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May 7, 2018

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Basement Issues: Warning Signs, Causes & Possible Solutions

March 23, 2018


Basements are the lowest "room" in the home and typically where the mechanical's are installed, storage is placed or some basements are fully converted into a room addition. Basements are usually constructed by poured concrete, concrete block, slate or brick. Newer homes have basements that are poured concrete. Older homes throughout the Albany NY area were built with block, brick, poured concrete or slate.


Issues that CAN occur with older homes that ] were built in the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's with block, brick or slate throughout Albany & the greater capital district is the chance of water intrusion. When cement blocks, bricks or slate are laid over each other during the construction process they are usually held together by some form of concrete. 


Over the years these older homes that were built in upstate New York can start to show signs of water intrusion. Water intrusion occurs when water makes its way into the exterior foundation wall, freezes & thaws over the years and slowly deteriorates the concrete/mortor between the concrete block, brick or slate causing water intrusion and leading to small foundation cracks, severe cracks, bowing and or shifting of the foundation walls. Water can also make its way from the foundation floor and corners of the basement. Remember,  the entire homes structure rests on the foundation. If the foundation drops, moves or bowes this can lead to cricked door ways, windows, uneven floors and separation/additional openings within the foundation that can lead to additional water entry and additional damage to the structure. Water intrusion into the basement can vary in severity and prices to prevent/repair can vary from $200-$10,000 or more.


In the Albany NY and greater capital district most sellers fill out a "property disclosure" which is signed by the buyer. In a perfect world the seller would be completely honest and disclose any water entry into the basement that have occurred through out the years. This is not always the case. Hiring a home inspector to perform a home inspection is the safest way to assure that the basement is up to par. A home inspectors job is to perform a in depth home inspection to determine if deterioration in the foundation has occurred, why or when it has occurred and was there previously water intrusion.  Your local home inspector should be able to determine the severity of the issue and recommend a qualifying professional who can further assist.


Water intrusion is a complex issue. Looking at some pictures with an explanation from previous home inspections can paint a clearer picture. Lets take a look at some pictures and see what may be happening.


How Water Enters The Basement



 Typically water enters the basement from the footings (The rectangular blocks at the very bottom) and supporting walls (The blocks stacked up forming a wall).  When water enters the inside of the basement walls as previous mentioned it can go through freeze and thaw cycles. This processes is what damages the integrity of the foundation allowing for water entry and eventually foundation damage! Your local home inspector should look for signs of water entry, water damage and the presence of moisture during the home inspection.




Signs of a Damp/Wet Basement




Water Penetrating The Foundation Walls


The slide show pictures reflect water intrusion in the basement walls during a home inspection performed in Albany NY.  Prior to a home inspection some home owners will paint the walls white to conceal signs of water intrustion from the home inspector.



Rust on Mechanicals or Electrical Panel


Here we have a hot water tank on a dry floor with some rust on the bottom. During the Home Inspection the home inspector found rust at the bottom of the hot water tank. If this is discovered during a home inspection this can implicate a few things. 

1.) At your home inspection the inspection inspector discovered that the home currently has water intrusion and the water has made contact with the hot water tank and it is evident the water levels still reach the appliances.

2.) At your home inspection the home inspector discovered that the home HAD water intrusion and the water at some point made contact with the hot water tank. The water intrusion problem may have been resolved with gutters or grading. 

3.) At your home inspection the home inspector discovered the home has a little water intrusion. This can vary from a minor issue to a major issue. Even if its minor the air contains a good amount of moisture which causes rust in some of the basement mechanical equipment or electrical panel. In this case ventilation may correct the issue. .





An obvious indicator that is easy for a Home inspector to spot during a home inspection is mold in the basement covering sheet rock. Sheet rock will soak up the water and moisture and will become moldy. Another good indicator of mold/moisture problems is a musky smelling basement.







Another growth a home inspector can find on foundation walls in areas of the basement that contain high moisture is the presence of effloresence. Effloresence is a white fuzzy substance that occurs when salts make there way through the foundation and is induced by low temperatures, condensation, rain and dew.




Spalling/Flaking Occuring on Basement Walls



 If during a home inspection the inspector discovers that the basements foundation walls show signs of spalling or flaking this can be a clear indication of moisture issues.  Spalling happens when the surface of the concrete wall will begin to become brittle. Although light spalling isn't a sever structural issue, it is a tell tale sign of moisture problems. Some times basement walls are painted. A clear indication of moisture problems is flaking and peeling of the paint.