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Basement Condensation

No homeowner wants to deal with basement condensation. Learn more about the signs and solutions to protect your home.

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Condensation in basement

Basement condensation can be a huge problem in many basements. In fact, even if you think you don’t have problems with basement condensation, you may actually have a slightly elevated level of humidity in your basement that’s high enough to cause serious concerns like mold and mildew. However, before you break out the bleach to get rid of the moldy smell in your basement, you should first learn a bit more about the causes of basement condensation and how you can get rid of it for good.

Basement Repair Solutions in Virginia, Maryland, DC

It’s important that you identify and fix all problems that might be related to dampness, cracks in the basement, and leaking water. However, the solutions can sometimes seem a bit difficult to find. What can you do for basement condensation solutions?

Is Basement Condensation Becoming a Problem?

These images show a few of the ways in which basement condensation can manifest. If you see images that look like something happening in your basement, you may need to contact a JES expert.

What Causes Basement Condensation?

There are actually many potential causes for basement condensation. However, if you’ve never had any interaction with basement condensation before, you might not really know what causes it. If you know what causes basement condensation, you can make a move to prevent it. These are just a few of the most common causes of basement condensation you might be running into.

Non-Insulated Cold Water Pipes 

A significant reason for basement condensation could be that you have cold water pipes exposed to the air. This can be a problem in unfinished basements because you’re more likely to have pipes that are generally exposed to the air. Cold water pipes can make the air immediately around them very cold, which increases the relative humidity. When the air reaches over 100% humidity, that excess moisture becomes water droplets on the water pipes.

If you have insulation, you’re much less likely to have these humidity concerns. That’s because the insulation will absorb the cold air more effectively, making the humidity problems not as much of an issue because there’s not as much moisture in the air to condense into water droplets. Both reducing the existing humidity in the basement and applying insulation to your water pipes are methods of avoiding condensation on the outside of cold water pipes.

Cracks in the Walls or Windows 

Basements rest underground at least partially. That means basements are constantly fighting against a major source of basement condensation, which is water from outside. This comes in two forms: floods and rainwater, which typically remain above ground, and the water table, which is water that rests underground. Either of these types of water can be dangerous for your basement if you have any cracks in the walls or the windows, no matter how tiny these cracks are.

Water is great at finding its way through cracks. Even if you have extremely tiny cracks in the wall, water can still come through those cracks and form a white, fuzzy substance on the inside of the wall, which is called efflorescence. It’s really what happens when the salt inside the wall comes out and pools on the outside of the wall. Plus, the smallest amount of water can contribute to basement moisture, which in turn contributes to basement condensation.

Poor Drainage 

Another thing that can cause excess basement moisture and basement condensation is poor drainage. Your basement needs to be able to drain water whenever it happens to get into the basement, regardless of the reason. This may be because of a drainage problem in your basement as a whole, because you had a leak, or some other problem that seriously impacted your basement’s health and water-free nature.

No matter why water got in your basement in the first place, it’s important that you get the water out entirely. It’s not just enough to assume you can vacuum the water out and that’ll be enough. You need a system of drainage that will help you avoid excess water in your crawl space, like the BasementGutter™ interior drainage system. No matter what system you use, poor drainage is a problem you should fix as quickly as possible.

The Dangers of Condensation

You might wonder why you need to bother with condensation at all. After all, it’s just some water in your basement, right? Couldn’t you just wipe it up? The fact is, condensation can pose very serious problems to you and anyone else living in the home. There are many potential dangers associated with condensation, but here are a few of the biggest ones.

  • Mold and Mildew
  • High Indoor Humidity
  • An Incentive for Pests and Insects

Mold and Mildew 

A significant problem with condensation is the fact that mold and mildew can easily form around condensation. Mold and mildew typically need humidity levels above 65-70% to grow and thrive, but condensation, because it’s water, is 100% humidity. That means mold and mildew can easily grow around condensation even if the rest of your basement is at a healthy level of moisture. Condensation provides a fertile breeding ground for mold and mildew.

Although mold and mildew typically isn’t toxic to most people, that doesn’t mean you should allow them to continue living in your home. Even if they’re not toxic, they’re typically considered bad for humans because they can cause allergic reactions and respiratory illnesses. If you’re able to handle mold and mildew as early as possible, you can avoid health concerns and keep yourself feeling healthier overall.

High Indoor Humidity 

Another significant problem that comes with condensation is high indoor humidity, because the condensation will evaporate into the air and raise the relative humidity of the air. Of course, you might think of this as an annoyance and nothing more. After all, high indoor humidity just makes the day a little more annoying to get through, right? Although this is certainly part of the problem, it’s not the only thing you should be concerned about.

High indoor humidity encourages condensation forming on other areas of the home, especially in cooler areas. That means you can have water damage in a variety of areas when you have high indoor humidity. Additionally, air that’s more humid is more difficult to condition. You need to use a lot more energy to condition air at a higher humidity than air at a lower humidity, which means you’re going to be racking up much higher energy bills every month at a higher level of humidity.

An Incentive for Pests and Insects

The last big problem basement condensation typically increases is pest and insect infestations. If you have even one pest or insect, it’s easy for that number to multiply exponentially. A single rat can have six babies per litter and six litters per year, meaning that if you let even one rat into your home, you might end up with as many as 60 rats by the end of the year. You want to make your basement an inhospitable place for pests and insects, and unfortunately, condensation turns your inhospitable basement into an incentive.

Rather than turning pests and insects away, basement condensation lures them inside. Pests tend to be driven by just a few things. These things can include food and water, which are both vital for life. If you have water in your basement, you already have one of those things. It gets even worse if you have mold and mildew in your basement because many insects and pests eat mold and mildew. Overall, it’s just better for your basement if you stop condensation at the source.

How to Fix Basement Condensation

When you’re dealing with basement condensation, it’s important that you fix the problem at the root. That means you can’t just wipe off the condensation and pretend you’re done; there’s a reason for the condensation issues, so they’ll keep coming back again and again. The only way you can truly fix basement condensation is if you tackle it at the base, which is exactly what these methods do.

  • Mold and Mildew Removal
  • Basement Waterproofing
  • Basement Dehumidification

Mold and Mildew Removal 

The first step should be to remove all mold and mildew that’s already grown in your basement. Removing this mold and mildew will clear the path for the other steps you may need to take if you’re experiencing basement condensation problems. When you clear the mold and mildew problems, you’ll likely see an immediate benefit, because you’re likely to reduce your allergic symptoms and potentially even respiratory concerns as soon as you remove the mold and mildew in your basement.

In some cases, you may be able to do this yourself, especially if there’s only a very mild case of mold or mildew or you know exactly where the mold grew. However, you always want to err on the side of caution — removing mold or mildew improperly can release spores into the air, where it’s easy for you to breathe them in, even if you think you’re doing enough to protect yourself. If you’re at all unsure whether or not you’ll be able to remove the mold and mildew, contact a professional instead.

Basement Waterproofing 

This next step is vitally important. You won’t be able to reduce basement condensation until you remove the basic source. You need to waterproof your basement so you can avoid continuing basement condensation. Basement waterproofing may require a variety of steps; for example, you may need to insulate your pipes, add more sealant around windows, or even replace certain windows and sealants.

The core of the matter is that you need to make sure water can’t get into the basement from the outside. 

It’s not always possible or recommended for you to waterproof your basement on your own. Waterproofing a basement is hard work, and it requires that you do a variety of steps that you may not be familiar with. If you miss one of these steps, you can end up with an end result that just isn’t high-quality enough. Basement waterproofing is best left to the professionals, like the waterproofing experts at JES, who can help you figure out what you need to waterproof the basement and give you information about how to do it.

Basement Dehumidification  

Lastly, you should consider installing a basement dehumidifier. Of course, the dehumidifier can’t be the only source of removing moisture from your basement. It’s important that you remove moisture from your basement in a variety of manners, starting with removing all the standing water, then continuing with basement waterproofing so the water can’t continue to come into the basement. However, a dehumidifier may be an important part of the basement waterproofing process.

At the end of the day, a dehumidifier can be extremely helpful in helping you recover from floods, removing excess moisture if you live in a high-moisture environment, and retain your healthy moisture level no matter what happens around the basement. If you want to avoid the problems that come with basement condensation, it’s vital that you use a dehumidifier at the end of the basement waterproofing process. A JES expert can give you everything you need to understand your basement dehumidification needs and options, depending on your unique situation.

Finding the Best Solutions for Your Basement With JES

There are many ways you can fix condensation in your basement. Plus, condensation isn’t the only problem a basement might be having. Issues with basic basement waterproofing can lead to serious concerns in your basement, and foundation problems of all kinds can end up wreaking havoc on your basement as well.

The answer is not to avoid the problem of condensation or even to just address condensation while ignoring all the ways in which it can manifest itself. Instead, it’s important that you address the root cause of the condensation. JES makes it easy for you to find the best solution. Schedule a free inspection today and you’ll be able to find the solution for your basement problems.

FAQs about Bubbling Paint on Basement Walls

After you paint your basement, you might find bubbles in the paint days or months after it dries. What should you know about bubbling paint problems?

If you’ve just moved into a new space, or if you want to try and finish an unfinished basement, you may be tempted to lay down a few layers of paint. Before you do, it is important to look over your basement walls for signs of water damage.

If you live in a home that you know is prone to water damage, then putting paint on your basement walls—especially if they are concrete—can be risky. By checking your walls over before you start painting, you can determine whether or not it is safe to proceed with your remodeling.

As you look over your basement, you’ll want to keep a close eye out for:

  • Inconsistent temperatures
  • Condensation on the walls
  • Sticking doors and window frames
  • Unusual or unpleasant smells

Overcoming Damp Basements With Professional Guidance

If you find that you have unusual amounts of moisture in your home, you’re going to want to speak with a professional about potential repairs before moving forward with your remodeling. This way, you can clear unwanted moisture out of your basement before it has time to develop into a more significant problem.

You’ll need to undergo all of this work to keep your basement—and your later paint job—as clean as possible. Paint, even waterproof paint, if left for too long, provides mold particles with a place to settle and grow. Bare concrete, comparatively, does not. If you paint your basement walls before waterproofing your basement or otherwise ridding the area of excessive amounts of water, you risk opening your home up to a mold infestation.

The paint on your walls can start to bubble for myriad reasons. The most common include but are not limited to:

  • Dirt and grime beneath the paint. It’s in your best interest to try and clean your walls before you paint them. If dust or other materials get stuck beneath your new paint job, it’s possible that the paint you lay down will start to pull away from the wall, leaving bubbles in its wake.
  • A lack of primer. It can be tempting to skip over the process of priming your basement walls, especially if you’re in a hurry to finish up your basement. Unfortunately, doing so leaves your paint in contact with concrete and other materials when they’re at their most porous. As such, that paint can be more readily absorbed into your supporting materials. If the paint doesn’t stick in the first place, it can begin to lift away from the walls of your basement in little to no time at all.
  • Excessive amounts of moisture in the air. Moisture can cause paint to pull away from the walls in your basement. Not only that, but high levels of humidity in your home can also cause mold clusters to develop between a layer of paint and your wall’s structural material. As such, bubbles can both be the paint pulling away from the concrete of the wall and the hint of a mold presence in your home.
  • Excessive heat. If the bubbles in your paint job start to appear shortly after you finish your paint job, take a look at the temperature. It is possible for paint to start to blister if it is exposed to high temperatures on an overly consistent basis. To fix a heat-induced bubbling paint job, you’ll want to remove the paint bubbles on the wall, prime and paint the surface again, and use your HVAC system to better control the temperature in your basement.
  • Inappropriate roller cover usage. At the end of the day, it is possible that you used an inappropriate roller cover or nap length when applying your paint to your walls. You’ll want to check in with representatives at your local hardware store to determine what type of roller cover and nap length may best suit the walls in your basement if you want to avoid this problem.

As mentioned, the most common reasons paint tends to bubble when exposed to concrete include:

  • Excessive moisture
  • Excessive heat
  • Dirty walls
  • Poor roller usage
  • Lack of primer 

To get more specific, however, paint tends to bubble more frequently on porous surfaces like concrete because of how concrete responds to hydrostatic pressure.

Hydrostatic pressure is a force generated by the moisture in the ground around your home. After heavy rain, that pressure can force the molecules of your foundation and basement to rapidly shrink and contract based on the materials’ temperature changes. To try and compensate for those rapid changes, the structural supports in your foundation and basement may crack.

Contending With Hydrostatic Pressure

Bubbles in paint put on concrete in your basement can start to appear in greater frequency when the hydrostatic pressure outside of your home grows more significant. On one hand, you can look for paint blisters, then, if you suspect your home may be at risk for a leak. However, the presence of paint blisters in your basement also means you’ll not only have to repaint those walls, but it may be in your best interest to reach out to a professional engineer to investigate potential repairs for your home as well as future waterproofing solutions that may serve you well.

Some people believe waterproof paint has a better chance of surviving on your basement walls than regular paint does. In some cases, it is possible for this paint to withstand hydrostatic pressure more gracefully than traditional paint. However, waterproof paint does not remain waterproof forever. Like basement and foundation sealants, it will eventually become less effective at dispelling water from your home. In turn, it will start to bubble and can become a haven for mold.

You do have the option of fixing bubbling paint on your own time. To do so, you’ll need to bring a toolkit together including:

  • A putty knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Wall cleaner or a gentle general cleanser
  • Rags
  • Joint compound
  • Primer
  • The paint you want

To clear up bubbling paint, take the following steps:

  • Scrape the bubbles off of the water. You can use a putty knife or a similar tool to remove paint from your walls. You need to undertake this process instead of painting over the bubbles to get back to the surface you originally painted on and make sure that it is still in good condition.
  • Sand the revealed surface. For the sake of ease later down the line, take your sandpaper and smooth out the surface you intend to paint.
  • Determine why the paint bubbled – The reason your paint blistered will determine your next steps. For example, if it was excessive moisture in your home that caused blisters to develop, you’re going to want to work with a professional to remove that moisture from your home before you repaint your walls. Alternatively, if your walls were simply dirty before you painted them, you’ll want to make a point of using your cleanser to clear away any grime that may still be on your walls.
  • Dry out your walls. You do not want to apply primer nor paint to a wall that is damp or dirty.
  • Fill any holes or pits. If there’s been some damage done to your wall, you don’t want to try and fill those gaps with paint. Instead, take your joint compound and apply it gently to your wall, all the while striving for a smooth application.
  • Once dry, prime your wall. Only once the joint compound is dry and settled should you apply primer to your wall, or you risk wasting your primer.
  • Repaint the cleaned area. Ideally, if you’ve cleared the wall well and repaired any damage to it and to your home, you should be able to reapply your paint without worrying about what it may look like in a day or two.

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