Common Basement Problems (And How to Fix Them)

Basements can be a gift and a curse for every homeowner.

They’re a gift because you can store all sorts of things down there and utilize the area as an additional living or entertaining room.

They’re a curse because there are so many common basement problems you can face that range from minor nuisance issues to catastrophic problems that can ruin the value of your home.

Fortunately, any problems in your basement that you do have are not uncommon and can be fixed.

Below is a list of the ten most common basement issues and how to fix them. Use this guide to prepare for any unexpected problems you may be facing now and in the future.

Common Basement Problems

1. Leaking or Flooding Basement

The most common reasons for leaking and flooding in a basement are plumbing failures and groundwater seeping through the foundation.

To deal with this problem, you need to first find the source.

Is it a leaking sink, shower, tubs toilet, pipe, refrigerator line, washing machine, water heater, or other plumbing apparatus? If so, fix the appliance or replace the leaking pipe or fitting.

Is it rainwater or melting snow that’s flooding your basement or making it damp? If so, fix the problem by patching all the cracks in your basement’s foundation.

2. Basement Mold

Even if you patch up every crack and gap in your basement, you can still experience high moisture issues. And this is what can lead to mold growth.

To get rid of mold in your basement, you need to lower the humidity, temperature, and get rid of airborne mold spores.

If you don’t have an air conditioning system in your basement, then you may not be able to control the temperature. If you do, set it to be lower than 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

To fix humidity problems, add a dehumidifier to extract the moisture out of the air on a daily basis. You want to aim for a 30-50% relative humidity level to stop mold from growing.

And finally, utilize an air purifier in your basement to strip mold spores out of the air. The fewer mold spores there are, the less chance mold has to multiply and grow inside your house. Check out our best air purifier for basement guide to find the right product for your needs and budget.

3. Sump Pump Problems

A sump pump’s primary function is to pump water away from your home’s foundation.

If it stops working properly, it could produce disastrous results such as flooding.

To deal with this problem, you have to make sure that your home is outfitted with the right sump pump. Look for a TripleSafe™ sump pump system that has two backup systems in place in case the traditional sump pump mechanics ever fail.

4. Basement Cracks in the Walls and Floors

Cracks are one of the most common basement problems and not all occurrences are disastrous. However, some cracks could indicate a larger underlying problem inside your home.

Most cracks are natural and just happen because of settling. But even those small cracks can enlarge if water starts seeping through.

Often, vertical cracks or stair-stepping cracks along cinderblock are from the natural settlement. However, long horizontal cracks may indicate that the wall is experiencing stress from the force of the earth pushing against it.

To deal with horizontal cracks, you could try one of the following options:

• Helical tieback anchors
• Wall anchors
• Timber framing

If the vertical cracks are small, then using epoxy injections might be enough. However, if they are large in nature, you would need to repair the structure completely.

5. Humidity in the Basement

There are three main sources of humidity (or moisture) in your basement: liquid intrusion, interior sources such as humidifiers and dryers, and exterior humid air that enters your basement and condenses on cooler surfaces.

To control liquid intrusion, follow the advice given tips #1 and #4.

To control interior sources, turn them off or better ventilate the basement area so moisture doesn’t build up.

To prevent interior exterior humid air from coming indoors, don’t open windows or doors during the hot summer months.

6. Basement Smells and Odors

There are a lot of reasons why your basement might have a foul smell, which is another one of the most common basement problems.

Mold, mildew, pet stains, dead rodents, or sewer gas are common reasons why your basement may smell.

Depending on the cause, there are different ways to deal with them.

To get rid of mold, follow the advice given in tip #2. And, remove any object that may have molds growing on it, such as furniture and carpets.

For pet stains, clean them with enzymatic cleaners to get rid of the odorous molecules.

For the dead rodents, you need to make sure that those pests don’t have a reason to visit your basement in the first place. Use preventative pest control methods to keep these vermin outside.

For sewer gas problems, you’ll need to hire a skilled plumber.

7. Stained Basement Surfaces

The stains on the surfaces of your basement might be of different types.

Is it a white and powdery substance? Then it’s likely to be an efflorescence stain. To fix this problem, you’ll need to control the humidity in your basement.

Is it reddish or orange in color? Then it may be from iron ochre which comes from high concentrations of iron in the soil Iron ochre stains are almost impossible to clean.

Is a dark green, black, or blue in color and spotty or in large patches? Then it’s possibly an infestation of mold. To fix this problem, you’ll need to lower the humidity in your basement and keep the temperature below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Also, follow the guidance in tip #2.

8. Bowing or Buckling Basement Walls

The excess moisture in the soil around your house can cause the soil to swell, which might also create strong pressure on your basement walls and make them bow inwards.

The problem can be a simple fix or a serious foundation issue.

For simple fixes, you need to eliminate the moisture that’s forming around your basement. The best way to do this is to re-slope the dirt so it pushes rainwater away from your foundation. Also, ensure that any downspouts are pushing water at least 6 feet away from your home.

For serious issues, a licensed contractor would be better suited to assess the problem and offer potential solutions.

9. Sinking Basement Floors

Sinking basement floors happen for a few reasons:

  • Rising foundation
  • Improperly sized footing pads
  • Soil erosion under the floor

If you notice that your basement floor is sinking, then it’s best to call a professional. Fixing these problems requires extensive training and should never be attempted by anyone who is not experienced in foundation repair.

10. Basement Window Problems

Rust, rot, and leaking water are common problems with basement windows.

To know what to do here, you’ll first need to assess the depth of the problem and then take the correct action.

Sometimes all it takes is sealing up a crack or gap. Other times, you’ll need to replace the window or its frame entirely.

Your Quick Fix Guide to Basement Problems

We hope you enjoyed this guide on common basement problems and how to fix them.

As you learned, many of the issues you experience in a basement can be solved yourself; however, for serious issues like a sinking basement or buckling walls, you’ll be better off hiring a licensed professional.

If you’re interested in learning more about air purifiers and how they can help keep your home a mold-free and odor-free space, check out our best air purifier for basement guide to find the perfect device for your needs.

That guide teaches what the top features are to look for in a basement air purifier as well as how to properly size it for your space.