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Ask McEnearney: What are the main culprits of wet basements and how can I prepare?

This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Peter Crouch & Katie Crouch of McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact Peter at 703-244-4024 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What are the main culprits of wet basements and how can I prepare?

Answer: Every summer we see rolled up carpet on curbs after thunderstorms. And sometimes just during heat spells. Summer brings heat, humidity, and thunderstorms. And wet basements.

Culprit #1: Thunderstorms seem to be getting stronger and stronger, with huge amounts of rain generated. The biggest lesson is that rain must have somewhere to go, and it follows the laws of gravity. SO, your house must encourage rain to flow away from it. That is first and foremost through the proper size CLEAN gutters, and extensions on downspouts to get roof water away from the foundation.

Plus, grading around a house must point away from the foundation and never toward it. The dirt around most homes settles over a time, so most will eventually need to have more dirt brought in to restore slope. Make the water flow downhill and away!

Many people call basement waterproofing companies when their basement gets wet. That can be very expensive, and rarely solves where the water is coming from in the first place. Solve them OUTSIDE, say our favorite home inspectors, and only inside after all other exterior measures have been taken. They say 95% or more of wet basements can be solved with proper grading and downspout extensions. So:

  1. Clean your gutters in late spring (again in late fall). Upgrade to “oversize” gutters if possible.
  2. Make sure the dirt slopes away from the house foundation for at least 4 feet.
  3. Put heavy black plastic on the sloped dirt, followed by mulch.
  4. Make sure all downspouts have extensions on them — at least 4 feet away.
  5. Call us if you want a layman’s opinion of your drainage.

Culprit #2: A/C systems make our homes comfortable, but they also make water. Lots of it. Usually located in basements, they must be set up to both drain easily and to be cleaned so they do not back up and discharge onto the basement floor.

Every A/C system should have a 1-inch white or tan pipe coming out of it and leading to a drain (or a pump to a drain). Most will have a place to open the pipe to make sure it is not becoming clogged. If it clogs, water backs up into the pan underneath the A/C, runs down the interior of the furnace (usually below the A/C), and out into the adjacent rooms.

You can usually brush the pipe out with a long slim brush, plus we frequently hear about pouring a cup of bleach in during summer months to kill any algae that can contribute to clogs. An HVAC technician can also come “blow out” the system to make sure it is as clean as possible for A/C season.

So, we suggest that you prepare for water from the skies and from your A/C.

I know the name of a good carpet guy if you don’t!

Need help? Call us.

Crouch Realty Group at McEnearney Associates is honored to have been awarded the National Association of Realtors Senior Council (SRES) “Outstanding Service Award.” Out of 1.2 million Realtors nationwide.

Pete Crouch is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist, which means he is well-versed in all aspects of moving as we age. His own downsize gave him tremendous insights into what is involved, from emotional matters to real estate considerations. Pete is a Board Member of At Home in Alexandria (AHA), our local Senior Village, and was the 2018 National Recipient of the “Outstanding Service Award” by the National Association of Realtors for his work with Senior Moves. Text 703-244-4024 or email [email protected] for a copy of his Downsize Alexandria! Booklet about living more simply in Greater Alexandria.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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