Can a Basement with Moisture Problems Be Renovated?

So, you have an unfinished basement and you want to renovate it into something useful. However, your basement has some moisture problems. The question then becomes: can a basement with moisture problems be renovated? The answer is: it depends. Let’s take a closer look at what it depends on.

What Is the Source?

The first thing we need to know is where the source of the moisture is. Is the moisture showing up on your walls alone? Is it on the floors? Determining the source of the moisture will go a long way toward telling you if you can renovate. If you’re unable to ascertain the source of the moisture by yourself, having a professional come and evaluate your basement is a necessary start.

How Moisture Affects the Home

The reason you need to have your basement moisture’s source determined is because the source changes everything about whether or not it will persist after renovation. Furthermore, it will also determine whether persistence will lead to long-term problems.

Exterior Moisture

For example, if the moisture is coming from outside of the foundation walls and is seeping in through cracks, you will need to waterproof or damp proof the basement in order to renovate without problem. This is because putting drywall and insulation against a wall that’s becoming damp from the outside will quickly lead to water damage and mold problems. The dark space between your drywall and foundation wall is the perfect place for mold to grow and spread. From there, it will continue eating the insulation and eventually spread to the wooden structure of the house.

If the moisture is seeping up through the floor from the ground, you’ll need to have a sump pump installed prior to renovating. Otherwise, ground water can cause the same problem with your floor. The subfloor will get damp and end up molding or becoming soft and fragile from water damage. A waterproof, protective layer will keep ground water from touching the subfloor and a sump pump will collect and redirect water away from the home.

Professional Waterproofing

The reason why professional waterproofing is necessary to solve these problems is because it’s a fairly extensive job. You might feel inclined to just paint the interior, basement wall or fill in any cracks. However, these solutions actually cause more problems than they solve. Filling in cracks from the inside will block any exit for water, leaving it to sit within the basement wall. Then, when the temperature changes, it will expand and contract within the wall. That can cause massive amounts of damage to the structural integrity of the house. When the water is on the ground, the only solution is removal. When it’s on the walls, you must block its entry from the exterior.

Interior Moisture

If the moisture in your basement is determined to be from condensation, renovation is perfectly safe. Condensation is a common problem in basements. It’s caused by the subterranean walls being cold to the touch and the interior air being warm. The moisture in the air simply collects on the cold walls. After drying any condensation from the walls and installing insulation and drywall, the condensation should stop collecting at all. From then on, it has no more access to the cold, stone walls. Plus, the drywall is not such an extreme temperature.

How Waterproofing Can Save Your Foundation

The foundation of your house, made up of the slab of cement beneath it and the stone walls of any existing basement, is vital to the integrity of your home’s structure. A damaged foundation can lead to expensive damage inside the house, such as cracking walls, bowing floors, and more. This kind of damage is not just expensive, it’s unattractive, dangerous, and leads to an overall lower quality of life. So, instead of waiting until you have to fix the problems caused by foundational damage, take a look at how waterproofing can save your foundation from having problems to begin with.

Foundational Damage

To begin, we need to take a look at some of the ways your foundation can be damaged.

One way a foundation can become damaged is if the house was built on unstable ground. This happens a lot in areas with a lot of moisture. If your house is near a river or lake, the ground will shift over many years. Even shifting by an inch over a few decades can cause foundational problems for your home. These problems will be especially noticeable as the seasons change. Do you ever notice your doors opening and closing differently at different times of the year? This is caused by a structural shift. Since the structure relies entirely on the foundation, that means the foundation is shifting as well. 

The second type of damage is water and moisture damage. Even if you don’t live near a body of water, a wet climate can cause damage to your foundation. As rain water, snowmelt, and any other kind of water in the ground moves toward your foundation, it can damage it. But how?

The Pitfalls of Erosion

Have you ever seen a collection of photos showing a timelapse of a river being formed? Have you ever wondered why river rocks are so smooth and round? The answer is erosion. Erosion is when water continually runs over something and wears away at it slowly. It’s powerful enough to carve out pathways in the earth, create canyons, and smooth a boulder into a rock the size of your fist.

This same long-term effect can wear away at your foundation. While most of us don’t have our foundation directly adjacent to a running river, many of us have wet soil piled and packed against the walls of our basements. The water from wet soil, especially in very rainy or snowy regions, will damage our foundation walls over time. 

As the walls develop tiny cracks, the water will get inside. This water travels through the stone, sometimes making its way into the basement. As the water moves through the cracks, it widens them and makes them bigger. This will continue on until the foundation begins to crumble and sag.

Expansion and Contraction

Even worse than the erosion is the expansion and contraction of water as temperatures change. If you’ve ever left a bucket outside over winter, you’ve probably lost yourself a bucket. That’s because, when water wills a space and then freezes, it expands. When it melts, it contracts. When it freezes again, it contracts again. This process repeating over and over again will split a bucket, crack a vase, and even destroy your foundation – unless you do something to save your foundation.

Waterproofing Can Save Your Foundation

If you want to save your foundation from erosion, expansion, and contraction, you need to invest in waterproofing. This is especially important if you have a slightly older house or if you want to prevent a new house from aging poorly. Give us a call today and we’ll be happy to schedule a consultation with you.