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Wet Basements ?

April 21st, 2009 · No Comments

Hi Amy & Ron:

   The house we purchased was built in 1890.  I am wondering what to do with the basement as it is wet.  Is this a major concern?  Is the house going to crumble in on itself?  What are Vapor Barriers?  Would a Dehumidifier help?  We are going to extend the drains along side of the gutters, and harvest rain water, and I did read that might help some…HELP!!! from:Amanda


Hi Amanda,

Firstly, thanks for your inquiry and interest in old homes. Generally, a moist basement is not a MAJOR concern.

Although, there are certain things one can do to mitigate the potential problems associated with moisture in an old house such as, mold growth, wood rot, insect infestation, etc. Without specifics about what is causing the moisture to infiltrate I can give you some general ideas as how to address moisture.


Figure out how and where the moisture is getting in: By getting water away from the house, using gutters, rain handlers, “french drains” you may alleviate much of the problem. Is there concrete, in the form of sidewalks or driveways, that is pitched towards the foundation? If so, this allows moisture to pool against the foundation and eventually seep into the basement. Everything adjacent to the foundation, 2 -3 feet, should allow for storm water run off and water drainage to run away from the building.


Addressing the moisture immediately: Open the basement windows! this immediately vents the basement. Of course this is best done when the weather is nice, but then that is also when the moisture levels are highest. If the humidity levels are still very high then placing a couple of fans near the windows, one drawing in outside air and the other exhausting moist air out, should really dry things up and keep any moisture from migrating up into you house. Dehumidifiers are a great idea, especially in the winter months, if you have a place to drain them, like a sump pump or basement sink drain.

You asked about vapor barriers. A vapor barrier is easy to do by simply laying 6 mil plastic over the the basements dirt floor, topping the plastic with gravel is a good way to keep everything in place. This traps the moisture under the plastic, preventing it from migrating up into the basement and then into the house. Vapor barriers are especially helpful in dirt floor crawl spaces where they won’t be used for storage.


 One or more of these approaches should go a long way towards preventing and/or controlling a moist basement. As long as you keep water away from wood you will prevent mold and insect habitats from becoming the next problem! These can make your house crumble around you!!


Hope this is helpful and please feel free to post back with any questions/concerns you may have.



Amy Mentes

Wanamaker Restoration and Champlain Valley Millworks



Tags: maintenance · Wanamaker Restoration

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