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Apr 21 2015

CONTROLLING BASEMENT MOISTURE by Scott Gretzon, CLC

Basement moisture can often cause problems for homeowners, as it often happens with little warning before it becomes a major issue.  This is very common in the spring time as snow melts and has no place to go with frozen the ground.  Moisture can cause rust, paint damage, and mold, which can aggravate allergies and cause other indoor air quality problems, creating a whole different set of home issues.

INTERIOR MAINTENANCE
1 – Have the correct dehumidifier with setting options
It is important to have a working dehumidifier that is properly sized for basement square footage.  It’s suggested to keep the setting on “normal” and keeping it turned on year-round.  The dehumidifier will only operate when there is enough moisture to engage the unit.
Homeowners should consider purchasing a dehumidifier that drains automatically, rather than units that drain into a bucket and require regular emptying.  If you forget to empty the bucket, the unit will stop running and will increase the risk for conditions to create mold.  A unit that drains automatically keeps the air quality and humidity at the desired level, plus it’s one less thing to have to do.
2 – Check the sump pump and water discharge
A properly set sump pump will activate when the water level is just below the bottom of the drain tile inlet(s).  Homeowners should check the unit periodically to see that it is operational.
After a heavy rainfall, monitor the volume of water that discharges into the sump crock, as it will provide an idea of how often the sump pump should cycle.
Invest in an adequate battery backup.  A sump pump is needed most during a storm with heavy rainfall, and storm conditions can often cause power outages and fuse shorting.  Investing in a battery backup system can ensure the pump’s job gets done when it’s needed the most.
3 – Keep up on the Palmer Valve maintenance
Palmer valves were installed typically on homes built from 1925 – 1955.  They are a one-way check value in the floor drain that allows water to drain from the drain tile system into the sewer lateral, taking the water directly to the street sewer.  It should be checked and lubricated once per year.  If the valve is stuck or you aren’t sure if it’s working, contact
Brillo Home Improvements or have a qualified plumber inspect it.
4 – Inspect for moisture buildup and seepage
Inspect and monitor the interior perimeter of the basement with a good flashlight to see if there’s any evidence of moisture build up or if there is seepage by the bottom of the wall.  This may indicate that further evaluation by a professional may be necessary.
Monitor the basement’s humidity level, aiming for 50% or less helps immensely to control mold growth, as well as moisture and seepage.

EXTERIOR MAINTENANCE
1 – Check for proper grading once every two years
Over time, the ground around the house may settle.  A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to see the pitch of dirt away from the foundation.  It’s recommended that there be at least one inch of pitch for each foot away from the building.
Stone or mulch shouldn’t be confused with proper grading, since both materials are permeable to water and will not shed water away during a rainstorm.
2 – Check concrete surfaces around the building
Due to seasonal freezing and thawing, concrete walkways, patios, and driveways can move quite a bit.  Make sure the slope is sufficient for water management by using a garden hose.  Lay the hose in the middle of the surface and see what direction the water travels, and then determine if the water is moving away fast enough.  If unsure of the quality of the current concrete surface, contact Brillo Home Improvements to further evaluate the area.
3 – Check gutters and downspouts seasonally
A good rule of thumb is to make sure the extensions release water approximately six feet out from the building.
Older homes typically were built with undersized gutters and down spouts. A good rule of thumb if water displacement is lacking would be to change existing gutters to 5" and downspouts should be a minimum of 4".
Monitor the gutters and downspouts at least four time a year making sure that there are no blockages or obstructions that may cause the system to back up or over flow.