Protecting Your Dungeon

Have you heard the good news? Its supposed to rain…like h*** this weekend…with the possibility of “changing over.”  I hope our weathermen are weatherguessers on this one. I quickly learned from our last “snow storm” (i.e. irrelevant dusting) that the grocery stores go through an apocalyptic supply drainage with the impending doom of “snow.”

Where's the leak!?

Whatever happens….precipitation is inevitable this weekend (just in time for my move!). If you’re basement isn’t sealed tight…you are going to find yourself with a soggy dungeon. Damp basements can cause a lot of damage over time. They become a Petri dish for mold growth. They can also quickly depreciate the value of your home. (thank you Josh Garskof) had this article about how to protect your $ by protecting your basement.

Start outside. If you notice recurring dampness or puddles in a particular part of your basement, head outdoors. Walk along your house to the spot closest to where the leak is occurring. Look up. Chances are the problem is one of three things: a bent, clogged or missing gutter that’s dropping roof runoff near the foundation; a down-spout that’s releasing its load too close to the house; or an underground collection pipe that has become clogged or broken. A handyman can fix any of these problems for as little as $200 by, for example, replacing the gutter or adding an aboveground discharge pipe that extends at least three feet from the house.

Cover the windows. Is your leak under a basement window? Blame the “well” – the exterior dugout that permits the window to sit below grade. It’s funneling rainwater against the foundation, where the water is finding a crack or seam to get in. The easiest fix is a clear plastic well cover (cost: $35 to $45 at home centers) that keeps the water out but lets the sun shine through. If you can’t find the right size or shape at the store, go to

Plug cracks and holes. Watch for water entering through seams between concrete blocks, cracks in old concrete or holes where pipes penetrate the foundation. If you find such gaps, fill them with hydraulic cement (cost: $10 for a 10-pound container – probably more than enough – at any hardware store). Just mix water with this powder to get the consistency of toothpaste and press as much of it as you can into the opening after you brush out any loose debris. It will harden into a watertight seam.

Seal damp walls. Sometimes water seeps right through the pores of a foundation wall or floor, leaving a telltale white powder behind when it dries. Sure, you could fix the problem by having the exterior of your foundation waterproofed, but that would mean excavating the yard – and paying $5,000 to $15,000. Treat the interior surface instead by painting on Xypex, a professional-grade brush-on sealant (cost: about $130 for enough to cover one wall). It’s not available at home stores, but you can get it by calling 800-363-2002.

Dry the air. Even if you don’t have any leaks, high humidity is all that mold needs to take root on organic materials such as wood, wallboard and even dust. So if your basement air smells musty, pick up the largest Energy Star-rated, digitally controlled dehumidifier you can find (cost: about $300). Forget about the built-in collection bucket – there’s no way you’ll empty it every day – and instead use a plastic hose to discharge the water into a utility sink or floor drain. John Lombardi, a basement waterproofer in Silverton, Ore., advises setting the controls to 50% humidity, which is too dry for mold.

Bring in the big guns. If you’re getting full-scale floods or see water entering between the wall and the floor, call a basement waterproofing company. Go to the website of the National Association of Waterproofing and Structural Repair Contractors (, find a few local companies and ask for a free assessment. They will probably recommend a sump pump, an in-floor machine that removes water under your cellar and costs about $2,000 installed. (Aboveground pumps are meant for emergencies, not long-term use.) The best units have a second pump for extreme rainstorms and a battery-operated third in case of a power outage.

The company may also recommend adding an in-floor gutter (cost: $3,000 to $5,000) around the perimeter of your basement floor to collect water and deliver it to the pump. Make sure that the firm you choose provides a warranty that your basement will remain dry for the life of the building. You’ll never be afraid to head downstairs again



Reporter Max Wintz is out at Camp Lejune today where Obama is speaking. They left here around 3:30am to secure their spot. They will be accepting coffee donations when they return this afternoon. We’ll have that tonight.


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