Most unfinished basements are utilitarian. They are homes to washers and dryers, workbenches, slop sinks, furnaces, and water heaters. Most people don’t really care if the unfinished parts of their basements are pretty, as long as the walls and floor hold up and are dry.
Sometimes stains start to manifest on concrete walls and the foundation floor, and that’s when you need to become a little concerned. Different types of stains mean different problems, but all of them lead back to one origin: moisture.
Stains that are orange or reddish stem from iron ochre, which comes from soil with a high concentration of iron. That soil gets mixed with water and air, creating the ochre, and it seeps into foundations and walls when water comes in.
Iron ochre is not hazardous to your health, but it can clog pipes, so a drainage system is recommended. You also should take steps to locate where water is seeping in, and hire a company specializing in basements and foundations, such as Acculevel, to repair leaking areas and damage.
Iron ochre stains are hard, if not impossible, to get out. It stains like nobody’s business. Unfortunately, the only way to make those stains vanish is to replace or cover up whatever the iron ochre has touched.
Most people know that black and gray stains, whether in the basement or the bathroom, usually are signs of mold. Again, this means you have a moisture problem. Mold grows in warm and humid places, and even if your basement isn’t heated, it’s still warm enough to promote mold growth when you add humidity to the mix.
You can tackle very small areas of mold yourself, but larger areas should be handled by a certified mold remediator. Even small areas can be indicative of a bigger problem, such as mold growing behind drywall. In addition to mold remediation, use a dehumidifier in the basement, and work with a professional to determine the cause of excessive moisture.
While the white powdery stuff on your basement wall may look like the mold that starts growing on your lasagna after it’s been in the fridge for three weeks, the substance is not mold. It is called efflorescence, which is a mineral salt that shows up in humid areas. Efflorescence is left behind on walls from water when moisture goes through porous concrete.
Like iron ochre, efflorescence is not detrimental to human health, but is a clear sign your basement is too humid and needs to be dried out so mold doesn’t spread.
It’s a good rule of thumb to leave your basement walls bare. However, if you already painted them, or added sealant or a waterproof coating, you might notice some flaking. This means groundwater has gotten through the foundation walls and is applying pressure behind the covering. As pressure increases, paint and sealant will start to peel and fall off.
Do not confuse peeling coatings with flaking concrete. With coatings, only that surface application chips; with flaking concrete, the actual concrete behind the paint or sealant is crumbling. This is called spalling. Spalling occurs when groundwater gets in, carrying salt with it. The salt’s expansion cuts into the concrete.
What to Do
All the issues mentioned are because of a foundation that is not dry. In addition to causing mold, water can cause structural damage to your foundation. Even if that damage starts out minor, if you do not properly repair what is letting in water, the damage eventually will get worse.
As the homeowner, start by getting rid of any standing water via a sump pump or drainage system. Dry out the area with fans and a dehumidifier with a capacity big enough for your basement. Dry out any rugs, mats, and furniture you can.
Call a basement and foundation specialist such as Acculevel to determine the source of the water entry so that it can be fixed to prevent moisture from entering the area again and to remove any visible mold.
Acculevel Has Years of Experience
If you live in the Midwest and have issues with moisture in your basement, Acculevel wants to help. We have been specializing in foundations and basements in 1996. We have the knowledge and expertise to repair your basement, and we are certified mold remediators. To make an appointment, give us a call at (866) 669-3349 or email us at [email protected].