With the recent polar vortex sweeping through much of the nation, spring might not be on your mind, but it’s not far off. And spring presents a serious challenge to your basement. Before the rainy season starts, give your basement a checkup and prepare for the season to come. February is an excellent time to plan ahead for future basement waterproofing and schedule work before problems develop.
CHECK THE EXTERIOR
Your exterior maintenance plays a big role in protecting your basement. Schedule a spring gutter cleaning to clear out debris and prevent water from overflowing your gutters.
Make sure your gutters extend far enough away from your home. You want to direct water a minimum of three feet away from your foundation. A downspout extension of 6 to 8 feet is an even better idea.
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Visually check your foundation for any cracks that may have developed over the winter.
Inspect the grading around your house. Snow buildup and melt can impact your slope, and you want at least a slight grade to direct water away from your home. If water is allowed to pool around your foundation, it can seep and cause cracks. Ideally, your home should have a declining slope of 6 inches for every 6 feet away from the home. If you can’t achieve this level of grading, a professional can offer other solutions, such as a French drain.
When you lay mulch in the spring, leave a gap of at least 6 inches between mulch and your house, especially siding. Mulch wicks water and can cause siding to rot. Don’t build up mulch beds too high, either.
INSPECT THE INTERIOR
If you have a sump pump, perform an inspection and checkup. Make sure the power source is connected and the cord shows no wear and tear. Verify that the pump is level and upright. Then, fill the sump basin or pit with water, which should activate the pump. This will demonstrate if it’s working properly.
Take out your pump and check the bottom of the basin. Look for any debris that’s gotten stuck in the grate and clean it. Make sure the discharge pipe is clear.
Check your basement walls for signs of excessive water pressure. Interior walls bulging inwards or cracks in the concrete floor are early signs of groundwater pressure. Look for loose mortar joints or cinder blocks that stick out more than surrounding blocks.
Look carefully at corners and joints between wall and floor, which are significant weak points.
Bulging walls and cracked floors require the attention of a qualified contractor, such as a structural engineer. A professional can identify the source of the problem and recommend the most effective solution. Don’t delay such repairs too long. Basement cracks don’t get better on their own, and the longer you wait, the more expensive the final fix will become.
Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.