From heavy rainfall to leaky pipes, basement water damage can be caused by various factors. But the amount of damage and potential for harm depends on the category of water and the class of water damage.
There are three categories of water: category 1, category 2 and category 3. Category 1 involves water that originated from a sanitary source and is nonthreatening to humans. Category 2 regards gray water, meaning the water is contaminated and can result in illness if consumed or even contacted. Category 3 is the worst of the three and concerns black water; such water is contaminated and may contain pathogenic and toxic matter.
Water damage is divided into four classes: class 1, class 2, class 3 and class 4. The higher the class, the more harmful the water damage is to a room. Classes 1, 2 and 3 are classified from the slowest rate of evaporation to the quickest rate of evaporation with class 1 being the slowest.
Class 1 affects one section of a room and involves minimal absorption, but class 2 affects an entire carpeted room and soaks walls up to 24 inches. Class 3 affects entire areas, like walls and ceilings, with water typically coming from above. Class 4 regards specialty drying situations and involves materials with low permeance/porosity, like hardwood and concrete.
Regardless of the class, though, water damage in basements should be addressed to avoid serious problems. Untreated basement water damage can result in property damage, risking the structural integrity of a building, and even health risks. It’s important to know the signs of water damage in basements so you can identify those issues and address them.
Cracks can form in the floor, foundation or walls of a basement, but they can also be found outside of a house. Cracking is most commonly caused by water putting pressure on a building’s structure, but excessive moisture or inadequate drainage are also causes for cracking.
The size of the cracks is crucial. Hairline cracks can be nonthreatening, but cracks wider than one-sixteenth of an inch need to be checked. Pay attention to shifting or displaced walls as well.
If window seals and door panes have cracked, make sure those are properly sealed. If not, the cracks can lead to larger problems — like allowing more moisture or water into the basement and, in turn, further water damage — and they should be properly sealed to prevent more issues.
The main cause of mold is moisture, so its presence can be a key indicator of water damage.
Mold growth is often a result of a leak, and it will form on furniture, organic materials, walls and wood. It appears as dark green or black in color, but mold can sometimes be a white powdery substance. Mold also gives off a damp, musty smell.
While it isn’t atypical for basements to have a certain smell to them, you should pay attention to any abnormal, persistent odors in a basement. If cleaning the space, dehumidifying the area, and ventilation don’t get rid of an uncommon smell in a basement, it’s a likely sign of mold or mildew. Both substances give off damp and musty odors.
Surface Color/Texture Changes
Peeling paint or wallpaper isn’t necessarily a sign of aging; it can also be a sign that the foundation is deteriorating due to water. If this is the case, then the exposed cement or the cement underneath either the paint or wallpaper will start to flake. The flaking cement indicates a process called spalling: when rock or stone breaks into smaller pieces. But spalling isn’t the only concern; efflorescence can form on the cement when there’s water damage.
Not to be confused with mold, efflorescence is a white, powdery, sparkly substance that sometimes has a gray tint. It forms when water is on or in the affected surface and shows how high water has risen. “Efflorescence” is a chemistry term with French roots meaning “to flower out.” In the case of water damage, what flowers out is the salt from the cement surface, so the substance left behind is salt deposits.
Both spalling and efflorescence can be early signs of foundational issues.
Painted walls and wallpaper can also become discolored if there is water damage. Look out for yellow or brown spots.
Aside from cracking, there are other changes to a basement floor that can indicate water damage.
Floors can either sink or swell if there’s water damage. Sunken flooring may mean a home has a damaged foundation or soil erosion below the foundation. Swollen flooring occurs when the floor absorbs moisture.
Other signs of water damage are flooring that has separated from the subfloor and underpadding that feels spongy.
Professional Water Damage Restoration
Stay alert and watch out for any of these signs of water damage in your basement. Finding such problems and addressing them sooner could prevent further damage, including structural damage and mold growth. If your basement has any of these signs and you suspect it has suffered water damage, seek professional water damage restoration services. These professionals can remove the water from your basement and work to restore the damaged areas.