Water is a mighty powerful and persistent thing. It’s carved out canyons and has flooded huge cities. Allow it drip for long enough and it will punch a hole through granite. When it comes to your basement – if there’s a way for water to find it’s through, trust me, it will discover it and you’ll soon have a leaking basement problem.
That’s why so many of San Francisco’s basements suffer from some form of basement water problem. Causes of this can range from leaking water wells and cracked walls, to porous and cracked floors. Left untended, basement leaks can lead to all kinds of associated problems, ranging from mold and mildew, declining property values, to a family with an entire floor of their home that is unhealthy and unusable.
We discovered the challenges with finishing a basement last summer when we added a bathroom to our basement. Our bathroom remodeling contractor found water in the basement and it ended up taking a lot more time and effort than originally anticipated.
There are only two solutions to a leaky basement. The first is to stop the water from getting in. The second is to manage it (more about this later). Any competent car mechanic will confirm that the only way to stop an oil leak is at its source. The same applies to basements (choosing a mechanic and a contractor should be taken with equal care).
Unfortunately, when basement water-proofing fails from the interior, there’s no easy way to stop it because the source is on the far side of a brick/concrete wall, or under a concrete foundation deep below the ground. This makes accumulating the water in a hollow called a sump usually the first course of action. When it’s accumulated, you can lead it away with an electric pump.
A sump pump is not unlike a water-feature pump in principle, in that it’s connected to an electricity supply, but always under water so it never develops an airlock. The sump is equally simple. It’s just a hollow you could squeeze a beach ball into, and covered over with a lid so everything looks neat and tidy.
The system is controlled by a float that’s not unlike the one in your bathroom toilet (at least in principle again). When the water reaches a set level, a switch turns on the pump for as long as necessary to control the water in the sump. By far the larger challenge is leading the leaking water to the sump in the first place. But that’s a subject for another article.
Do I Need a Sump Pump?
You need a sump pump if there’s an accumulation of water in your basement at any time of year. They’re not all that expensive. Besides, if you ignore the damp, mold could become the least of your problems. Your basement den or bedroom could become permanently uninhabitable. Imagine what that would do to your property valuation, and the value of what is probably the biggest investment you’ll ever make.
A Permanent Solution
If you have permanent bronchial problems, you could be living in a damp environment. If your basement is permanently damp, then that’s a sign of a deeper-seated problem too. Once you have successfully stabilized your situation with a sump pump, you really should call in a registered and experienced basement waterproofing expert. They will advise you on a longer term solution that retains the integrity of your home.