How to deal with moisture in your basement

Moisture in a basement may take the form of a chronic problem or a one-time issue. The water intrusion may be severe such as a sewer backup or as simple as a little bit of water on the bare concrete floor. Whatever the severity you must find the source and correct the problem or your efforts to repair the damage will be for nothing and the problem will come back. Repairing a wet basement wall more than once for the same issue for instance, should not be an option and you insurance company will likely not take it well. This blog will talk about the small (to large) cleanups that you find yourself dealing with. This blog assumes for whatever reason, you are the person doing the cleanup and restoration. I always recommend hiring a professional crew to do this work but I understand there are times when this is simply not possible and in the smaller cases may not be necessary. It is imperative to your health and safety that you go about this in a systematic way so as not to spread the problem (potential mold) throughout the home.

I will paint a scenario of a leak that will form the advice in this blog. There are many different ways for you to end up with a wet basement but I need to narrow it down to one that may contain mold, either from a sewer backup or a flood that has wicked up into the drywall inside the basement. When dealing with sewer and wet drywall you need to consider that mold and other toxins is or will be forming in a short time within your home. The key is to contain the problem and quickly. I know many people who experience water problems and hope that if they just wait long enough the moisture will simply dry up, problem solved on its own. The reality is if you take this approach you will most likely be exposing your family to harmful molds and other toxins. Even if you expect moisture but can’t see it, you should consider investigating. I won’t get into investigations at this point except to say that special tools are usually required to detect hidden molds and moisture such as a thermal camera, moisture meter and if necessary air sampling and destructive inspections.  Remediation companies and inspectors such as myself should have these tools to help diagnose your concerns.

Let’s assume your home has experienced a sewer/ water backup and one bedroom and a hall way has wet carpet and drywall looks wet on the bottom 6” along the interior wall by the furnace room. For your own reasons you have to do the cleanup. The first step is to plan. Plan how to remove the wet contents as soon as possible. Mold will grow in ideal conditions within 48 hours so I always suggest a quick removal of contaminated materials before then. If you discovered the flood too late, then you need to set up containment and negative air before you begin the removal process. To do this I recommend getting some 6MM builders poly and some tape from the hardware store (don’t be afraid to ask their advice). The goal is to seal off the wet products from the rest of the home before removal as they may in fact have mold spores on them. Secondly you will want to create a negative air area where any loose mold spores will be drawn outside rather than into the home where they may affect your families’ health. To do this I recommend adding a fan in a basement window inside the containment area. In this way when you are entering the containment area, air is drawn in rather than expelled.

Finally you must consider the furnace and how it may spread the spores. Somehow you will need to try to isolate the air intakes from the containment areas. I also recommend a bio-wash of some sort to do the final cleaning once the wet materials have been removed. You may also want to rent an air scrubber if it is in your budget. Remember the best approach is to leave major water damage to the experts but I see lots of homeowners trying to save money but doing so at the expense of their homes air quality. If you must do it yourself ask lots of questions and do it right, your family will thank-you for it later. When you are satisfied the moisture is cut out and the home is once again clean, you should consider hiring someone like me to perform an indoor air test to make sure you have not overlooked something. When the air test come back clean, you can proceed to repair or replace the damage. Good luck but don’t take this lightly as it can be serious and remember to take pictures and document what you have done in case you need that information when selling your home etc.