If you’re tired of sharing a bedroom or having to give up the television remote, perhaps it’s time to think about transforming your basement into a new living or entertainment space. A basement is a great investment for any home owner because the extra space will increase the value of your property. But more importantly it makes life easier for families that have to cram into small spaces.
The possibilities of what your basement can become are endless; perhaps a new home office or gym will do the trick, or maybe an extra bedroom to finally give your children their own spaces? How does a man cave with a bar sound? Awesome if you’re a man, but perhaps an extra living room would be more ideal for the ladies?
Either way, before you start dreaming about what to do with your basement, the first thing you need to do is ensure the area is dry, because otherwise this dream may never become a reality.
One of the biggest issues that can impact a basement is moisture damage caused by inadequate drainage, ventilation and/or waterproofing.
Some of the signs of water damage include water seepage from walls, rust, paint discolouration or peeling, wood decay and abnormal cracks or bowing in walls. Another key indicator of moisture damage is the presence of mould and mildew, which isn’t just costly to repair, but poses a significant risk to your health.
So whether you are renovating or building a new home, here are a few simple steps you can follow to achieve a dry, safe and liveable basement.
#1 Get it right the first time
Prevention is the best cure, so you should ensure you get the waterproofing right during construction. Speak to your local hardware store about what the best sealers and fillers are to ensure there are no gaps for water to seep through, but you should always leave the waterproofing itself to the experts.
#2 Install a good external drainage system
Improper drainage is often the cause for water leakages in a basement. Water often builds up in the soil and the basement stops it from draining away, which results in hydrostatic pressure that can cause water to start seeping into the basement. A good drainage system is vital to ensure water is channelled away from the house before it soaks into the soil.
Complementing a good drainage system, you should always ensure your gutters are clear of leaves and debris. You could have the best drainage system in the world, but if your gutters are clogged they won’t be able to effectively carry rain away from the house. Clogged gutters can also spill water in one spot, which accumulates into puddles that can eat away at the foundation and structure of your house over a period of time. You should also use downspout extensions to channel water further away from the house.
#3 Install a sump
A sump is a hole in your basement floor, which uses a pump to draws water out of the house when the water level gets too high. For safety a reasons a sump should always feature a childproof cover to prevent someone from falling in.
#4 Prevent runoff by elevating the ground surface
Failure to slope the ground surface surrounding the building foundation is a common cause of water intrusion. Make sure the ground is sloped away from the house at least 1 inch per foot so water drains toward your yard and not your foundation.
#5 Ventilate the basement
It sounds simple but one of the easiest things you can do to maintain a dry basement is to ensure you have proper ventilation. A dehumidifier might also come in handy to control condensation.
#6 Fix leaks as soon as they are discovered
It is human nature to notice an issue but not deal with it until it is too late. But if you see a leak, deal with it immediately to prevent further damage and subsequent costs. The quicker you identify the problem, the quicker it can be resolved. If there is a leak it is also important to identify whether it is seeping in from outside or whether it is just condensation.
#7 Control shrubs and trees
Some species of trees have roots that will actually allow water to flow into the foundation, while other roots can lift up the foundation over time. It is therefore important to know what shrubs and trees should be planted where.
Keeping your basement dry will require a holistic approach, combining a good external drainage system with foolproof waterproofing and ventilation. It might seem like a lot of work, but following these seven steps will save you a lot of hassle in the long run and will allow you to reap the rewards of creating an entirely new living space. And after all the hard work is over, the only thing you will have to worry about is who gets to use the basement first!
Jerry Tyrrell has over 40 years’ experience in the building, architectural and timber pest industry and founded Tyrrells Property & Building Inspections more than 30 years ago. He has hands-on experience in most building trades, and has designed, built, supervised and project managed building projects from $5,000 to $8m.