With good planning and careful construction, you can keep your basement warm and dry – whether you want functional storage and utility space or prime living space. Solving moisture and leakage problems is relatively easy during construction, but far more complex and expensive after the house is built.
Excessive moisture and periodic flooding severely limit the use of basement spaces for storage, recreation, and utility space. It is especially problematic in finished basements, where moldy materials lead to musty odors, deterioration of materials, and allergic reactions in many people.
Creating a dry basement requires multiple strategies. Proper foundation drainage is the first line of defense against basement leakage and seepage, and will go a long way toward creating dry, useful space below grade.
• Surface water. The first step is to keep surface water away from the foundation. Use gutters, downspouts, and proper grading to quickly move hundreds of gallons of rainwater and snowmelt away from the foundation. Read more
• Subsurface water. Next, use granular fill below and around the foundation, combined with footing drain, to collect and discharge water that reaches the foundation. Under hydrostatic pressure, water will find its way in through the tiniest crack or construction joint. Read more
• Waterproofing. Use a layer of dampproofing on the basement wall and plastic sheeting under the slab to create a capillary break . For protection of finished basements, upgrade from dampproofing to a full waterproofing system. Read more
• Foundation Insulation. With the moisture under control, you can now add a layer of insulation on the interior or exterior to complete the project. In addition to keeping the below-grade space comfortable, insulated walls and slab will be less prone to form condensation and the mold, mildew, and musty odors that follow. Read more
These four approaches work together. If surface water is not properly managed, it becomes subsurface water. If too much subsurface water collects around the foundation, the column of water within the soil builds up hydrostatic pressure and any dampproofing and waterproofing techniques may fail. Finally, insulation helps keep interior finishes warmer and drier, preventing mold and mildew.
Unfortunately, some builders skimp on foundation drainage and insulation in new construction because the work is mostly hidden from view and is not a hot button for sales like granite counters or a soaking tub. But money put in the ground for better drainage is money well spent. A small investment in foundation drainage will yield big dividends in the form of warm, dry space that you can use for storage, work space, recreation, or added living space.
Basement Flooding: Drying and Repair
Basement Leakage Cures, Existing Homes
Basement Leakage Cures, New Homes
Basement Vapor Barriers
Buried Debris, Erosion, and Foundation Damage
Buried Rubble, Building On
Expansive Clay Soils and Foundation Damage
Filled Land, Building On
How Much Slope for Good Site Drainage?
Poor Soils, Building On
Soil Washed Away Under Foundation
Walk-Outs, How Much Slope Needed?
Wet Sites, Building On