Basements can serve many different purposes depending on the occupants, the location of the home, etc. There are typically little to no issues with basements in the short term, but over time they may begin to weather and result in a multitude of issues if not addressed correctly. Over time, you will need to have your basement inspected to ensure that it remains fit-for-purpose and in good, standing condition for the long-term. Due to the fact that basements are built underground, they are susceptible to all kinds of damage and infiltrants, thus it should be a focus point of any home inspection.
Common Concerns/Issues with Basements
The number of concerns that may arise within a home’s basement are endless, but there are some common issues that you and your home inspector should be looking for.
Water presence or damage in a basement is a huge issue that should be root-caused and addressed immediately. This may come from water infiltration from the outside of the home, bad plumbing, or simply a leaky washing machine.
All walls should be inspected thoroughly to ensure water isn’t present anywhere in the basement. We recommend waterproofing your basement even if water isn’t present at the time to reduce the likelihood of having issues in the long-run.
Another important inspection point in a basement is the structural components: the walls, floors, ceilings, etc. Any cracks in the walls or floors could signal foundation issues that can have a very serious impact to the structural integrity of the entire home. If cracks are found in the walls/floors, they should be inspected further to identify if they are simply surface cracks or if they extend deeper into the foundation. Most, newer homes are built on cinder block or concrete foundations which are more robust and less susceptible to older homes that are built on stone or brick foundations.
In addition to cracks, any bowing, sinking, or sagging of floors or ceilings could be a sign of sinking soil underneath the basement or insufficient support of the home above. These issues should be addressed immediately due to the direct risks to the occupants safety and the overall intergrity of the home.
Click here for more common issues with building foundations.
Just because your basement isn’t leaking or flooding, doesn’t mean there isn’t any moisture present. Basements are known to be dark, damp places and this can lead to increased levels of humidity that condense on all surfaces in the area. This moisture can lead to mold/mildew growth as well as oxidization of metal surfaces, in turn creating rust on your metal appliances and surfaces. Be sure to have your humidity levels inspected regularly to prevent these issues from popping up.
Sump Pump Issues
You want to ensure that you have a good, functioning sump pump that can effectively remove excess water from your basement in the case of an emergency. Sump pumps are your last lifeline in the case of a flood, when functioning correctly they will remove flooded water from the basement to a location outside and away from the home. Sump pumps should be maintained and tested regularly, a yearly examination is typically sufficient.
This simply depends on local standards, but some municipalities have specific requirements around exit and entrances in the case of an emergency. You want to make sure that you meet these codes to (1) ensure that the occupants are safe in the case of an emergency and (2) to stay up to code if you decide to sell or buy the home. These upgrades or additions don’t typically come with a low price tag. Windows are a great example of emergency exits within a basement that serve a dual purpose, as an emergency exit as well as light source. With that being said, if there are windows in the basement, be sure to inspect them for leaks, drafts, etc. which can end up being a major source of humidity and water leakage.
Lastly, a huge concern in basements and a home in general, are pest invasions. Be sure to keep an eye out for any signs of pests, especially termites. Termites can cause major damage to a home and are often found to infiltrate via the basement walls. Termites can cause major structural damage that can become impossible to fully repair, thus it is critical to have your basement inspected for them on a regular basis. Learn more on our blog post solely focused on termite infestation.
Basements can be useful, fun, and valuable aspects of a building or home, but as you can see, they need to be taken care of with a special level of scrutiny. Many issues can be found in the basement that can lead to major structural and health problems down the road. In order to understand the overall health of a home, the basement should be a primary point of inspection. This is why at Ernst Home Inspections we assess for all possible damages, their causes, and will offer the best repair options with the aim of retaining value of your home/buildings and the occupants inside.