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A wet basement is the number one problem with Toronto homes, a fact you may already know from personal experience. But did you know that the search for basement leaks often begins on the roof?

That’s one of the few vantage points that will reveal inadequate grading. Looking down from above – especially in the spring when the ground may still be wet and foliage hasn’t yet blossomed – might reveal that water isn’t being directed away from the house at all.

Climbing a ladder is also the only way to survey your eavestroughs and downspouts. Many homeowners undertake the dreary task of clearing the eaves in the fall, but it should also be done in the spring in advance of heavy rains.

Remember, every drop of rain that lands on your roof will end up on the ground just a few inches from your foundation wall, unless the eaves carry it away or the ground slopes distinctly away from the house.

Back on the ground, carefully check the connection where the downspout enters the storm drain. A washout or depression around that area indicates water has been backing up or spilling directly onto the ground.

Persistent dampness in the basement causes mould and mildew, which usually smells, so your nose will tell you if you have a long-standing problem. You can also detect less obvious problems by doing a little detective work.

Check the window sills for stains, mould or rusty nail heads, all signs of excessive moisture. Check your walls, especially near the floor. There should be no flaking or powdery residue. Efflorescense, those shiny flakes that result from the build-up of minerals and salts from water infiltrating the walls, is a dead giveaway of seepage or a leak.

On the floor, look for lifting tiles or stained carpet. Spongy areas in a wood floor also signal a moisture problem below. Buckled paneling or bulging drywall are also telltale signs of dampness. Moisture problems need to be solved, because in time, wood components will rot, metal will rust and concrete will crumble, weakening the structural integrity of the house. Wet wood is also a gold-engraved banquet invitation to termites.

Fortunately, some solutions are simple and you can accomplish them yourself.

The first is to fill in any depressions or gullies around the foundation and make sure the surface slopes away from the walls – one inch per foot for the first six feet will do it. This will prevent rain and melting snow from ending up in your basement.

The next is to clean your eavestroughs and then pour some water into them at different locations. If the water drains away then you know the slope is fine; but if water pools in some areas, the eaves in that area need to be realigned.

Other solutions call for expert assistance. If you have leaks or seepage around the basement windows, a new concrete or corrugated steel window well may be the solution.

If you have more serious problems – if you can’t leave cardboard boxes on the floor without deterioration, for instance – you may have to waterproof your foundation wall or install new drainage tiles around the foundation to direct water into the storm or sewer system.

Belvedere has been waterproofing and repairing foundation walls for decades. Replacing drainage tile clogged by dirt or broken by tree roots and using the latest foundation wall technology (including cement and asphalt sealers and plastic membrane), we are confident enough in our work to provide a 30-year guarantee.

A pool is a great addition to any home, but not in the basement!


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