Understanding Why Basements Leak

Wet cinder block in basement

Basements are extremely common in the Chicagoland area; it’s rarer to find a home without one.

But, sorry to say, finding a leak in a basement is also a frequent occurrence. Insurance claims show that 98% of these spaces encounter water damage at some point.

This problem must be addressed promptly to prevent the development of other issues like mold growth and widespread water damage that can be devastating and pricey to repair.

Chicago area homeowners mustn’t overlook the importance of their basement foundation; it plays a fundamental role in maintaining the overall solidity and stability of your entire house. That’s why you should be aware of factors such as the clay bowl effect and hydrostatic pressure because either one can compromise the strength of your home’s foundation.

The Clay Bowl Effect

The subsoil in the Chicago area is very clayey. That’s why during basement construction when a contractor excavates a hole large enough for the foundation, it creates what’s essentially a clay bowl. After the footing and walls are constructed, the space around them is refilled with backfill—soil excavated from the original hole. Despite efforts to tightly pack this backfill, it’ll still be looser and more absorbent than the undisturbed, dense soil that surrounds it. This discrepancy becomes evident when it rains, as the absorbent backfill becomes more saturated than the surrounding soil, allowing water to seep into your basement more easily.

Leaking issues increase when downspouts and gutters aren’t properly installed or the water table is higher than usual. Additionally, settling of the backfill can cause your yard to slope toward the foundation, increasing the likelihood of water seeping through basement walls or cracks. Even new basements can have cracks that were formed during the backfill process, leading to dark patches on walls and higher humidity levels.

The clay bowl phenomenon may also lead to the buildup of radon gas in the basement. When water saturates the soil, it traps radon gas, allowing it to infiltrate your home through any existing cracks.

Hydrostatic Pressure

Hydrostatic pressure, the force of water against basement walls, is closely linked to the clay bowl effect. It results from water accumulating around a building’s foundation, often noticed as pooling after snowmelt, rainfall, or flooding. This pressure can push water through cracks, especially at the cove joint where the foundation wall and floor meet.

The type of soil around a building affects hydrostatic pressure, with clayey soil absorbing more water so that it pushes against basement walls. In extreme cases, excessive pressure can cause basement walls to bow or fail.

Preventing Basement Leaks

If you’re building a new home, incorporate drainage-specific elements like sump pumps, perforated pipes, and French drains during construction to prevent the buildup of hydrostatic pressure. In existing Chicagoland homes, redirecting water away from the foundation becomes crucial. Ensure your gutters and downspouts are functioning correctly and not clogged. Slope property grades away from your house and consider installing a sump pump or interior drains.

Addressing Leaks

For serious water seepage or flooding, professional waterproofing may be necessary. This is something you should seriously consider if you plan to sell your home, as wet basements can deter buyers and decrease your home’s value by at least ten percent.

Dealing with a Flooded Basement

In the unfortunate event of a flooded basement, contact your insurance company promptly, document the damage, and call Chicago’s water damage restoration professionals at ServiceMaster By Simons. They specialize in efficiently removing water, repairing damage, and ensuring a safe, healthy home environment after thorough sanitation.

Choose a Trustworthy Company

ServiceMaster By Simons is a reputable disaster restoration company you can rely on. We’ve been in business for many years and take great pride in serving the expansive Chicago metropolitan area and its surrounding suburbs. Our company stands as the preferred choice in Chicagoland for both commercial and residential disaster restoration services. Our expertise includes Fire Damage Restoration, Water Damage Restoration, Mold Remediation, and Smoke Odor Removal. With a team of highly skilled professionals who are certified by the IICRC, we’re equipped to handle insurance claims of any size. Call 773-376-1110 or contact us online.

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