improper runoff through gutter blockage can be reduced by gutter guards.
    inspection being done on potential basement leak

    Lateral and/or hydrostatic pressure leakage is a much bigger issue that can endanger the whole foundation. It will take a qualified and well-equipped team to assess and rectify this problem if it’s putting pressure on your basement.

    Risks of DIY Basement Leak Repair

    The tips above show how a property owner can do a few things to fight basement leaks, but the DIY approach can also make the situation worse. This is why it’s often best to call in experts when your basement starts showing signs of leaks or damage. It’s crucial to understand some of the potential risks:

    • Ineffective gutters are a threat to your home’s foundation, but cleaning and repairing your own without a sturdily fixed ladder, gloves, and protective glasses can lead to injury. And even with this equipment, second-story gutters can be a challenge, so we recommend a professional for your own safety.
    • Sealants are not a permanent fix for leaks. Water pressure will continue to build behind it if the underlying issue is not addressed.
    • You may be exposing yourself to mold, mildew, or the effects of radon as you attempt basement leak repairs, which can compromise your health.
    • Some leaks can deposit even a small amount of water into a basement that may be in contact with the house’s electrical system. DIY repairs under those conditions put the property owner at risk of possible electrocution. 
    • More significant leakage may be a sign of exterior structural damage, which will require advanced professional repair.
    • Some DIY repairs can void a property’s warranty and leave you high-and-dry if a manufacturer or insurance claim becomes necessary.

    These are only some of the situations a professional foundation repair service can handle without putting you or your home at risk. See our guide to projecting potential basement repair costs for more details more about leakage, danger signs, and the many metrics that influence a final waterproofing quote.

    Contact the Experts at LUX to Fix Your Basement Leaks in Northern VA

    LUX Foundation Solutions has over 25 years of combined experience in the construction and engineering industries. We’re fully trained and licensed in foundation repair and maintenance with over 1000 successful jobs to our credit. Contact us for your basement waterproofing needs in Northern Virginia or West Virginia.

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