Basement and Window Well Issues

I recently realized that I have come into contact with more than a dozen people with basement leaks. These people inevitably ask for my advice on the order of actions they should take. I figured it made sense to outline what I have learned here, for all to read.

First of all, if you notice water or mold/mildew in your basement do not hesitate, take action immediately! The process you are about to begin is not an easy (or cheap) one, but the longer you wait, even just a week, can compound the problem. Start by checking if there is a leak in a basement window. Here is a cross section of what is happening.




Often window wells can get full of debris, and stop draining properly, especially after a heavy rain storm. If the gravel stops draining because of a layer of leaves and decomposing organic matter, it may hold the water of a small storm and evaporate. In heavy storm the window well can fill and water can flow into the basement through the window. In the event that the gravel is contaminated, you can remove the top layer until you reach clean free flowing gravel and top it back up with bags from your local garden center, or landscape supply.

The other common place for a leak is under a porch. I regularly see that the location of a water issue in a basement is the spot were the last step meets the ground/driveway/walkway. In this case the leak could be close to the surface, making the repair much simpler and less costly. A leak anywhere else could spell trouble. In either of these cases, you should contact a professional that deals with basement leaks. Preferably a company that can handle the interior and exterior portions of the work themselves (if something goes wrong in the future, you don’t want to deal with figuring out who is to blame, you will just want it fixed). If you have a finished basement chances are they will have to remove a section of the dry wall to get a look at the foundation, but they will normally be able to give you some free advice about what the problem and what the possible solutions available to you are. Just make sure you call a few and make sure the opinions match.

Finally, consult a landscaper. For the most part they will not be willing to deal with the leak in your foundation. However, the cause of the problem could be a tree planted too close to the house and the roots are working their way into your basement. Or the grading of your yard could be directing water to the foundation. The latter is a faux pas of landscape design, and should be rectified even if you do not have water issues (yet), because over time it will degrade your foundation. In any case, the landscape consultant should be able to give you some advice and even if the problem is not a landscaping issue, they will do a much better job at repairing your yard once the foundation has been exposed and repaired than the “leaky basement contractor”.