As winter gives way to spring, the melting snow can wreak havoc on two particularly vulnerable areas of your home: the roof, and the basement.
We’ve already tackled the roof, so let’s talk about the basement. As the foundation of your house, the basement area may be impacted by thawing snow, water seepage, and of course, the critters that come out to play in the spring.
Here’s how to get your basement ready for the spring season.
Common Basement Problems
One of the biggest causes of basement damage is water. This can come from a variety of sources:
- Leaking or burst pipes in winter
- Broken drainage lines
- Cracked or damaged windows or walls
The average cost to dry out a flooded basement ranges from $3,000-to $5,000, and that doesn’t include the damage to other equipment stored in the basement, such as furnaces and HVAC systems.
The relative humidity (RH) level can have a significant impact on your basement. In the winter, low humidity can cause wooden supports to crack, while in the warmer months excessive humidity can result in wall damage and mold formation.
A damaged basement exterior can allow pests to come in and nest in your home. Some are more destructive than others, such as termites that can damage structural supports, or rats that can pose a threat to wiring and insulation.
10-Point Basement Checklist for Spring
Spotting Water Damage
1. Inspect walls and ceilings
- Mold and mildew are sure signs of water seepage
- Check floors for signs of standing water, or water stains that indicate dried out water pools.
- Also check for unusual odors that can indicate stagnant water that may not easily be visible.
2. Examine those pipes
- Winter is when the occurrence of leaking or burst pipes are greatest. Make sure your plumbing has stayed intact during the season.
- When in doubt, run water in a suspect line to check for signs of leaking.
3. Check basement seals
- Rubber and weather seals may have aged or cracked, allowing both air and water into the basement.
- Run a garden hose along the exterior walls and windows of the basement, and check for signs of water seeping through.
4. Don’t forget humidity
- Moisture damage can also affect walls and supports, albeit slower.
- A relative humidity level of 50% is recommended in the warm season. If your basement goes over this RH, consider using a dehumidifier to regulate moisture levels to safe levels and avoid mold and damp spots from forming.
5. Look for horizontal cracks
- This indicates damage caused by hydrostatic pressure, which is pressure from saturated soil surrounding the basement.
- Horizontal cracks mean that the basement supports are fracturing and need to be repaired ASAP.
6. Check for stair step cracks
- These look like stair steps that form in brick and mortar supports
- Examine the mortar lines for interconnecting stair step cracking, which shows which areas have suffered damage and need to be serviced.
Sump pump inspection
7. Ensure sump pump functionality
- Sump pumps are one of those things we tend to forget about, until the moment we need them.
- A blocked or dysfunctional sump pump may end up pumping water back into the house when used, which will cause even more damage.
8. Physical insulation check
- If accessible, conduct a visual inspection of your insulation.
- Soft insulation like fiberglass is specifically vulnerable to moisture damage and can become a mold haven if not inspected seasonally.
9. Temperature check
- A sure sign of frayed insulation are temperature discrepancies.
- When in doubt, use a room thermometer to compare the basement temperature with the house thermostat.
- An improperly insulated basement can cause bills to pile up in the long run.
10. Check for signs of pest infestation
- During the cold season, pests like roaches, rats, ants, and racoons may have made their way into your basement. Here’s how to get rid of these common winter pests.
- In the spring and summer, insects like termites, mosquitoes and wasps can nest in your basement. Here’s our handy guide for spotting and eliminating warm season pests.
For more spring preparation tips, check out our guide: How to Prepare your Home for the Spring.