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.

Get Serious About Fire Safety

Fire safety. Take it seriously.


flames background

Because if you don’t, you run the risk of becoming a statistic. According to the NFPA, seven Americans lose their life due to fire every day in the United States.  It’s a startling statistic when you sit back and think about the way that technology has developed over the past several decades to help prevent these deaths from happening.

These stats aren’t to scare you, rather they’re to educate you. One of the main causes for the initiation of fires in homes goes back to carelessness, misuse, kids playing with lighters/matches, and accidents.  Many of these fires, whether fatal or not, could have been completely avoided in the first place.

Smoke detectors have come a long way in recent years.

When you look at the statistics about the number of deaths in homes that occur each year because of fire, there’s one VERY startling conclusion that is found year after year: most of the homes that had deadly fires had no working smoke detectors or inoperable ones (dead batteries, not connected, etc.) By simply being alerted, more than half of the reported deaths are estimated to have been avoided.  Read that sentence again.

In 2013, I watched an episode of “Dateline” that really resonated with me. Since then, I’ve included the following verbiage on all of my inspection reports.  Here’s how it currently stands:

Safety Issue: (Electrical/Smoke) We recommend dual sensor smoke detectors (photo-electric plus ionization type) and carbon monoxide detectors be installed on each level including the basement and mechanical room (if separate room) and in each bedroom and the hallways outside the bedrooms. We also recommend voice activated alarms in lieu of beeping alarms. We also recommend hard wiring with battery back-up by a licensed electrician. These should be checked every 6 months and the batteries changed every 6 months (minimum) as well, and the alarm should be replaced every 7 years (minimum). Please watch the 2 part YouTube video from March 25, 2013 from the TV program “Dateline” as well.
The videos I’m referencing can be watched here:
Dateline – Fire alarms Part 1
Dateline – Fire alarms Part 2
A good rule of thumb to remember how frequently to change your alarm batteries is to change them each time you change your clocks ahead and back for daylight saving time. You’ll never forget!
smoke ionsmoke
Last but certainly not least is the reminder to add a working carbon monoxide detector in your home.  It is suggested that you have one in each bedroom, one per floor where people sleep, and one on any floor with a natural gas operated appliance (stove, cooktop, furnace, dryer, etc.)
A modern CO detector

A modern CO detector

The most common problems that can lead to CO emergencies are old and inefficient furnaces, stoves, and dryers. Most deaths are reported as the result of a CO leak when the victim was asleep – they never even knew they had a problem.
The bottom line is that for less than $100 dollars you can outfit your home with the most up-to-date smoke and CO detectors today and greatly increase your safety.
Do you have a question about fire safety or detectors?  Feel free to ASK JIM: