When Should I Worry About a Wet Basement?

Today we will talk about a not-so-fun situation that might be lurking right beneath your feet – a wet basement.

You’ve sensed something is wrong. You hear a dripping noise. Your floors just aren’t right. And then there is that musty, damp, rotten smell. 

It might be time to do some digging because these are some of the indicators of water damage in a basement.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “It’s likely just a bit of water; no big deal, right?” Well, not really. 

A wet basement is more than just a minor inconvenience; it might be a precursor for much bigger problems down the line. Problems you might not be aware of are possible with just a little bit of water.

In this post, we’re going to dive into everything you should know about wet basements – what causes them, why you should care, and how to repair a flooded basement. 

So, get ready, because throughout this post we’ll go over some actionable steps you can implement right away. Let’s go!

Signs of a Leak in a Basement

There are several indicators of a basement water leak. Some you only notice when you’re actually down in the basement; others you can notice almost anywhere else on the floors above it.

One of the telltale signs is a problem with your wood floors. If your floors are uneven, issue squeaky noise, or started warping or buckling, this tells us that something is wrong underneath. 

Now, this may simply be due to moisture accumulating in your subfloor (the layer beneath the hardwood). Causes for this could be a lack of a moisture barrier, water infiltration from the ground, or another type of damage happening below your house – basement flooding being one of them.

But I don’t get it, Bogdan! How does a leak in a basement possibly lead to uneven flooring?

You see, in your basement, there are these things called support beams. These beams are usually made out of wood, which is highly porous and susceptible to water damage.

They are essential components of the home’s framework, helping to evenly distribute the load of the structure and ensure its stability. 

Wooden support beams are commonly used in the framing of ceilings, roofs, and, you’ve guessed it, floors.

When these beams get wet, they weaken. Dampness weakens the fibers in the wood, reducing its load-bearing capacity. This can then make the support beams unable to carry the very structural loads they were designed for, causing shifts.

See where this is going?

This is one of the primary reasons why basement flooding is so dangerous. This is when you should worry about a wet basement.

Also, in structures where metal connectors, such as brackets or hangers, are used to join wooden beams, wetness can lead to their corrosion, further weakening the integrity of your home’s support.

If you’ve spotted uneven flooring, it’s time to put the gloves on ASAP.

But it doesn’t have to be this bad. In fact, most people will not experience this type of issue.

You’d need a whole lot of water and time. 

Instead, you may notice other, less severe problems, like:

  • Dripping noise when everything is quiet, usually at night
  • Sudden increase in water bills
  • Musty smell when you’re down in your basement
  • Mold growth in your basement
  • Cracks in your walls or foundation

Now, that last one is interesting. Not for good reasons, though.

While it’s not uncommon for foundations to develop some cracks over time, not all cracks are considered normal, and their significance can vary. 

Cracks can happen because of things like the ground settling, changes in temperature, or the concrete drying. However, what really matters is the cracks’ size, where they’re located, and what they look like. These factors help figure out if the cracks are just par for the course or if they need some attention.

Sometimes, you may have small, hairline cracks in a foundation that are nothing to worry about. 

Often showing up as concrete sets, surface-level cracks like these usually don’t mean there’s a bigger structural problem. 

But then there’s the question of whether a crack is horizontal or vertical.

Vertical cracks might happen because of settling or the concrete shrinking, and they are usually natural, not a sign of bigger foundation damage. 

On the flip side, horizontal cracks are alarming. They are a sign of distress, and you should further inspect the situation.

The size of the cracks matters too. 

Smaller cracks, less than 1/8 inch wide, are not a big deal, but larger cracks need a closer look. If a crack is getting wider over time, that could signal ongoing movement in the foundation.

And finally, if cracks are near corners or where walls meet, they can be more concerning than those in the middle of a wall. Those that go all the way through the foundation wall are the most serious.

If you have a foundation crack from the water, take care of it quickly. These cracks only get worse with time. Once they reach a certain size, they tend to get bigger exponentially faster. You may need to do some excavating to take the pressure off the wall before you can fix it. A patch will do almost nothing because the cause is still there.

Call a professional. Foundation damage can outgrow your DIY capabilities in no time. You’ll need assistance with this.

How Much Water in a Basement is Bad

Good question! However, there isn’t an exact number of liters where the line is crossed every time.

Instead, it’s all situational. Even a small amount of dampness in a basement can lead to mold growth, musty odors, and damage to items and materials around.

And then, the presence of puddles or standing water in a basement is a dead giveaway of more serious water damage.

The thing is, you will simply know just by looking at it whether the damage is minor and can be fixed easily, if it’s more concerning, or if sh*t has already hit the fan.

Let’s answer it this way – ANY amount of water on your basement floor is bad; it just varies how bad it is case by case.

Causes of Basement Water Damage

External Causes

First, before we get into what, let’s briefly go over when. Early spring is a favorite time for the basement to flood, for a variety of reasons. Some people would have extensive basement flooding every few years, even though they had taken extensive measures to prevent it.

Ice buildup in the spring can prevent water from soaking into the ground. If it rains heavily on top of this ice barrier, you will almost certainly get some carpet, wood, or even foundation water damage. The problem can come from both sides of the house, and it can be very difficult to permanently repair.

This is often referred to as hydrostatic pressure, which is pressure caused by groundwater against the foundation walls and floor of a structure. In this context, that structure is your house. When the soil around a foundation becomes saturated with water, the hydrostatic pressure increases, leading to leaks through basement walls and floors.

And then there are other types of pressure that push the water into your basement, one of which is capillary pressure

Capillary pressure is when the water moves upward through concrete or masonry against the force of gravity. 

There is also lateral pressure, which is water pushing horizontally rather than vertically. 

In colder climates, you may even experience something called the freeze-thaw pressure. Water that originally penetrated cracks in the foundation can freeze during cold temperatures, causing those cracks to expand. 

When the ice thaws, it can leave larger openings for water to enter. And the cycle continues until the issue is resolved. 

And then there is flooding. No further explanation needed. At this point, besides implementing some flood preparedness measures and following some safety practices, we’re all at the mercy of nature.

Now, these have all been external factors. While they’re still likely, it’s not like you’ll have to worry about them every month.

Let’s now cover some indoor basement flooding causes.

Indoor Causes

We’ve gone over these plenty of times on this site. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Busted pipes or other plumbing problems
  • Drainage issues that lead to overflows
  • Appliance leaks in your basement
  • Sewage backups

If you’ve had your pipes suddenly burst, we recommend paying for restoration services because this type of damage is usually covered by insurance.

The same goes for appliance leaks but unfortunately not for sewage or sump pump overflows.

Now, one thing that’s important to keep in mind is that insurance covers only the water restoration expenses, NOT the actual plumbing or appliance repair.

Having that said, if you don’t want to go the professional route, here are some tips for repairing basement water damage.

How to Dry Out a Wet Basement

To kick off, let’s start with the basics. A good solution for those struggling with persistent basement water damage is to use French drains around the foundation.

This is an inexpensive and simple solution to a big problem. You can do this yourself, though you need to consider how much time and strength you have to put in. It does involve a lot of shallow digging and some grunt work, but it is really not that hard.

The drain runs the perimeter of the house and can effectively stop a great deal of basement flooding. The water just does not have a chance to get past the French drains.

This was the solution in one of our team members’ friend’s cases and his water damage in the basement stopped completely. His total investment was very minimal, and he even enjoyed the physical work. He said: “I even used some cave-man technology to move some very heavy stones, using pipes and boards.”

Now, to actually clean up the water and mitigate any other damage, you’ll need some barebones cleaning supplies like a mop and a bucket. If the flooding is more extensive, you’ll likely require restoration equipment like air movers and dehumidifiers.

Follow our DIY water cleanup advice and make sure to mitigate the actual moisture source before anything else. This is critical because, if you don’t get rid of it, the water will just keep coming back. 

The same goes for mold. You can clean up the mold patches but if the moisture keeps returning, so will those mold patches.


And there you have it! Elaborate, extensive article on how to resolve a pretty significant problem many homeowners experience each year. We hope you’ll successfully resolve your issues on your own, without needing to hire any professionals.

However, if you can get coverage for your situation, professional restoration may easily be worth it

Nevertheless, thanks for checking out our post. Want to get connected to a pro right away? Call us today!

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