BASEMENT MOISTURE- (Above Grade)

By
Home Inspector with H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties)

There are many causes for basement moisture problems, including grade sloping towards the house or foundation, improper or malfunctioning gutters, downspouts or underground drainage, cracks in basement walls, static water pressure that builds up outside a homes foundation from a spring or water source, and also using improper, or non-porous material to backfill with around the perimeter of the house...just to name a few.

But what about when the moisture is coming in from "above grade"? That is when there is moisture and visible moisture marks on the inside of the basement wall, but they start from a point that is actually above the level of the outside ground. What causes this?... Since we all know from kindergarten that water does not flow uphill on it's own.

Example of moisture entering block from Above grade moisture marks on block wall.

The top two courses of block you see in the picture above are actually above the ground level outside. So, how are they getting wet?

This phenomenon is most generally related to siding (exterior wall covering) that is allowing water to enter behind it. Most generally, it is associated with the now very popular "vinyl siding", because the installation of it requires that spaces be left between pieces and corners, so that the siding can expand or contract in different temperatures. This "loose installation" often means that rain & moisture can be driven by wind to get behind the siding, and once this happens, it can then come in at the top of the block  or the wood "sill plate" that sits on top of the block.

This condition can be very perplexing to remedy, since there is not one "cure all method" for stopping it.

The one method  that I usually recommend involves removing the siding in the effected areas (usually  corners, but can be anywhere), and installing a product known to the roofing industry as "ice and water sheild" under the siding, and covering all the way down to the starter strip of the siding. This method has been effective at stopping most water penetrations when installed properly.

 

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Rainer
15,098
Bubba Fife
Complete Property Maintenance - Nashville, TN

Some manufactures of vinyl siding recommend that a moisture barrier similar to Tyvek be installed behind the siding to prevent this. However; most municipalities do not require this. They don't here...

Sep 02, 2008 12:17 AM #4
Rainmaker
67,128
Kevin Corsa
H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties) - Canton, OH
H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector

I have seen this happen at corners EVEN when Tyvek has been installed.

There are still a lot of builders and siding contractors that do not install any barrier behind the vinyl siding. I think it should be mandatory.

Sep 02, 2008 12:20 AM #5
Rainer
12,649
Robert Worthington
Worthington Realty - Manitowoc, WI

Thanks for the tip.  I never thought of a rain barrier behind the siding.  I'll keep that in my back pocket thanks.

Sep 02, 2008 12:56 AM #6
Rainmaker
67,128
Kevin Corsa
H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties) - Canton, OH
H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector

Charlie, Lenn, and Robert, you are most welcome. If you ever need more info on this, just let me know.

Sep 02, 2008 12:59 AM #7
Rainmaker
1,317,601
Joan Whitebook
BHG The Masiello Group - Nashua, NH
Consumer Focused Real Estate Services

Water can certainly be a pesky problem.  I think your solution looks like a good one and one that is not tooooo expensive.

Sep 02, 2008 01:17 AM #8
Ambassador
1,335,014
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Kevin, seeing those cmu walls brings back memories of living in the East.  We occasionally see them here but mostly only with crawl spaces where the house didn't have any foundation originally.  Sure don't miss them either:)

Sep 02, 2008 02:00 AM #9
Rainmaker
179,897
Jack Gilleland
Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton - Clayton, OH

Thanks Kevin never tried that.  Makes alot of sense though,

Jack

Sep 02, 2008 04:33 AM #10
Rainmaker
197,582
Cheryl Willis
RE/MAX Solutions- OZARK MISSOURI - Mount Vernon, MO
MO Broker - Mt Vernon, Monett, Aurora, Barry & Law

had this happen to us where the deck butts to the house near the back door.  remedy so far has been to remove the floor board closest to the door so the water can't pool there--  should be a just kidding but it isn't- cheryl (more than one way to fix a leak) willis

Sep 02, 2008 06:17 AM #11
Rainer
6,093
Gary Bercarich
All Phase Home Inspection, Inc. - Smithtown, NY

Had a similar situation when the sprinklers of a home blasted an un-flashed window every morning. The water made it way to the top of the sill and caused water marks on the cement block above grade. I was able to figure it out on the spot with a little detective work. Once water gets behind the siding it has to drain somewhere.

Sep 02, 2008 12:26 PM #12
Rainmaker
1,247,164
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Kevin,

Saw one the other day where they dumped the laundry tub drain onto the floor. No wonder the place had big time mold. Plan a blog on that.

Sep 02, 2008 06:14 PM #13
Rainmaker
67,128
Kevin Corsa
H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties) - Canton, OH
H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector

Charles, what do you predominately have for foundations there? Around here is mostly concrete block, and poured concrete.

Gary, sprinklers trained directly on a house wall is never a good thing.

Cheryl, if you have vinyl siding, you may want to consider removing it and installing the ice and water sheild under it. It may be your only solution.

Sep 03, 2008 02:21 AM #14
Ambassador
1,335,014
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Kevin----almost exclusively poured concrete here----just has a concrete block one yesterday though.  A cottage they put a foundation under.  I don't think I have ever done a house here that had an "original" block foundation.

Sep 03, 2008 02:33 AM #15
Rainmaker
192,518
Atlanta's Home Inspector, David Lelak IHI Home Inspections
IHI Home Inspections 404-788-2581 - Canton, GA
Experience the IHI Difference

This is one that I would not have guessed, David probably knows it but I didn't. Thanks for the lesson. 

Bonnie

TheHomeInspectorsWife

Sep 03, 2008 09:29 AM #16
Rainmaker
1,247,164
Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc. - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Kevin,

I remember a statistic that said the single most complained about issue with past home inspections is inspectors missing basement water.  Makes a person think.

Sep 04, 2008 06:03 PM #17
Rainmaker
204,468
Margaret Mitchell
Coldwell Banker Yorke Realty - York, ME
Seacoast Maine & NH Real Estate

Hi Kevin - this is an interesting post.  I really like that you gave us a solution for this problem!!!  We are big fans of ice and water shield here in Maine!

Sep 04, 2008 11:24 PM #18
Rainmaker
53,133
Christina Moock
Cutler Real Estate - Canton, OH
REALTOR - Cutler Real Estate

Good info.  I enjoy going to home inspections with my buyers... it helps me learn about houses and their issues a lot.  Plus sometimes what looks like a major issue, really isn't that bad or too costly to fix.

Sep 04, 2008 11:39 PM #19
Rainer
10,144
Jacques Mountain
Dream Home Inspections/203K Consultant - Fayetteville, GA
Inspector/203K Consultant

Now that's what I call a good post.

Sep 30, 2008 12:23 PM #20
Rainmaker
363,450
Joshua Frederick
Home Inspector for ASPEC Residential Services, LLC - Defiance, OH
Home Inspector in Defiance & all of Northwest Ohio

Kevin,

Great information... thank you!

Hope all is well over your way...

Sep 30, 2008 11:01 PM #21
Rainmaker
67,128
Kevin Corsa
H.I.S. Home Inspections (Summit, Stark Counties) - Canton, OH
H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector

Margaret, Christina, Robert & Joshua.....Thanks!

Sep 30, 2008 11:55 PM #22
Anonymous
Renee in Lorton, VA

Finally...

After trying to track down the water leak that made itself visible after Tropical Storm Hanna in September, someown finally shows a leak similar to the one I have and gives a sound recommendation to the fix.  After contacting every waterproofing company in the area (and all trying to sell me an inside drainage system, even when I could show them the leak was originating ABOVE ground and only made it to the floor once).  THANK YOU! (and yes, I do have vinyl siding above where the leak is occuring).

 

THANK YOU again.

Nov 15, 2008 06:19 AM #23
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Rainmaker
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Kevin Corsa

H.I.S. Home Inspections, Stark & Summit County, OH Home Inspector
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