The 1960s and 1970s saw a development boom in subdivisions featuring single-story ranch homes. If you own a mid-century ranch, you probably love the easy floor plan and big yard. You might not be as happy with what's happening behind the drywall in the finished basement.
Aging copper pipes, poor drainage, and cracked foundations all can set the stage for a soggy basement disaster. Here are some of the most common causes of water damage and their symptoms.
Copper pipes weren't meant to last forever. If your home still has the original plumbing, pinhole leaks could be forming. Corrosion from a number of sources creates pits on the inside wall of the pipe. Eventually, the pit deepens until it becomes a hole. Undetected, pinhole leaks can grow until they cause serious problems.
In many cases, water from a pinhole leak will run along a wall joist or the outside of a pipe, making them difficult to locate and diagnose. Here are the major signs:
Unusually high water bills
You may notice a moldy smell in a room that appears to be clean and dry, bulges or soft spots in drywall, and water stains or bubbles in paint and wallpaper. There could also be unusual insect activity where floors and walls meet.
A pinhole leak doesn't necessarily mean the entire plumbing system is shot. In many cases, only the damaged pipe needs to be replaced.
When your house was first built, the land was graded to slope away from the foundation and let rainwater flow toward the storm drain. Erosion, over-enthusiastic gardening, and clogged gutters can create a shallow spot near the house that draws water down along the foundation and eventually into the basement.
The most common sign of water seepage from a soggy foundation is dampness in the floor and at the bottom of the walls near the edge of the basement. Musty smells and mold stains may also be present.
Poor drainage can often be fixed with simple changes to the gutters and the landscaping near the house.
As a home ages, the soil that keeps the foundation stable may settle or shift due to drainage problems or even a prolonged drought. This puts stress on the walls, sometimes even cracking the concrete. Leaks from this source will be more apparent after a heavy rain, as moisture seeps down into the earth.
Moisture from a foundation crack can appear at any level in a finished basement. You may notice a bad smell from soggy insulation or water marks that disappear several days after a rainstorm.
While foundation damage may be serious, cracks can often be repaired if caught soon enough.