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Basement Waterterproofing Learning Center
Basement Waterproofing Learning Center

What Causes Basement Leaks

The way basements are constructed makes them vulnerable to water intrusion and leaks.

Basic construction layout for a basement

Water ideally flows down through loose soil near the foundation and away from the basement. When drainage fails or soils shift and settle, water pressure increases against the foundation, increasing the potential for leaks.

What causes water to leak into a basement? It’s easy to blame a wet basement on mistakes made during a home’s construction process, but this is rarely the case. The truth is that even a well-constructed basement foundation can still end up with a water problem.

Taking a closer look at how a typical basement foundation is built, we can identify several steps that introduce an opportunity for future basement water problems.

1. Excavation and Backfilling:

Excavation is followed by the pouring of the footings and walls of a basement, and at that point the excavated soil is backfilled into place. This soil that is backfilled against the walls of the basement foundation is looser and more permeable than the “virgin” soil that was left untouched. Higher permeability means that this looser soil absorbs more water, especially when it rains, which naturally collects against the foundation wall.'

Takeaway: The soil closes to your foundation is more absorbent and permeable.

2. Exterior Drainage:

An exterior foundation drain is often installed to provide an escape route for groundwater. Unfortunately, these drains frequently fail, sometimes when a section of the drain line is crushed during the backfilling process. Even if properly installed, an exterior drain line will eventually clog up with silt or become obstructed by growing roots. With no escape route, hydrostatic pressure builds up against the foundation.

Takeaway: Drainage is often improperly designed and installed and even when well designed, eventually clogs and fails.

3. Gaps Intentionally Created During Basement Construction

Water under pressure follows the path of least resistance and naturally seeks out any crack, gap or opening. In a basement, the crack between the basement’s slab floor and the foundation wall is an open invitation for water to intrude. This gap is intentionally designed to act as a control joint to prevent cracks from forming in the center of the floor. Thus, the concrete floor is poured in a separate process after the basement walls are built.

Takeaway: Water will find every opportunity to seep, leak (and sometimes gush) into a basement.

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