If you ever come into the unfortunate position that your basement has been flooded or you discover that your basement is always damp, you should know what are the correct steps to take to dry out a basement and importantly what can you do to keep your basement dry.
To dry out a flooded basement you have to pump or scoop all the water out as soon as possible. Then you have to dry the walls and floor with towels. All movable articles should be removed so that all the areas in the basement can dry out. With good ventilation and the application of heat in the basement, it will dry out. With well-planned precaution actions like installing a sump pump, you can ensure that the basement keeps dry.
In this article, we’ll discuss a procedure you can follow to dry out a basement, look at what might be the reasons for moisture in the basement, and find out how to keep your basement dry.
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How to dry out a basement
Basements are normally the part of your house mostly affected by water damage and leakage. Depending on your weather conditions and the water insulation in your house you might find yourself frequently in the position where you have to dry out your basement. And normally you want to do it fast.
When we talk about how to dry out a wet basement, it generally refers to one of two types of wet conditions that have to be dried out. The one is when water is flowing into the basement either from rain or faulty pipes or water systems, and the other type is where there is not actually a flowing of water in the basement, but everything feels damp.
How to get water out of the basement and get it dry
Let’s start with the scenario where you have a flooded basement.
When your basement is filling with water, even if it is very slow, you have to attend to it as soon as possible. The longer the water and dampness stay in the basement the more damage can be done. The damages can cost you literally thousands of dollars.
Thus, you have to act immediately to get water out of the basement as soon as it is detected, and the process has to be as fast as possible.
No matter what the cause of the inflow of water might be, the priority is to get everything dry again. The permanent fixing of the problem can be addressed later. However, when the water is still coming into the basement you will have to solve the problem temporarily to keep the water from coming into the basement.
The process to get the basement dry depends largely on
- the amount of water and
- the size of your basement.
To get the water out and dry your basement, you generally have to follow the following steps:
Step 1: Cut the electric power to the basement
Before you go into the wet basement – even just to have a look at the extent of the damage – ensure that all electrical connections to the basement and appliances in the basement are cut. Put the relevant circuit breakers off, or if possible, unplug all the connections.
Step 2: Determine where the water is coming from
Before you start drying the basement you have to determine where the water has come from, and whether it is still coming in. There is an informal “water color test” that you can apply to help you determine the source of the water if it is not rainwater.
When the water is coming from a bathtub, an overflowing sink or bath, or a broken water supply line the water in the basement will most probably be relatively clean and colorless. The water will be greyish in color if the source is the runoff of either a washing machine or a dishwasher. If the water is smelling and blackish in color it is often toilet-related.
Step 3: Stop the source if it is still spilling water into the basement
In most cases, the tap servicing the source can just be closed as a temporary solution. Depending on the source and the water supply to the source, it might be necessary to call a plumber immediately to fix the problem while you are drying out the basement. If, for example, you have to cut off the water supply to your house completely to stop the water from coming into the basement, you definitely need someone to assist you to attend to the issue to prevent a situation where your home is without water for hours.
Step 4: Dry out the water
Now you can attend to the main operation – getting the water out of the basement as soon as possible. If you can’t get the water out in 48 hours it might lead to the growth of mold and mildew.
To get all the water out as fast as possible, it is recommended that you pump it out with a portable sump pump or vacuum cleaner. If you don’t have either of these, use a bucket to scoop the water out. Whatever method you’ve used, after all the water is out, use towels to dry the floor and walls and everything “unmovable” in the basement.
Step 5: Remove everything that can be moved from the basement
After you’ve completed the previous step, get all movable stuff out of the basement. You’ll find that there are still moisture or even water left when everything is out. Use towels to dry everywhere.
Soaked articles must be left outside the basement until the articles and the basement are completely dry before they are put back into the basement.
Step 6: Clean the floor and walls with soapy warm water
To prevent the growth of mold, you have to clean the floors and walls thoroughly. Use clean, warm, soapy water. Remember to dry them off again. To leave a fresh smell in the basement you can spray some deodorant.
Step 7: Ventilate
Ventilate the basement until it is completely dry. A few fans will help circulate the air and enhance the drying process.
Step 8: Aftercare
For the next few days check every day for possible mold growth and remove it immediately if detected.
How to dry a basement that has no water in it but feels damp
Homeowners sometimes notice that their basements are feeling humid. It may even smell not good. When looking for water lying on the floor, nothing can be found. No puddles or droplets are visible.
However, when you look further you’ll see other signs of wetness like rotting wood, spongy carpeting or loose floor tiles. All these signs indicate that water and moisture are coming into the basement.
To rectify this problem you’ll have to investigate where the wetness originates. It may be a very slow leaking pipe or bad insulation around pipes or a basement door or window that is not closing tightly. When you’ve found and fixed the problem you can dry out the basement.
To do that, follow steps 5 to 8 as described above for the flooded basement. It is possible that the wood and carpet, for instance, have absorbed so much moisture that it will take quite a few days to dry out. Keep a fan (or more than one if it is a large basement) on until everything is dry, even if it takes a few days. It can also help if you can put the heat on in that area of the house.
Why is your basement not dry?
Now that you know how to get your basement dry, you probably wonder how and why it is getting wet. There are various reasons why you have a damp or flooded basement, and we’ll briefly discuss the three most common reasons.
Your basement can be “naturally” damp. This is normally due to condensation. Simply put, this means that when moist air comes in contact with cool places like basements in your house the wet air condenses and might form puddles of water on the ground – often your basement’s floor.
If the puddles are not attended to regularly they can easily become a small pool in your basement.
Another cause of wet basements is often a lack of proper rainwater drainage or clogged gutters. When the wetness in your basement is a result of insufficient rainwater drainage, the problem is described as “runoff.”
Runoff occurs when rainwater is not correctly diverted away from your house. The water then finds its way into the ground around the foundation of your house. The moisture from this wet ground forces its way into the floors and walls of your house – mainly your basement. This effect is called hydrostatic pressure.
A problem linked to the runoff effect is subsurface penetration. Houses are sometimes built on ground that has a high water retention capacity. Clay soil is a good example of ground with a high water retention capacity.
Water gets trapped in the soil after every rainfall and the groundwater level might rise. Hydrostatic pressure comes into play again and the water is pushed into the walls and other available spaces, like your basement.
How to keep your basement dry
There are various things that you can do and must do to keep your basement dry, but one of the easiest ways to keep moisture at bay, especially in a smallish basement, is as simple as putting cups of baking soda in bowls or jars and placing them around the basement. Replace the baking soda every 3-4 weeks. The baking soda absorbs moisture.
Unfortunately, it is not always so easy to keep your basement dry. Let’s look at what you can do to keep it dry. We’ll discuss the following:
- Insulate your cold water pipes
- Keep the foundations of your house dry
- Improve ventilation
- Waterproof your basement
- Keep gutters and downspouts clean
- Install a French drain
- Invest in a sump pump
- Seal the exterior side of the foundation
Insulate Your Cold Water Pipes
Most homeowners insulate the hot water pipes in the house, including the basement. This conserves energy as it keeps the water heater from overworking. Few homeowners insulate the cold water pipes in the basement. But it is also important to insulate your cold water pipes.
When the cold water pipes are insulated the insulation limits the condensation that forms on the pipes when the humidity is high. As the basement is the most humid place in your home, uninsulated cold water pipes “sweat” when the humidity increases.
Uninsulated pipes and ductwork produce condensation in the summer months that results in about a gallon of water on the floor each day in an average-size home.
Thus, insulating your cold water pipes in the basement helps to keep the basement dry.
Keep the foundations of your house dry
When you plan your garden and the overall landscaping of your plot, ensure that no water can accumulate around the foundations of the house. The water must be directed away from the house.
Check your foundation wall during heavy rains. If water is accumulating around the foundation you have to make a change in your garden to provide a downward slope.
You might perhaps even have to fill in areas that are pulling water down toward your basement. It is always good to surround your foundations with gravel as it will absorb unwanted moisture.
You can enhance mold growth in your basement if there is excessive humidity in your basement. If you use a dehumidifier in your basement it will keep the humidity down and your basement dryer. It will also help if you install an exhaust fan.
On sunny days, open the basement window if it has one, or leave the door open so that fresh and warm air can flow through the basement. The dry warm air will help to keep the basement dry.
Waterproof Your Basement
Whether you use the basement as a furnished living space or not, it is good practice to waterproof the walls and the floor. By using a waterproof sealant on concrete walls and floors you prevent water from seeping into the basement.
To stop the walls from gathering condensation you can cover them with a thick coat of water-resistant paint. A waterproof sealant also helps to prevent condensation to form on the concrete floors.
Keep gutters and downspouts clean
To help keep your basement dry you have to ensure that your house’s gutters and downspouts are not clogged. They form an important part of your drainage system. Well-planned gutters and downspouts divert rainwater away from your foundation.
Your downspouts should not drain directly at the foundation. They must extend off the house. Get some extensions from your hardware store and extend the spouts so that the water is sent 5 or 10 feet off the house.
Sometimes your gutters may overflow or pull away from the fascia board and then rainwater is dumped right next to the foundation. Repair or replace the faulty gutters and your basement will most probably be dryer during the rainy season.
Clean your gutters and downspouts as often as possible and keep them free of debris.
Install a French drain
A French drain is a common approach to basement water issues. It usually offers a highly effective solution to keep the basement dry. This is normally not a DIY job and it is recommended that you get a professional to install the French drain.
Concrete is removed from the floor around the inside of the foundation burying a drainage pipe that drains into a basin in one of the corners. A pump takes the water automatically to the exterior.
Invest in a sump pump
A sump pump is one of the most effective ways to protect your basement from flooding and to keep it dry. It is a good investment to install a sump pump (and even a backup pump as well) in your basement. The pump can be concealed in a sump pit if you use the basement as a living space.
Seal the exterior side of the foundation
Another very effective way to keep your basement dry is unfortunately also a very expensive solution. With this process, the exterior side of your foundation is sealed. This is also not a DIY job. A professional contractor will dig up the grade outside, all the way around your house. The contractor will dig down to the footing. The foundation will then be thoroughly power washed, and foundation mesh and a foundation seal coat will be applied. This method blocks moisture completely from entering your foundation walls and the basement.
A wet basement is inconvenient for homeowners to deal with. It can cause problems to your health, home, and property. Moisture often results in harmful mold and it can damage everything stored in the basement. It can also cause damage to your house’s foundation
The American Society of Home Inspectors estimates that 60 percent of US homes have wet basements.
But we believe that although wet basements may be a common problem, that doesn’t mean it is not a serious problem.
Therefore we’ve prepared this article to give you tips on how to dry out your basement and how to keep it dry.