Don’t Go in the Basement! (And Other Bad Habits that Hurt Homeowners)

Living in a house with a basement can conjure up images of true horror – maybe not ghosts and zombies but more realistic threats like leaking pipes and insect infestations. Every time there’s a creak from the bottom of the stairs, it’s accompanied by a primal instinct: Don’t go in the basement.

Homeowners should ignore that voice! Regardless of horror movie messages, residents should head downstairs with confidence and get to know the hidden corners of their houses. Basement damages that go unnoticed can have long-term effects that work their way upward and outward, leading to inconvenient and costly repairs. 

Several bad habits contribute to basement neglect. Here are the most common homeowner mistakes, and how to save a lot of hassle by correcting them.


Bad Habit #1: Not Going into the Basement

Many homeowners don’t have a reason to visit their basement often. Maybe there’s nothing down there except holiday storage. Maybe they just throw in a load of laundry and put on blinders to everything else.

How It Hurts:

Not knowing what the basement looks (and smells) like makes it difficult to recognize new vs. old damage. How long has that standing water been in the corner? Was the crack in the wall always that wide and long? Negligence can allow these issues to go from needing quick maintenance to requiring major repairs.

Photo 1 Basement Cracks

Cracks in seldom-used areas of the basement can become structurally threatening before they’re noticed by a homeowner.

How to Correct It:

Regular visual inspections by the homeowner facilitate early identification and repairs, which keeps damage from spreading throughout the basement and the rest of the house. 

Bad Habit #2: Ignoring External Threats

Maybe homeowners have a frequently used basement, complete with a family room or office. They might notice a new crack or leaking pipe immediately but totally disregard pooling water around the foundation outside. But as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

How It Hurts:

Entire sections of building code are devoted to good drainage practices. Water pooling too close to the foundation can penetrate even a concrete wall, and saturated soils too near a house can create pressure on exterior walls. Plants positioned too close to the house can spread their roots into the foundation as well, causing slow deterioration.

Photo 2 Improper Drainage

Inadequate drainage systems are common culprits for basement water intrusion and soil subsidence. 

How to Correct It:

Basic awareness and preventive maintenance, such as ensuring that drainpipes discharge far enough from the foundation and keeping an eye on creeping root systems, go a long way toward staving off exterior threats to the basement.

Bad Habit #3: Assuming a Quick Fix Is Enough

Most homeowners have the same response to visible damage in their basement: fix it as quickly and easily as possible. Soak up that standing water, put some plaster over that crack, tighten that pipe.

How It Hurts:

Just because things look good doesn’t mean they’re structurally sound, and this brings us back to Bad Habit #1. Sure, the standing water is cleaned up – but how long was it there? It’s possible that it created an environment for insect larvae, or enough humidity in the air to foster mold growth. These issues may not present immediately and can slowly degrade building materials like drywall and wood – even insulation and floor structures leading to the rest of the 

Photo 3 Water Stains

Dark-colored water stains indicate that moisture has affected this sheathing for a long period of time without remediation.

How to Correct It:

After a water intrusion event or leak, it’s important to assess the basement for ongoing perils. Some thermometers can measure moisture in the air, and remediation efforts can address humidity concerns. 

Basements don’t have to be scary! Homeowners can take a lot of control in preventing damage, but some perils are outside of their control, and some damages are inevitable. Donan’s engineers ensure a professional inspection of the cause and extent of the damage. Find out how we can help you with tough questions about basements and more by calling (800) 482-5611, or submit a project via our Customer Portal.