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Buying a New Jersey Home?

How to Tell If a Basement Has Water Problems

It’s a picture-perfect home. The kitchen. The bathroom. Everything that you could ever possibly want, this home has. Then it comes time to inspect the basement, and that’s when things go awry.

Buying a home isn’t something you do every day. For many people, it’s the most significant investment they’ll ever make. So before you sign your name on the dotted line, take a close look at the basement and make sure it’s as perfect as the rest of the home. It might not be as glamorous as the kitchen island or the outdoor patio, but it can have a real impact on your long-term finances.

No two basements in New Jersey are ever the same. That’s why we perform on-site basement waterproofing inspections during the home buying process. When you’re seeking a professional opinion from a qualified waterproofing company in Westfield, NJ, and surrounding areas, Blue Umbrella has you covered. But first, here are some tips to keep in mind when doing the initial basement inspection.

Symptoms of Water in a Basement

Every basement tells a story. While you can’t see what’s happening behind the basement walls, you can learn a whole lot just by looking at the surface. The walls will often tell you whether or not there’s a seepage problem to worry about.

The biggest red flag to look for is floor cracks and cracks in the basement walls. Vertical cracks are more common and typically don’t indicate a structural problem with the home. Horizontal cracks, on the other hand, mean that the walls have bowed inward, which can cause the foundation to eventually collapse. (If you take a leveler tool and hold it up against the wall, you can actually see just how much the wall has bowed in.) Stair step cracks mean that the foundation has settled unevenly and can indicate a structural problem with the home.

Floor cracks are typically a sign that your foundation is settling. Water can seep through these floor cracks in the basement floor and cause water damage. In turn, this can lead to mold growth, musty odors and bug infestations. It can also cause subsoil gasses such as radon to enter the basement.

 If there are visible cracks in the floor and walls, this means that hydrostatic pressure has already taken a toll on the foundation and warrants closer inspection from a waterproofing professional.

Here’s what else you should look for with the walls:

  • Efflorescence. This is a white, powdery substance that sticks to basement walls. If you see efflorescence on the walls, then there’s a moisture problem in the basement. If the home was recently built, efflorescence can develop if the concrete contained more water than it should have. Once the water evaporates, this won’t be an issue as long as there isn’t a separate moisture problem. Efflorescence is so common in New Jersey basements that we wrote an entire post about it.
  • Fresh paint. Homeowners are on a mission to sell their homes—period. There are a number of things they might do to make the house look more presentable and appealing to buyers, such as painting the basement walls. If you notice that the walls were recently painted, it’s definitely worth closer investigation. This is especially true if just one or two walls were painted. Fresh paint might make the walls look pretty, but it’s certainly not going to fix a looming water problem in the basement. Brick and block are both porous. So if the walls have leaked in the past, they will absolutely leak again.
  • Water stains. Pay special attention to the area where the floor meets the wall. This is where water is likely to seep through the foundation and where you’ll see the discoloration from water stains. Another common place to check is at the bottom of the basement stairs.

Other Signs to Look For

Since basements are a whole lot more than just the walls, there are plenty of other ways to inspect the space. Other signs of a leaky basement include:

  • Musty smells. No, we aren’t talking about Grandma’s mothballs! If you smell a musty odor in the basement, then there’s a moisture problem. This can mean that the home’s heating and cooling equipment isn’t properly controlling humidity levels in the basement. Or, it can also mean that water is seeping through the foundation. Either way, musty smells indicate mold in the home, which pose health risks even if you don’t spend time in the basement.  
  • Overflowing gutters or puddles outside of the home. Overflowing gutters can lead to water seeping through the foundation. Additionally, puddles surrounding the home indicate a poor drainage strategy. Check the downspouts to make sure they extend far enough away from the home to properly discharge the water. Even if the basement has already been waterproofed and a sump pump has been installed, it’s crucial to ensure the home has proper exterior landscape drainage.
  • Negative exterior grading. Negative grading is an open invitation for water to pool around the home, infiltrate the soil and eventually seep through the foundation. Check the home’s grading to ensure the land slopes away from the foundation rather than toward it.
  • Do-it-yourself fixes. Homeowners often try to avoid the cost of waterproofing and embark on a number of DIY projects. While it might have been sufficient as a temporary fix, it won’t last. You may notice hydraulic cement patches where the floor meets the wall and parging of basement walls to seal in moisture and water. Whether you notice a sloppy crack repair job, recent scrubbing on the walls to remove efflorescence or even bleach to remove mold and water stains, treat these repairs as signs of a larger basement water issue that needs to be addressed.
  • Bugs in the basement or crawl space.  This is a sign that the basement may be infested with rodents, bugs and other pests. Insects love to live in dark, damp places. Some common pests found in basements include silverfish, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, ants, termites, roaches, crickets, mice, rats and snakes.
  • Doors and windows stick and won’t shut properly. This is another sign that there’s a moisture problem in the home, quite possibly due to a leaky basement.
  • The sump pit is full of water. This is a sign that the existing sump pump may be broken. You want to make sure the pump is working properly should you buy the home and inherit the pump. If the pit is full of water, this means there’s a problem with the pump that needs to be fixed.
  • There’s rust on the furnace, water heater, washer or dryer. If the appliances in the basement are showing signs of rust, this can indicate a humidity problem in the home. Excess moisture can be combatted with a French drain installation, a dehumidifier or a combination of both, depending on the situation.

We Dry It, They Buy It!

Blue Umbrella Waterproofing works closely with real estate agents, buyers and sellers to improve basements and close deals with confidence. We will be happy to inspect the basement, provide estimates for homes under contract and, if needed, implement the right waterproofing solution.

Nothing can put a damper on a deal like a wet and leaky basement. We’ve been waterproofing basements and crawl spaces for years, so we know how to quickly identify the problem and deliver the best solution for everyone. Sellers will increase their home values (waterproofing generally offers a 30 percent return-on-investment, according to Angie’s List), buyers will have better peace of mind inheriting their new basements and real estate agents will close more sales. It’s a win-win-win for all!

Don’t be so fast to give up on your dream home. With an inspection and estimate from a trusted waterproofing company, you can get the answers you need about the basement to move forward with peace of mind.

To schedule a free on-site consultation for basement waterproofing in Glen Ridge, NJ, and throughout our service area, call Blue Umbrella Waterproofing at 908.443.7051 or contact us online today.


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