How to keep your basement dry

Spring can be one of the most damaging seasons in Northeast Ohio. Mother Nature’s melting snow and heavy rains occasionally overpower existing storm sewers, causing messy backups that are impossible for even the most committed DIY enthusiast to repair. Properties in Heights neighborhoods are especially vulnerable to water problems due to the age of homes and their sewer pipes, as well as the large trees with established roots that can break into the sewer system. Sergio DiFranco, president of Adelio’s Contracting (a local family business started by his father Adelio in 1976) offers answers to some common questions about home foundations.

What is the root cause of wet basements? In most cases, clogged downspouts fail to carry runoff water away from the home. If not clogged, downspouts may be cracked or have leaky joints. When this happens, water should go into the drain tile, a special pipe below the footer of your basement, which will carry it to the storm sewer. A broken or clogged drain tile (due to soil or root invasion) will leave water with no place to go but into the basement, entering where the floor and wall meet.

How detrimental is a cracked foundation wall to my house? Most basement walls have cracks in them. Vertical cracks are more common, occurring when the footer has settled a bit. As long as the crack doesn’t continue to widen it usually doesn’t require repair. Horizontal cracks, however, are caused by the exterior pressure of soil expansion. Horizontal cracks are more serious and require professional attention to relieve pressure from the outside walls and add necessary reinforcements to protect the walls from further damage. If not addressed in its early stages, the wall can “buckle” and will need to be rebuilt from the footer to the top of the basement wall.

What preventive steps can a homeowner take to keep water out of the basement? Start with the gutters, making sure they are free of debris and properly sized and installed so that they do not dump water against the foundation. Also check that the grading outside is sloped away from the house. Make sure downspouts are working both above and below ground. It only takes a hairline crack in the foundation, or a deteriorated exterior seal, to let water enter from overflowing downspout pipes. Experienced owners can rent a “snake” from a hardware store to clear clogged downspouts. Stubborn clogs can be simultaneously massaged by running a garden hose into the same downspout. Downspouts can also be inspected with a sewer camera to check for cracks or breaks in the pipe.

Evelina DiFranco recently returned from the East Coast and is proud to call Cleveland Heights home. Her brother Sergio is president of Adelio's Contracting Co., which has been operating in the Heights area for over 30 years.

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Volume 2, Issue 4, Posted 9:28 PM, 03.23.2009