If you're shopping for a new home, it's important to take a good look at the basement before you make an offer on a house, especially if you're house hunting during the dry season on during the winter when any potentially-leaking water will be frozen. Water in the basement isn't just an inconvenience. It can compromise the home's indoor air quality and even damage the very foundation of the structure. Fortunately, there are many ways to tell if a home has a basement water problem...if you know where to look.
Five signs that a house has a basement water issue
1. The basement has a damp, musty smell. Even if the basement is currently dry, a damp, mildew-like smell can be an indication that there is a chronic water problem. Mildew can not only be circulated throughout your home via your heating and cooling systems, but can actually erode the stone or concrete in your foundation.
2. Visible mold. Of course, an even greater sign of a problem is visible mold along the walls of the basement. Black, green or white spots on the walls means that the house not only has a moisture problem, but you'll need to have the mold removed if you choose to purchase the home.
3. Water lines along the outside of the windows. Water marks on the basement windows can indicate an issue with water collecting in the window wells after a hard rain. When this happens, it's almost inevitable that this pool of water finds its way into the interior of the home.
4. Rusty appliances. If you see signs of rust on the HVAC equipment, water heater or fuse box, it's very likely that there has been a moisture problem in the basement. There doesn't have to be direct contact with water for metal appliances to rust; a high concentration of moisture in the air can also cause this to happen.
5. Mineral deposits on the walls. Another sign of a moisture issue is white, chalky mineral deposits on the basement walls. Lime and other minerals are left there when the water evaporates.
While issues with water in the basement of a house you're thinking about buying might not be a reason to walk away from the deal, it's certainly something you want to seriously consider. A musty smell, mold on the walls and/or water lines on the windows are all reasons to negotiate a lower purchase price based on evidence of water leakage. If you do buy the house, consider contacting a basement waterproofing company.