April showers may bring May flowers, but for many homeowners, springtime storms can also bring flooded and wet basements. Walls and flooring can be damaged as well as personal items and can cost thousands to repair the damage. Below aer some of the causes to wet basements and some information on how to prevent water damage.

The first step is to locate where the water is coming from in order to treat and prevent the problem. Most wet basements or crawl spaces tend to be caused by surface water which is not adequately drained away from the foundation wall. Backup from sewer water sources can also cause problems as well as flooding from rain storms or nearby sources of water such as ponds or lakes.

The following tips are suggested to avoid water problems when building or buying a home:

  • If a flowing stream or dry ditch borders your lot, check with local planning agency authorities or a hydrologic engineer for potential flooding, whether in a designated 100-year flood hazard zone or in an area where lesser but more frequent flooding could occur or has occurred.
  • When househunting, pay special attention around the outside and the basement or crawl space for backsloping lawns and landscaping toward foundation walls. Also look for depressions around the foundation that can collect surface water and cause seepage into the ground.
  • Visit the house during or shortly after a prolonged or heavy storm. Check for water in the basement or crawl space. Ask the realtor about any known water problems--inside or outside--by the previous owner.
  • For houses with basements, carefully check for stain signs of standing water around the walls or seepage coming through the walls, especially along the wall(s) having the highest outside ground level. Look for whitish salt deposits on inside foundation walls left from moisture seepage and evaporation. For houses with crawl spaces use a flashlight and check for current or previous water ponding, mud, mildew, condensation on various surfaces, or sagging or wet insulation.
  • Check the basement and crawl space for musty odors and signs of mildew, condensation on surfaces, and unusually heavy rust deposits. Try to determine the source of the moisture--foundation wall seepage; capillary moisture from the crawl space ground; water or sanitary pipe leakage; poor crawl space ventilation; or combination of problems. Check the inside corners for cracks and separation of blocks at the joints from foundation settlement

If you have specific questions about construction or drainage matters, be sure to refer to applicable building codes and inspection/permit requirements; local subdivision and zoning ordinances and local flood damage protection ordinances and maps required by the National Flood Insurance Administration (NFIA). These sources are available at your local planning office, building inspector’s office, or library.