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Water in the Basement – What to Do, Causes & Prevention

Basement water damage
Basement water damage

Water damage in your basement is a common yet correctable issue. Whether your basement is merely damp or you have frequent flooding, this article will help you find out what may be causing the basement water damage and what you can do to fix the situation.

What Do I Do If My Basement Is Wet?

If your basement has more than 1 inch of standing water, it is considered flooded. If this is the case in your basement, follow these steps:

1. Stay safe.

Prevent costly water damage with our expert tips on protecting your basement from flooding. Discover effective solutions for flood-proofing your home.

Before attempting to enter your flooded basement, make sure that you turn off the electricity at the main breaker and are wearing protective equipment – rubber boots, rubber gloves, and a mask. If the water comes in contact with any electrical equipment, it can carry a current, so you must be careful to avoid electrocution. Standing water, especially if it has come from a sewer backup, can also contain bacteria, so you want to protect your health.

If you cannot access the electrical breaker, do not have the proper safety equipment, or the water is too high to wade through without getting wet, call a professional to handle the situation.

2. Pump out the water.

You want to pump out the water as quickly as possible to minimize the damage to your basement. If you do not own a gasoline-powered water pump, consider renting one from your local industrial tool rental group.

3. Determine the source of the flooding.

Understanding where the water came from is critical to preventing further damage in your basement and determining which repair professionals to call. Flooding can come from plumbing failures, foundation damage, leaky doors and windows, and more. Check the following areas for clues:

  • Walls
  • Windows
  • Floor
  • Drains
  • Appliances
  • Sump Pump

To learn more about what may have caused your basement to flood, read the next section of this article.

4. Contact your home insurance agent.

Depending on your coverage, an agent can help you file a claim and contact the right professionals to repair your basement.

5. Clean up the basement.

Remove any items damaged by the flood – flooring, furniture, appliances, etc. Then, clean up any remaining water using a wet-dry vacuum, which can also be rented from a local supplier.

6. Dehumidify your basement.

Restore the air quality of your basement and prevent the growth of mold and other allergens by getting air flowing in your basement and removing the moisture from the air.

If your basement is simply wet, not flooded, it is essential to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I see little droplets on the wall?
  • Does my basement smell musty and feel humid?
  • Is water coming from the cove joint (where the wall meets the floor)?
  • Is water seeping over the top of my basement wall?
  • Is the wall cracked or bowed?
  • Are there leaks around pipes coming through the basement walls?
  • Is water pooling near the window?
  • Is my sump pump working properly?
  • Are my gutters clogged?
  • Are my drains backed up?
  • Does the area around my basement frequently flood?

Asking yourself these questions will help you determine the source of the water damage in your basement and how to fix it.

Why Is My Basement Wet?

If your basement experiences frequent flooding or remains damp, it likely lacks sufficient waterproofing and an efficient drainage system. You may even have foundation damage. Consider these common causes of water damage in your basement and how it may present itself.


When warm air meets your cold basement walls, it creates condensation. The higher the humidity levels in your basement, the greater the condensation, resulting in droplets on the wall and even small puddles. Even an open basement window can allow humid air to flow in and condense on cooler surfaces.

Sources of Moisture in a Basement

Poor Drainage System

Water builds up in the soil whenever it rains or the snow melts. And if your home lies in an area with a high water table, it’s possible that the soil cannot drain off all the water it receives. An efficient drainage system prevents oversaturated soil and directs the water away from your basement. Otherwise, the water will flow wherever possible, hence your wet basement.

Signs of a poor drainage system include water seepage over your basement wall, water stains along the wall, or water coming through the cove joint.

Bowed and Cracked Walls and Floor

Hydrostatic pressure is a force that occurs when water builds up in the soil around your basement and pushes against your foundation. The greater the water saturation, the greater the force. Hydrostatic pressure can cause your basement walls to bow and crack and worsen any existing damage. Once your basement wall is bowed or cracked, water can seep into your basement with the same hydrostatic pressure and capillary action – water flowing through narrow openings without gravity.

Leaky Windows or Pipes

Water can quickly enter your basement if the windows and pipes are not sealed correctly or if your window well is clogged.

Sump Pump Failure

If you already have a sump pump installed and are still experiencing a wet basement, you could have an issue with your sump pump. To learn why your sump pump may have failed, see The Truth About Battery Backup Systems For Sump Pumps.

How Can I Stop Water from Coming into My Basement?

To prevent water damage in your basement, try the following:

  1. Regrade your lawn. Ensure the ground is sloped away from your home so water is carried away and not pooling near your basement.
  2. Install and maintain an efficient gutter system. Gutter systems must be debris-free, have sufficient downspouts, and use extenders to carry water at least ten feet away from your foundation.
  3. Waterproof your basement. Address all leaks and cracks, correct structural issues, and install a moisture barrier.
  4. Control humidity. Once you have waterproofed your basement, you can still have water damage from unregulated humidity levels. If you have a shower, stove, or unvented clothes dryer in your basement, these can contribute to higher humidity levels. Consider installing a dehumidifier and appropriate exhaust fans to regulate the humidity.
  5. Install a drainage system. This ensures that any existing water near your foundation is removed. Options include an interior or exterior drain tile system, a French drain, and a sump pump. A professional can recommend the best drainage system for your home.

Who Do I Call About Water in My Basement?

If you notice frequent water damage in your basement, you need a reliable basement waterproofing and foundation repair expert. We have serviced happy customers throughout Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri since 1994. We can help you identify the source of the water damage as well as help you find the best solution to repair and stop it.


Dave Epp

Dave is the President at Epp Foundation Repair with over 27 years of experience in the industry. Dave has worked on thousands of foundation, basement, concrete, and crawl space repair projects since 1993. Dave is involved in several civic and church organizations and enjoys coaching youth sports, mainly football, golfing, and elk hunting.



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