Musty smell in basement from water leaking

Old 07-29-04, 12:03 PM
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Musty smell in basement from water leaking

My husband and I just bought a house with a sandstone foundation. We've had a lot of rain lately and I noticed that the one corner in the basement was wet. Somebody told me to buy wetlock paint. Does that really work?

Also as soon as you open the door to the basement, it smells musty. How do I clean that up and make the smell go away.
Old 08-04-04, 05:30 AM
Doug Aleshire's Avatar
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Problems with basement moisture problems can, in most cases, be resolved easily. I will admit that there are times when more drastic measures have to be done.

If the ground around a foundation is level or slopes toward the house, water is directed into the basement. The soil next to the house is often backfilled without proper compaction and later settles. This is especially true under stoops where water can collect next to the basement wall. This is what we call INADEQUATE GRADING. To resolve this, place earth around the house so that it slopes away from the foundation wall a minimum of one inch per foot for at least six feet. In some cases, you can excavate out about 2 feet down and 6 feet out, lay 6 mil poly down and up the side of the home to promote distance of any water getting to the block/concrete walls. As long as the landscaper has not planted any small trees or shrubs with long deep root systems, this works very well. If you should have these, remove them and replace them with smaller still appealing items that meet your liking.

Missing gutters and downspouts cause rainwater to be directed toward the foundation perimeter. A downspout without an extender or splash block is worse than no downspout at all. All the rain water is from a roof is falling and splashing down in a single concentrated location near the basement. You need to place a minimum of one downspout per 50 linear feet of roof eave. I prefer to use 30 linear feet as a guide depending on roof pitch which means more roof area to be dealt with. Extensions should discharge water at least four to 6 feet feet beyond the wall. Sloped concrete sidewalks around basements are very effective in directing rain runoff. Unfortunately, in time they may sink, tilted towards the foundation creating another issue that should be resolved.

Depending on your home, you may have the infamous window wells that are like a drain right next to the basement wall. Often they are improperly built so that any water is directed toward, rather than away from the foundation. If they are not for egress, purchasing a plastic cover can be done to avoid making this well a “wet” well. This still allows for light and they do come in various widths and styles. They should be filled from the footing to the window sill with 3/8- to 3/4-inch coarse aggregate. A supplemental drain tile extension should extend from the footing to the base of the window. For those that have and window well that is egress, they usually have drain tile which is tied into an existing sump pump system.

Many existing houses simply have no subsurface drainage system. This comes from a time when basements were not used as habitable space; they were more for additional storage and in times of foul weather, a safe haven from dangerous conditions. . In other cases, the systems do not work for a variety of reasons, such as collapse of the pipe, clogging of the pipe with silt and/or tree roots, or a broken connection to the sump. The sump pit usually contains a pump designed to lift the water to the ground surface outside the foundation wall. This pump can fail. In such cases, a good water power emergency sump pump backup is recommended. I do not recommend a Battery Back-Up System as they fail due to poor consumer maintenance. Water power is the best, no worries and if electrical fails, or the batteries are not charged, this will always work – guaranteed!

If heating ducts are installed beneath a basement floor slab, the drainage system may be inappropriately left at a level higher than the duct. In effect, the duct becomes the drainage system, and with standing water within the heating duct, there are potentially serious health consequences from mold contamination. Heating ducts placed beneath the basement floor must be insulated, watertight, and sloped to collection points for drainage and cleaning. A drain tile and coarse aggregate can be placed under the ductwork or beside it and under the bottom of the duct level to collect any water and divert it to a sump pump.

Concrete and concrete block foundations usually develop some cracks. It is a given that this will happen. It not one of major concern structurally if they a minor but these do provide entry for water. They can be severe if floor joists are not properly connected to the foundation wall, thus permitting the wall to move. Soil settling causes cracking as well but a well built foundation will stay in good form. Places where walls meet rigid structures like the fireplace often crack as well. Usually, drainage removes the water from cracks, but repair may be necessary. In this cases injection methods are used, like epoxy cement or hydraulic cement applications. Proper footing design and proper connection between the foundation wall and the structure above are required (e.g. anchor bolts or straps at the sill plate and floor joists nailed to the sill plate). In older homes, these methods were not used and should be corrected. In most new homes, this is a common Code requirement.

Run a dehumidifier and get some air movement down there before applying anything to the walls.

Good Luck!

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