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Diagnose Your Problem

Diagnose Your Basement Waterproofing Issue

Your home may be trying to let you know that you have a problem. You need to have the right tools to interpret the message so that you can take the appropriate action.

If you aren’t sure what type of basement issue you are dealing with, compare your observations to the items listed below. Please note that it is not meant to replace an in-home inspection conducted by an experienced basement waterproofing contractor. Keep in mind that the symptoms may indicate a more serious issue as well as a cosmetic issue.

Symptom Possible Causes
Damp walls Crack in the foundation
Musty odor Mold; dry rot
Stale air Mold
Damp cardboard in basement Mold
Sinus headaches Mold
Extreme fatigue Mold
Runny nose Mold
Red eyes Mold
Peeling paint High humidity; poor quality paint; improper surface prep
Rust on appliances and/or tools High humidity
Warped paneling Excess moisture
White, chalky substance on cement walls Excess moisture
Wood shrinks and/or turns dark Dry rot
Red dust Dry rot

Crack in the Foundation

A crack in the foundation of your home should be assessed by a basement waterproofing contractor. The premises must be inspected thoroughly to determine the severity of the crack and if there is related damage to the foundation that must be addressed.


Dealing with mold in a home is a two-pronged issue. Mold can damage carpets, furniture, clothing and personal effects unless it is dealt with properly. (Large areas will need to be cleaned by a mold removal contractor due to health and safety issues.) The other part of the issue is that mold is a symptom of a moisture problem. If you detect any symptoms associated with mold, contact your local waterproofing professional to schedule an inspection of your property.

High Humidity

Since the basement is below ground, the air temperature is cooler than in other parts of the house. It’s not uncommon to see condensation develop on pipes, which adds to the humidity in the space. Hanging wet laundry indoors to dry will also exacerbate this issue.

Using a dehumidifier or running an air conditioner in the summer months will help to keep the basement dry. Hanging clothes outside will also help. Try to keep the basement well ventilated, and if it is not well insulated, consider an upgrade to keep humidity levels down.

Peeling paint must be scraped off before applying a fresh coat. Make sure that the surface is clean and dry before attempting to cover it again. In the case of rusty appliances, remove the excess and paint over the affected area with a paint formulated for this purpose.

Excess Moisture

If a portion of wood paneling has become warped, it cannot be repaired. The damaged portion must be removed and replaced. This condition indicates a crack or a leak in the basement which must be sealed to avoid a recurrence of the damage.

The white, chalky powder which can cover cement walls is called efflorescence. It is caused by the reaction of water and the substances used to make concrete. This substance indicates that water has penetrated the concrete and made its way to the surface, leaving crystals as it dries.

Dry Rot

Dry rot can lead to wood in a home shrinking and turning dark in color. If the condition is detected early enough and the moisture problem is dealt with promptly, the wood may dry out on its own. A serious case of dry rot will need to be dealt with by replacing the affected wood.

If you have tried to diagnose your own problem and have questions or concerns, please contact a basement waterproofing contractor for an in-home inspection.