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It is very possible to move into a home and not realize that it has a wet basement. The signs of water damage are often subtle and some home sellers purposely hide the evidence of a damp or wet basement. Even home inspectors have been known to miss the signs of a leaky basement, especially during times of drought or sporadic rainfall. “If you use an inexperienced inspector, there’s a good chance they are going to miss it,” said Kevin Maynard, of Open Hearth Home Inspections.
In a February 2017 survey of U.S. homeowners and renters, 55% said they’ve lived in a home with a wet basement — of that group, 71% were not aware they were moving into a home with a wet basement.
Way Too Much Water
As the global temperature continues to rise, more and more cases of sudden downpours and extreme rainfall are expected. Reports of “severe weather outbreaks” are becoming much more common across the United States.
Heavy rainfalls and sudden downpours often overwhelm sump pumps. Cracks in the walls or foundation allow the water to seep in. But even a seemingly “watertight” home can have problems when the water that has seeped into the ground in the area surrounding the home becomes saturated. The pressure of this water on the concrete walls and floors of the basement become too much, and the water begins to seep into the basement through these barriers.
In addition, water that gets into the basement or any area of a home can often be traced back to clogged gutters.
Once water gets in, it’s a problem. If not properly addressed, it becomes a much bigger and much more expensive problem.
A Little Water Goes a Long Way
A flooded basement, wet, squishy carpeting, and water marks on walls and ceilings are hard to overlook. But water has a way of discreetly finding its way into the tiniest cracks and oftentimes, goes completely unnoticed. Small leaks also tend to be inconspicuous. These small but steady water intrusions can cause serious damage. Homeowners should be on the lookout for signs of water seepage and slow leaks:
- Musty odor in certain areas of your home
- Peeling paint or discoloration
- Wood floors that are cupping
- Spike in your water bill
What’s the Big Deal?
So there are a few areas of damp carpet. And some sections of drywall are dark with water marks. They’ll dry, right? Not likely. In fact, even with the help of fans and a dehumidifier, carpets, furniture, walls…anything that’s been exposed to water is not going to dry quickly and sufficiently enough to prevent the scourge of mold.
Of the survey respondents who had lived in a home with wet basements, 76% said they feared that they and their families were being harmed by mold. For good reason! According to the EPA, “Molds are usually not a problem indoors, unless mold spores land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. Allergic reactions to mold are common. They can be immediate or delayed. Molds can also cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to mold. In addition, mold exposure can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.”
The EPA advises that homeowners who choose to hire a contractor to remove evidence of mold should “make sure the contractor has experience cleaning up mold.”
Leave it to the Professionals
No one wants to have to deal with a wet basement or water leaking into any area of a home. You can and should take preventative steps to keep water out. If water does get in, it cannot be ignored. The average homeowner is ill equipped to detect exactly where the water has settled and it takes only a few days for dangerous mold to grow rapidly in areas that are not thoroughly cleaned and dried.
A professional water damage contractor can assess the true extent of the problem and bonus! It will save you money in the long run.
Austin Werner is the President of Real Seal LLC, a basement waterproofing company based in Schaumburg, IL. Real Seal is committed to personalized and expedited service and, of course, dry basements!