4 Ways to keep your basement dry (#2 you can do this weekend!)

Over the past few weeks, the Rochester area has experienced a staggering amount of continuous rainfall over a few day stretch.  We have all seen the destruction that 6+ inches of rain, in hours, did in the Penn Yan area, but those situations are few and far between.

Don't let this happen to you!

Don’t let this happen to you!

The average homeowner in a climate like ours (semi-frequent bouts of steady, continuous, multi-day rainfall) in Western New York, does get the occasional occurrence of clear water in the basement. It’s a fact of life, especially if you live in a flood prone area or have an older home built before the days of poured concrete and waterproofing of foundations. But there are things you as a homeowner can do that can limit or potentially eliminate water or moisture from taking over your basement. There are various levels of costs and effectiveness, but these can give you an idea of just some of the steps you can take:

  1. Keep water away in the first place! Make sure the grade outside is pitching away from the foundation and the gutter downspouts are extended away from the foundation as well. If you have hose bibs install a “splash block” under the hose connection to help prevent leaking water from digging a hole and letting the water find its way into the basement.
  2. Drylok the exterior walls.  Drylock has been around since the 50’s, and it’s still one of the most effective ways to help prevent moisture from creeping in through the pores of your foundation. Prep your walls by scraping any decayed portions with a metal scraper, and removing any chipped or old paint. Spray a mixture of muriatic acid (wear gloves, a mask, and eye protection!) to kill any mold and mildew. Apply your first coat generously with a sturdy nylon-bristled brush (this part is painful and slow) and then apply a second coat with a thick knap (3/4″) roller. This stuff will last you years and it’ll really help keep the moisture out.  Just make sure to ventilate your work area well while applying, it can get quite pungent. This can be done in a weekend, or even a day if you find a friend!flood drylok
  3. Run a dehumidifier!  While a dehumidifier will not prevent a “flooded” basement, it will help in lowering the consistent moisture that builds up along your cold foundation walls during the summer.  Ever had a cold drink condensate on a hot summer day? That’s essentially the exact same thing that happens on your basement walls in the summer.  This should be considered a MUST for most readers that have an older home (pre 1950 or so), don’t have air conditioning, or frequently experience that musty, stale smell.  Set it for 50% humidity in the summer.  We also recommend connecting a hose directly from the dehumidifier to the sump crock so that you don’t have to worry about emptying the reservoir.   **Added benefit** – Most dehumidifiers have an exhaust fan. Tape a few dryer sheets or a car air freshener that clips onto the vents here, and you’ll instantly make it smell better!flood dehumidifier
  4. Add a sump pump.  This is suggested for those that frequently experience moderate or significant basement flooding.  Many old homes were built with “slab” basements.  They have the edges or gutters along the outside edges and walls that slope down to a drain at the lowest point of the basement. This was the pre-sump pump way to combat flooding.  Sump pump costs can add up (to over $1000), but they are very effective at siphoning water out of your basement and outdoors.  Contact your trusted plumber for information to see if you could benefit from a sump pump.flood sump

A moist, wet environment can lead to the growth of mold, fungus, attract insects and rodents, and lead to premature decay of your foundation, wood structure, and more.  Anything you do to eliminate moisture will be helpful in the long run. Jim Brennan is a licensed New York State home inspector, a member of the Better Business Bureau, and has over 36 years of experience in the construction industry.  Whether you need professional advice around your home, or are looking for a qualified inspector to check out your dream home, Jim can do it!  Visit our website here.

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Your Rochester home + extreme cold = potential problems

Let’s face it: this is one of the coldest winters on record in Rochester, NY, period. We’ve recorded more sub-zero temperatures this year so far that we did in the previous few winters.

Suffice it to say that in Rochester, we’re no strangers to cold, but it’s not common to be steadily below zero (and this far below zero) for this long. With that in mind, there are some concerns that every homeowner should be thinking about when (if!) the freeze ever decides to ease up.

Water is one of the only molecules on earth that actually EXPANDS when it freezes (ever had a pop bottle explode in your freezer?) Although most of us don’t have too much water outside, we do have some portions of our water systems exposed outside.

First thing you should check is all of your exterior water faucets.  If they look like this:

Evidence of a blown faucet

Evidence of a blown faucet

chances are you will be needing to replace that faucet. Fortunately, they are a fairly easy fix, but PLEASE remember to turn off your water service or shut off valve (if your plumbing is partitioned) before disconnecting.  You’ll want to do this as soon as the temperature gets back above freezing. A steady drip can lead to soil erosion, foundation problems, and of course a higher water bill!

Lights: If you have many exterior lights or motion detectors, it is certainly possible that some of them fell victim to the extreme cold.  Have you ever taken a hot glass out of the dishwasher and poured a cold liquid into it and had it shatter?  The same is possible from cold to hot (bulbs heat up VERY rapidly) and can lead to bulbs shattering.

Rapid cold -> hot could end up like this

Rapid cold -> hot could end up like this

Cracked driveways:  One of the biggest fallouts due to the cold in this area is the roads. Most Rochesterians have experienced the dreaded run-in with a monster-sized pothole.  Potholes started out as nothing more than small cracks in the asphalt. When water creeps into the cracks and freezes, it expands. This widens the cracks to an even larger size. Add in a few tons on the end of a plow blade a few times, and Voila! – you’ve got a new pothole.

How pavement cracks evolve

How pavement cracks evolve

You may not necessarily be plowing your driveway, but if you don’t seal your driveway often, you can can experience cracks of your own. Ignoring them won’t do you any good.  Many varieties of sealants are available at hardware stores, and you can also pay someone (or DIY!) to seal your driveway as well.  Here, and ounce of prevention goes a long way.

Hopefully these tips have helped you start to think about what some of your first spring-thaw projects should be. This cold isn’t normal, but there are things we can do to combat it and prepare for it next time around!

james

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