How to Prevent Water from Getting into Your Basement

By Amanda Lutz Updated July 10, 2024

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Water intrusion in your home can create a cascade of damaging and costly effects. One of the most common areas of water intrusion is through your basement. Our guide details how to maintain a dry basement no matter your climate and what to watch out for when waterproofing your home.

Waterproof Foundation and Walls

One of the easiest ways water enters your home is through cracks or faults in the foundation or walls. Foundation cracks can lead to structural issues throughout your house and moisture seeping in through basement walls. This can result in excess humidity, mildew, and mold. If the cracks are large enough and excess water is present, you may experience basement flooding through your foundation walls or flooring.

Waterproofing is your biggest defense against basement flooding and is usually done when the home is built, but it can be updated and reinforced over time. This may mean coating or covering your concrete walls and floor with a waterproof barrier, adding footing drains or another drain system to prevent water leaks from groundwater, and checking the seals around basement windows.

Add an Extension and Clean Gutters Regularly

Improperly installed or blocked gutters can be a significant source of water flow into your basement and around your home’s foundation. You can avoid this by installing gutters (if you don’t have them already), extending your downspouts so the runoff is directed away from your home, and cleaning out your gutters regularly.

You may also want to invest in gutter guards to prevent clogs from leaves, sticks, and other debris. Professional gutter cleaning services are also available to those with high rooflines or who can’t clean their gutters.

Check Roof for Damage

A leaking roof can turn into water damage that affects your ceilings, drywall, beams, and, eventually, your basement. It also gives pests and rodents an access point into your home and impacts the property’s energy efficiency.

Roof leaks and damage aren’t always noticeable, as the water can travel down pipes or behind your walls before reaching your basement or crawl space. Sometimes, the first sign homeowners have of a roof leak is puddles on the basement floor or wet carpeting without an obvious source. Inspecting your roof regularly, particularly after heavy rain or a storm, is always wise.

Grade Landscape Away from Your Home

Gravity can be your biggest enemy or your best friend when preventing basement water problems. By grading your landscaping to direct water away from your home, you can help prevent standing water and limit your chances of a leaky basement.

The layout of your home and the surrounding terrain will dictate what this landscaping needs to entail. It might be as simple as adding river stones and mulch. Other homes may require professional grading and additional drains to redirect water flow.

Invest in a Sump Pump

Water will eventually flow to the lowest point in your home, which is typically the basement. If you install a sump pump, this accumulated water will be pumped out of your home before it results in any more damage or you wind up with a flooded basement. 

A sump pump is an interior drainage system with a hole in the lowest point of your basement’s concrete floor and a basin. Once that water reaches a certain level, the sump pump automatically removes that water through a designated drainpipe. This is beneficial whether you occasionally experience small leaks in your basement or want to avoid catastrophic flooding from an unexpected storm.

Install a French Drain

A French drain is a drainage system embedded in your existing landscaping to prevent and eliminate areas where water flow is problematic. It’s often made of perforated pipe surrounded by gravel, sand, or other porous elements and can be hidden in your garden, across your lawn, or even run underneath a patio.

Installing a French drain allows you to prevent areas of standing water around your home, especially if grading alone can’t fix the problem. This is often the case if the surrounding landscape, yard, or driveway slopes toward your home. Rather than allow this water to flow to or sit against your foundation, leading to basement flooding, a French drain can redirect the water elsewhere.

Seal Cracks in the Basement

Checking for and repairing any cracks in your basement walls or foundation immediately helps prevent water seepage and further damage. Sealing cracks may be as simple as adding polyurethane caulk around window wells or as complex as having a professional foundation repair company reinforce your structure.

You can contact a structural engineer to inspect your home if you suspect foundation damage or serious issues. This unbiased professional can tell you exactly what your home needs and how serious the cracks might be.

Our Recommendation

Basements are notorious for accumulating water or, at the very least, more moisture than other areas of the home. Some homeowners can combat this moisture with dehumidifiers. Others may face serious leaks and damage whenever a storm hits and require professional help. We recommend taking preventive measures to prohibit water from getting into your basement in the first place. Taking a proactive approach to your property’s grading, landscaping, and even the condition of your foundation will increase your chances of a dry basement.

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How to Keep Water Out of Basement FAQ

How do you prevent basement flooding during heavy rain?

Heavy rains can lead to floodwater reaching even the most protected of basements. If you’re worried about basement water intrusion from heavy rain, you can prevent it by directing gutters away from your home, landscaping and adding French drains to redirect standing water, and ensuring that your basement walls and foundation are crack-free and waterproofed.

Is it okay to use a dehumidifier in a basement?

Yes, a dehumidifier is a great way to regularly remove ambient moisture from your basement, which can help prevent mildew and mold growth. This isn’t enough to combat leaks, flooding, or other clear signs of water intrusion, so it’s also important to waterproof your basement.

What soaks up water in a basement?

If you have an acute water event in your basement, you can remove the water using a shop vac, carpet extractor, or sump pump. If your carpets are soaked, it’s important to call a restoration company, or if you prefer to do-it-yourself (DIY), you can use commercial-grade fans and extractors to dry the carpets and padding. Then, be sure to find the source of the water intrusion to prevent it from happening again.