Clean basement window wells
Considering that ground-level windows are your basement’s only contact with the outside world, it’s important that you keep them free of debris so that the space below receives adequate ventilation. Maintaining clean window wells also prevents the entrance of dirt and pests and makes window deterioration less likely. Clean out window wells in the fall and spring.
Check for and resolve leaks
During wet weather, inspect the basement’s walls and floors for damp areas. Look closely around the perimeter of the room where the walls meet the floor, as this is usually where leaks occur. If you do find wet areas, follow the dampness to the wettest area and look for cracks in the wall, or if the leak leads to piping, carefully inspect plumbing for cracks. Treating a small leak before it grows saves you from experiencing potentially damaging flooding down the road.
Inspect and adjust outdoor drainage
Ensuring that water doesn’t head straight for the basement as soon as it rains or the snow melts helps considerably in preventing leaks and excessive moisture. Clean eavestroughs at the beginning of each season so that they don’t overflow on top of the house and cause water to run down the walls and into the basement. Also ensure that the downspouts flow away from the house into the street or yard. And make sure the soil around your home slopes away from the structure, going out at least 1.8 meters from the house.
Take care of indoor drainage
Every six months, clean the drain in your basement floor by pouring in a half cup of bleach. Flush water through after it sits for 10 minutes. Also check sump pumps to make sure they’re in working order.
Because of their location below ground, basements are naturally more humid than other areas of the home. If your basement’s relative humidity is higher than 50% to 60%, mold is likely to develop, bringing with it unpleasant odors and allergy symptoms. Keep mold and high humidity at bay by installing and running an Energy Star-rated dehumidifier. You want to lower overall relative humidity to 35% to 45%.
Maintain piping insulation
Prevent moisture that naturally builds up on cold-water pipes during hot weather from dampening surrounding areas by applying insulation to the pipes to help prevent sweating. Doing so also avoids energy loss.
Check basement support beams
Every two to three years, inspect each support beam, ensuring that no gaps exist between the beams and the main house girders. Alleviate gapping by filling in with metal or hard wood where necessary. Gaps between the beams and house girders are dangerous because it means that the beams aren’t carrying their share of the load of the house. This can lead to uneven settling, which can result in wall and floor cracking.
Look for pests
Many home pests take refuge in the damp, dark basement. On a monthly basis, check for and treat invaders such as silverfish, carpenter ants, earwigs, cockroaches, termites and mice. Besides actually spotting pests, recognize the presence of invaders by their tell-tale droppings. Many also chew on moist, organic materials such as cloth, so do your best to avoid clutter in the basement.
As you can see, while thoroughly checking your basement for trouble on a regular basis does take some time and effort, the reward of a comfortable, healthy subterranean space is well worth completing a few maintenance tasks.
By Julie Bawden-Davis