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Fall Basement Maintenance Checklist

Tuesday, September 14th by Kristina McGovern


This handy basement maintenance checklist will help you keep your basement dry and in peak condition this fall and winter.

Basement window well cover with leaves

Window well covers help keep out leaves and debris that can clog basement window wells and cause them to fill with water that can leak into the basement.

Fall is the time to get your house in shape before the colder months arrive. Although late spring and early summer is typically the wettest time of the year in the US, autumn is a good time to take advantage of the mild weather to repair any damage. A leaky basement is more than an inconvenience. Water and moisture can lead to mold and mildew growth, attract pests, and cause structural damage. Here are some home maintenance tips that will help your basement stay dry all winter long.

Exterior Maintenance

Stair-step crack in a brick foundation

Cracks in the foundation provide a path for water and moisture to enter the basement.

Cracks in basement walls and poor drainage around the foundation contribute to a wet basement. The following tips will help you keep water from getting into the basement from the outside.

  • Check for foundation cracks and caulk around areas where wires or pipes enter the house and where masonry meets siding to prevent heat from escaping. Openings in the foundation let water into the basement, which can lead to larger cracks, mold growth, and water damage. If you notice cracks bigger than ¼-inch wide, bulging walls, or windows and doors that are hard to open and close, call a professional for a full foundation inspection.
  • Clean out gutters and downspouts after leaves have fallen, inspect joints, and tighten brackets if necessary. Clogged gutters are a leading cause of wet basements and crawl spaces. Leaves, sticks, and other debris in your gutters and downspouts prevent rainwater and melting snow from flowing through the gutter system. In those regions of the country with significant amounts of snowfall and extended periods of freezing temperatures, ice dams are common. They form when snow on the roof melts and refreezes at the edge of the roof, preventing the water from draining off the roof. The water that backs up behind the ridge of ice (ice dam) can get under the shingles, leak into the attic, and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and belongings.
    • Consider replacing old or damaged gutters with seamless gutters that have built-in leaf guards. Gutter Shutter features premium-grade aluminum designed to never warp, sag, or pull away, and a fully enclosed design that reduces clogging and the need for gutter cleaning. Downspouts should drain water at least four feet away from the foundation, so add downspout extensions if necessary.
  • Clean out basement window wells and double-check that there's no standing water in them to prevent the water from leaking into the basement. Install window well covers that allow light to enter, while keeping out water, leaves, and pests. If your window wells fill up with water, it’s recommended that you clean the gutters, extend downspouts, and fix poor grading to prevent water from pooling near the basement windows and foundation.

Interior Maintenance

Old rusted basement window

Old basement windows are a common source of water and moisture in the basement.

Because basements are built below grade, they tend to be humid, damp, or even wet - from time to time or only during the rainy season. Water from melting snow and ice can get into the basement, causing damp basement walls, puddles of water, or - worst case scenario - flooding. Before the first frost sets in, follow these guidelines to help keep your basement dry.

  • Check for signs of water leaks or excess moisture in the basement. The most obvious signs of a problem are puddles of water or a musty smell. Other symptoms to keep an eye out for are mold and mildew, rotted wood, peeling paint, white chalky stains, soggy cardboard boxes, and damage to furniture and items stored in the basement.
  • Check basement windows for drafts, loose frames, or cracked panes. Apply caulk around the frames to seal air leaks and cut down on drafts. If your basement windows are old, rotted, rusted, or cracked, consider installing replacement windows.
  • Check the sump pump to ensure it’s in good working condition. A sump pump helps prevent rainwater and melting snow and ice from entering your basement. Before the first frost sets in, make sure your sump pump is connected to power and turned on. Invest in a generator or a battery backup system if you live in an area with frequent storms and power outages - sump pumps only work if there’s power. Check the discharge line for obstructions. Make sure water can drain out of your pump’s discharge line if it becomes blocked with snow or ice - consider installing the IceGuard system. Perform model-specific maintenance to your sump pump and battery backup as needed or call a professional for service.
  • Check for signs of pest activity, including rodents, roaches, snakes, and other unwanted pests that are attracted by pooling water. A leak in the basement also increases humidity that can lead to structural damage by termites. Check the grading around your house and your downspouts to make sure that water drains away from the foundation.

Cleaning up a flooded basement is a lot of work and can be expensive. Instead, follow this list of simple maintenance tasks to reduce your risk for a wet basement this fall season. Basement waterproofing contractors are experienced in keeping basements dry with advanced drainage and crack repair solutions. For help, contact your local basement waterproofing contractor.

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