5 Places a Basement Wall Leaks & What Causes It
Water intrusion and moisture issues are common problems that are faced by many North and South Carolinians. These things can disrupt the proverbial ecosystem of your home, making anyone more susceptible to illness, injury, and even death. Microorganisms like mold tend to attach and feed off moisture to facilitate growth. The more humid and wet your home is, the larger mold can grow, resulting in a larger radius of negative effects. Insulation under your home can hold a lot of that moisture and, as a result, will sag and fall to the ground. HVAC systems that run the length of your home will gather condensation and sweat, causing the annual cost of your energy bills to increase.
These are only a few common occurrences that you can expect when there is water intrusion and moisture issues within your home. But how does it get there? Typically, water can find its way into your home through a leaking basement wall. A basement wall is a common entry point for water, moisture, and pests. This article will cover the various points on a wall a leak can form and the common reasons behind it.
Place #1: Cove Joint
For those of you that are unaware as to what exactly a cove joint is, it is where the bottom of the basement wall meets the floor. The cove joint is a common place to find a leak and will typically show itself in the form of a puddle or standing water in the corner of the room. Cove joints are susceptible to water intrusion because there is a small gap at that location. After heavy rainfall or large stormwater gathers and puts immense amounts of hydrostatic pressure — the pressure water puts on an object — on your foundation. That water then makes its way into that cove joint gap and out into your home.
Typical suggestion: Seal the gap.
Caution: Sealing the cove joint gap seems like the reasonable thing to do. However, over time, whatever store-bought sealant you use will be worn down every time it rains, and eventually, water will force its way in. Even if the sealant is strong enough, the water will travel around that barrier until it finds another way in. Contacting a trusted waterproofing company is the best way to keep that unwanted water out.
Place #2: Window Sills
This one only applies if you are in a unique situation for the Carolinas where you have an underground basement. Underground basements, though rare, still exist in the Carolinas, and with them comes small windows. These windows must be sealed properly and have a window well installed along the exterior for draining water after a storm. These windows are highly susceptible to leaking and are no different than a leaking basement wall. Typically, window wells help water flow away from the home to divert it away from the window itself. However, it is a common occurrence that window wells malfunction or aren’t installed properly, causing water to back up against the foundation. When water gathers and that hydrostatic pressure increases, so does the chance of water getting inside your home.
Typical suggestion: Remove damaged caulk and reapply fresh caulk to the window
Caution: Just like in the first reason, water is a strong force, and given enough time, can work its way through freshly applied caulk on a window sill. The main issue is with the drainage system that isn’t functioning properly. Addressing the drainage problem is your number one concern because once that’s fixed, the hydrostatic pressure will most likely return to normal. In the event that water is still getting into the home through the window sill, it's best to contact the professionals at Carolina Basement Solutions.
Place #3: Centerline
A leaking basement wall, although not that common, has a typical location for water intrusion, the center. Typically, surrounding soils will push against the wall and cause it to bow inward. This is due to the wall not being structurally sound enough to withstand the pressure of the soil. As the wall bows, it begins to crack, and the moisture that soils hold will be pushed through and into your home. As this moisture-dense soil is pushed through these cracks, the natural salt and minerals that are present in the water mix to form efflorescence — a white, powdery/flakey substance that can be seen in areas with moisture. Efflorescence and mold can look identical and are easily mistakable for each other.
Typical suggestion: Reinforce the wall with I-beams and seal the crack to prevent any more materials from coming through.
Caution: A repair done with I-beams isn’t the best route to take. I-beams take up too much room and can prevent you from using that space again for anything else. Using a less invasive approach with more capacity would be better, like Fortress carbon fiber straps that are stronger and stiffer than steel I-beams. These straps are also applied seamlessly to the wall so that they can be covered or painted over. In addition to reinforcing the wall, having a waterproofing system installed by a company that is trusted and local would be beneficial.
Place #4: Pipe Penetration
A leaking basement wall that is originating from a pipe penetration is a special case scenario. There are a lot of basements that have their plumbing running throughout the inside of the walls and therefore don’t stick out. However, there are some that have pipe penetrations in the walls, especially if the house is older than average. Typically, when new water lines or drainage lines are being moved around to complete renovations or additions, older lines are capped off and left. Since these older homes usually have old lines running through them from their past, the connection of these lines could be loose or broken. Loose connections leave a vulnerable spot for water to push its way into the home.
Typical suggestion: Remove the old line and seal the hole
Caution: Without a proper inspection, that line could end up being live after all and whatever substance (be it water, gas, or sewage) is there will flow into your home. The best course of action if there is a leak around a protruding pipe in your basement wall is to leave the pipe alone and to seal the crack with a high-strength epoxy injection or polyurethane foam.
Place #5: Mortar Joint
Depending on the type of basement wall that you have, it could be a complete concrete structure or one constructed with a series of concrete blocks. Blocks, like bricks, require mortar to stick together and to seal the gaps. Mortar joints are a common place to see a leak. Water can build up pressure on the outside of the house and push on the block wall, causing them to separate at the mortar joints allowing the water to enter. Water will be pushed through the wall and out of the mortar joints if the strength of the wall and the pressure of the water are both high enough.
Typical Suggestion: “If you can buy the supply, you can DIY,” which roughly translates to if you have access to repair materials like at a Lowe's or a Home Depot, then you can probably make a DIY project out of it.
Caution: A basement wall leak, no matter the location, may not appear serious, but there could be several contributing factors that only an expert can handle, and you don’t want to make it worse.
Finding the right approach for all these situations is the key, and most of the time (barring any obvious construction mishaps), a leaking basement wall is due to hydrostatic pressure. All homes are designed to withstand soil/water weight and normal conditions. However, when soil and water weight start to become too much for the designed foundation, then leaks occur from the cove to the mortar joint. The optimal solution is wall reinforcement in conjunction with a comprehensive waterproofing system.
Contacting a trusted waterproofing company like Carolina Basement Solutions would be the best approach no matter where the leak is. There are a lot of waterproofing companies out there that are only after the almighty dollar, which will result in you being taken advantage of. Our method only addresses what you need from an expert point of view. Our experience and knowledge of water and moisture-related issues can show you where the leak is coming from and why. We provide tailor-made solutions just for you. Call us today at (833) 641-0517 to schedule a FREE inspection.