Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my basement or crawl space leak?

Water leakage is caused by several factors. In basements, the sub-grade drain tile that is installed around the home may become clogged with silt and sediment, causing it to fail. The parging (thin layer of plaster or mortar applied to masonry to seal or smooth the surface) done on the outside of the home may have deteriorated and has allowed water to enter the foundation. Oftentimes, a downspout dumps water right next to the foundation, or an improper grade of the ground allows water to enter the area. Cracks in foundation walls and floors can also be portals of entry. Our professional inspectors are trained to locate the origin of the leak and determine the exact reason you are seeing signs of water.

How serious is my water problem?

Unfortunately, the actual water you see in your basement or crawl space is the least of the problem. The water pushing against the foundation and passing through the wall will cause lower wall deterioration, cracks, bulges, efflorescence (white, chalky mineral deposits), and many other concerns. Another big problem is that the water you see will eventually evaporate into the air, leading to condensation on pipes, ducts, or any cool surface. This moisture feeds mold, causes wood decay and invites insect damage. Our licensed inspectors are trained to analyze the signs that indicate the level of seriousness of your water problem and convey in an understandable way what is best for your situation.

How can I tell where the water is coming from?

Water can enter a foundation through several different ways. In a basement, the most common is at the cove area (where the floor and the wall meet). This is essentially a natural seam in which the water can most easily penetrate your foundation. Another common source is hydrostatic pressure, which forces the surrounding ground water under pressure to seek the path of least resistance through cracks in your walls or floor. In a crawl space, the most common water transference is due to hydrostatic pressure. Several other sources are common, though not as easily noticeable. Our licensed inspectors are trained to determine the exact source of your problem, and recommend the most effective solution for your unique situation.

What causes the musty smell in my home?

The musty smell you’re experiencing is caused by mold and fungus spores that float in the air. This will contribute to allergy and asthma problems, as well as other health issues. The air in your home rises from the bottom level up—called the "Stack Effect." In a wet or damp crawl space or basement, that same air travels upward into every component of your home, bringing with it the dampness and mold and mildew conditions. Once you have controlled the moisture, the mold and mildew will die. Our licensed inspectors are trained to notice these signs and convey their knowledge to you in an understandable way so you know what is best for your situation.

What is that white chalky substance on the walls of my basement or crawl space?

This substance is called efflorescence. It is the mineral deposits left behind on the surface of the concrete, brick or mortar after water has passed through them, and then evaporated. It appears as a white powder or crystals. It is sometimes confused with mold, but it is not alive—it is just mineral residue. It is not harmful and can be swept or brushed off. But it is a sign of water infiltrating (probably slowly) through the wall or floor. Our licensed inspectors are trained to notice these signs and relate the source of your water issues in an understandable way so you know what treatment is best for your situation.

If I never see water in my dirt crawl space, should I still be concerned?

Standing water is bad in a crawl space, but there is a greater concern. The earth itself is nearly 100% humidity. This humidity will evaporate into the crawl space atmosphere and raise the moisture levels in the structural components. Since the air movement in a home is from bottom to top ("Stack Effect"), all of the components of your home are at high risk of mold, rot and odors. Our professional inspectors are trained to notice signs of concern and determine the solution that best suits your needs.

What if I have cracks in the walls or floor of my basement?

Cracks in your walls can be caused by several sources, resulting in several different scenarios. Cracks can represent the settling of a foundation. However, cracks can also be caused by water pressure buildup around and/or under your foundation. A crack in a foundation wall is a sign of movement. With an average 47 tons resting on your foundation walls, the integrity of your walls must be maintained to eliminate the entry of moisture. Our professionally trained inspectors will determine the cause of the cracks and help you understand the best solutions for addressing them.

Is there anything I can do on my own to fix a wet foundation?

Depending on the situation, correcting the problem yourself is very much a possibility. If your trained inspector feels the problem is minimal, he will give you tips and advice about how to solve the issues yourself. However, if the problem is one that needs professional services, Americrawl will review with you all the options that can restore your home to the best condition possible.

What if I think my foundation problem is above grade?

Depending on the signs of water penetration, your problem may very well be above grade. Sometimes grading and/or downspouts can solve the problem. However, if the water is coming from the bottom portion of the wall, or you see damp spots on the walls, this probably isn't the case. Americrawl offers a no cost, no obligation inspection to assess these signs so that you’ll know for sure what the cause of the problem is and what can be done to correct it.

What is condensation and why is it happening in my basement or crawl space?

Whenever outside air is warmer than inside air, a condensation problem is likely to appear in your basement or crawl space. Basements and crawl spaces are below ground and are therefore fairly cool most of the time. When moist, hot air (like that found on a summer day) is combined with a cool basement or crawl space climate, condensation forms on cool surfaces such as ductwork, glass and concrete foundations.

a. How does this occur?

Keep in mind that the relative humidity of air goes up 2.2% for every one-degree it is cooled. Consider, for example, an 80-degree day with relative humidity level of 80%. As the warm and moist outside air is drawn into your basement or through crawl space vents and is cooled to an average 68 degrees or cooler, the basement or crawl space relative humidity is raised another 26.4% (12 degrees x 2.2%). Add that to the pre-existing 80% humidity level and you’ve got a number greater than 100%. This is really saturated air, and this air gives up its saturation or excess moisture by "depositing" it on cold surfaces such as basement or crawl space walls, floors, exposed ductwork, water tanks and pipes. This process is called condensation.

b. Dehumidification

To best eliminate condensation in a basement or crawl space, the humidity in the air needs to be reduced or "dehumidified." This should be done consistently and effectively to best balance air temperature, humidity levels and the natural "updraft" of air flow from the bottom levels of a home up through and out the upper levels (the "Stack Effect"—think attic and roof vents). For energy-efficient dehumidification and air filtration, consider the Sani-Dry CSB® Air System for your basement or crawl space. This unit can be ducted to other rooms and provides dual-stage filtration for the capture of indoor allergens as small as two microns. With the ability to pull up to 100 pints per day of moisture from the air on just 6.8 amps of energy, the Sani-Dry CSB® Air System has earned the EnergyStar seal of approval. With crawl spaces, the dehumidification process should begin by eliminating a major source of moisture—the dirt floor. This can be accomplished by encapsulating the crawl space area with a CleanSpace liner to isolate your home from the earth.

What does it cost to have my basement or crawl space waterproofed?

It depends on several factors, such as what work needs to be done, and which method you choose to correct the problem. For this very reason, we offer our inspections and estimates free of charge. That way, you can discover the exact information you need to waterproof your home and make informed choices.

My home was waterproofed by the builder just a few years ago; why do I now have a wet basement?

Wet basements are a problem in new and old homes alike. If your home was built by a reputable builder, a damp-proofing system was most likely applied on exterior walls and a drainage system installed around the perimeter of your foundation.

The problem with most new construction waterproofing is that it is one of the first stages completed by the builder. Typically this "waterproofing" consists of a spray-on exterior damp-proofing and the installation of a perimeter drain tile system. Once these procedures are complete, literally dozens of contractors involved in building the new home become involved. They go to work on top of, and around, the foundation and make holes in it for electrical conduit, gas lines, and other utilities, and unintentionally jeopardize the waterproofing system’s performance.

If you’re now experiencing a wet foundation, you’ll want to learn about our waterproofing systems that are designed to meet the specific needs of each home. We evaluate and treat every situation individually—no two are ever alike—and the homeowner is involved in designing the system that best meets his/her needs. Our systems can often be installed in less than a day and require no penetrations to your foundation, no excavation around the perimeter of your home, and certainly no additional man-made capillaries by which water can enter your home.

I'm finishing my basement, is there a way to guarantee it being permanently dry?

This is a good question. Many would assume that a typical "drain tile" system combined with a sump pump would keep a basement floor dry all the time. Not so. These systems provide assurances to keep a basement floor dry "most" of the time, but are subject to failure:

  • Sump pumps fail. Whether through mechanical failure on the pump’s part, a power interruption (tripped breaker or storm), or the pump’s inability to keep up with volume, a sump pump can fail and leave a homeowner with wet surroundings.
  • Drain tiles fail. Drain tiles (an exterior system of tile and rock with a perforated pipe for drainage placed below grade along the perimeter of a building’s foundation) often become clogged and useless due to certain soil types, deterioration and heavy rains.

These two options—or the combination of the two—just isn’t adequate for the majority of homeowners revising their basements. Americrawl has access to over 20 patented products to ensure your entire basement or crawl space remains dry all the time, any time and guards against:

  • A pre-existing drain tile system
  • Sump pump failure
  • High humidity levels and damaging condensation
  • Incidental seepage down the interior walls
  • Water vapor transmission through basement walls and floor
  • Mold and fungus growth

What happens if I delay fixing my basement or crawl space?

Homeowners often ignore or are unaware of potential water damage in their foundations. In basements, this costly damage can extend to warped paneling, mildewed furniture, lifted floor tiles and ruined carpeting. Other problems caused by wet foundations are mold and mildew, musty odors and aggravated allergies. Higher heating and cooling costs also occur where there is an unhealthy foundation. And, of course, an unaddressed wet crawl space—along with potential pest infestation—will most likely result in eventual structural damage.