How To Distinguish Between Two Frequent Causes Of A Flooded Basement

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Few things can be quite as fear-inducing as the sight of a flooded basement. What makes this situation even worse is that it can often be difficult to determine the source of the problem. If you would like to learn more about identifying the cause of a wet basement, read on. This article will teach you how to distinguish between two common causes of a wet basement. 


The Problem

Runoff flooding is caused by excessive moisture retention in the ground around your home. This problem is most often observed after heavy rain or once snow has begun to melt in the spring. When such water isn't properly diverted, it builds up around the walls of your foundation. There, hydrostatic pressure will eventually cause it to seep into your basement.


The key to combating runoff-related flooding is to accurately diagnose the specific problem area. Once you've got a good idea of the cause, you may need to call in a landscaping contractor to help minimize the problem. In almost all cases, however, the first step is to take a little stroll around the exterior of your home.

Begin by evaluating the soil. Take note of whether it is level or has a slope. If sloping, is it angling toward your home, or away from it? The soil around a well-landscaped home should slope away from the house, with a minimum grade of at least 6 inches in the first 10 feet. Anything less than this can cause water to pool--and basements to flood.

Next, plan to take a look at your gutters and downspouts. If you're comfortable with it, get up on a ladder to check that your gutters aren't clogged with leaves or other debris--this can cause then to back up, sending water straight down into the soil around your walls. Ensure that all downspouts are attached securely and that there are no leaks.

Subsurface Seepage

As its name would imply, subsurface seepage is caused by excessive amounts of water in the soil beneath your home. In some cases, this is the result of building in a low-lying area. In others, it is the result of soil with a high clay content--and thus a high degree of water retention. Finally, it may simply be that your city or town is situated on an especially high water table.


Subsurface seepage can be difficult to identify because its symptoms often resemble those of runoff: water penetrating through thin cracks in the walls and floor and even moving slowly through porous layers of concrete. The difference is that runoff usually only manifests after periods of increased precipitation. Subsurface seepage, on the other hand, can happen seemingly anytime.

Combating subsurface seepage is much more involved than combating runoff. There are two main options: either the installation of an exterior drainage system, such as a French drain, or the installation of a sump pump in the floor of your basement. For more advice, speak with a water damage restoration expert.