Why Is Moisture / Mold In My Basement?

Home Inspector with A Plus Home & Building Inspections, Inc. IL.#450.003454

Do you have water damaged stored items, a musty smell, or a growing stain-like spot(s) in your home? These are indicators of moisture intrusion.

The #1  destructive issue to a home and its' contents is moisture intrusion.  Excessive moisture in a home creates an atmosphere that promotes wood rot, deterioration of building materials and MOLD (mould) growth!   A few facts about mold. Mold spores (seeds) are all around us. In order for a mold seed to grow, it needs the proper environment, such as food, proper temperature, & moisture.  Food for some types of mold is cellulose (wood) materials.  Most homes are built with wood materials.  Temperature ideal for growth of some molds coincide with our comfortable temperature range.  The only thing to eliminate or control is MOISTURE, the third element for mold growth.  Most mold spores are beneficial to us.  We eat them (cheese), breathe them, drink them. Some kinds of mold spores are allergens for some environmentally sensitive people.  For people sensitive to molds, it is essential to have a dry home.  A home is our refuge, keeping it dry eliminates many, & various issues .  Mold is not the problem, moisture intrusion is the problem.

It rains. The ground becomes saturated with rainwater. Your home, with a basement was not intended to be a boat.  OK, maybe a leaky one . . . This also applies to crawlspaces!  Unless there is flowing spring under your home, there are some simple solutions that may help eliminate moisture problem(s).

The grade or slope of the area near the foundation is critical.  A positive slope, by design, will shed rainwater, lawn sprinkler water, or water used for washing your car, away from the foundation.  Most soils next to the foundation are settled, covered with mulch or rocks and plants for landscaping.  This condition results in a negative slope or grade funneling rainwater toward the foundation which finds its way into your home.  I've not yet seen a concrete wall or floor that does not have cracks. This provides a path for moisture intrusion.  Solution? Provide a path for water to drain away from the foundation.  If required, build up the soil near the foundation to divert moisture away. Typically, a 6 inch of drop at 10 feet from the foundation is recommended. What if the land around the home is flat?  A "swale" may be option. A "swale" is a slight depression in the area around the structure, sloped away to provide a drainage system for water.  In this situation, a landscape contractor is the best option since specialized tools will be needed to attain the proper drainage slope. 

The second most critical item? A properly functioning gutter & downspout system with a minimum 6 foot downspout extension to move rainwater away from the foundation.  Properly functioning?  Correct slope of the gutters to allow proper drainage.  And yes, that also means keeping the gutters clean!  When the system does not operate or not properly designed, rainwater from the entire roof can dump near the foundation.  Again, this promotes moisture intrusion. In my opinion, keeping moisture/water in its proper place is by far the most important home maintenance consideration.

Homes are complicated. Homes have hundreds of components.  When working properly together, they provide a safe, comfortable space to live.  Hundreds of home components will wear over time.  This is why regular, scheduled maintenance is so important.  Just like changing the oil in your cars' engine, this action prolongs the life of the engine, so does proper maintenance of a home.  If you do not know, do not want to know, or do not want  to do maintenance, have someone do it.  Ask for references & hire a qualified handyman. This will save you money, time, & the aggravation of something breaking down at the most inconvenient time. 

You do not have to be selling or buying a property for a home inspection. Performed by an experienced, trained, professional home inspector, a home safety/maintenance inspection will provide you with information of the true condition of your home.  Safety items should take priority. Major defects, then small deficiencies that can become  major defects, such as a small leak in a drain, are next.   With a written home safety/maintenance inspection in hand, it's your call, what gets immediate attention, and what can wait a few weeks.  Prioritize your safety deficiencies and maintenance tasks to be completed. Providing a safe, dry, healthy home for you and your family is fundamental.


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Matt Listro
National Credit Fixers - Matt Listro - Vernon, CT
Your Credit Repair Expert

Hi Jess: People always forget about the gutters and downspouts - they are key in keeping rain away from your foundation!


Jul 05, 2009 04:04 AM #1
Home Inspector Tampa FL

This is so very true...it is just not having or owning a house.It is a matter of maintaining it and thus looking after every facet of the house.The mold problem is the toughest to handle of the lot and should be taken care of sometimes even hiring professionals if the need be.


<a href="http://www.qci-online.com/Black_Mold_Removal.aspx">Home Inspector Tampa FL</a>

Sep 20, 2009 02:57 AM #2
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Jess Alvarez

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