Everyone knows that, for homeowners, it’s important to avoid a problematic basement. A professional inspection can tell you what needs to be fixed, but, oftentimes, you can set your heart on a place before finding out how much work needs to be done. For more information about home inspections, check out our blog on eight critical areas to look out for.
We've put together some key considerations to have in mind when touring a house.
1. Is the water running away from the house?
One of the biggest factors in maintaining a dry basement is ensuring that rain runoff is funneled away from the home's foundation. You'll want to check that the gutters and downspouts are connected properly and that the downspout drains away from the foundation of the house—preferably to an underground downspout diverter or a splash block to avoid wearing away the landscaping.
2. Are there cracks in the foundation?
Some homes develop cracks in their foundations as the weight of the house settles over time. In situations like these, you may need to hire someone to do a polyurethane injection to seal the cracks in order to prevent water from leaking in, freezing and potentially causing more damage. Look for foundation cracks both inside and outside the home.
3. Are the pipe penetrations sealed properly?
Pipes are meant to run things like water, gas and sewage safely out of or into your home. However, if the foundation walls are not sealed properly around the pipe's point of entry, water, outside air and insects can sneak into the basement and cause headaches. Depending upon the situation, you can seal the holes around pipes with expanding spray foam or a waterproof membrane.
4. Is there evidence of rodents or pests?
Rodents and insects can be a hassle for homeowners. If there are telltale signs of pests, such as dead insects, gnawed wires, nests or webs, there may be a less-obvious point of entry that needs to be sealed. Assuming the basement's obvious cracks and pipe penetrations are properly sealed, you may need an exterminator to help figure out where they are getting in.
5. How are the basement windows?
Basement windows can be tricky. If they aren't sealed properly, they can let in pests, cold air and water. If you are planning to develop an unfinished basement, any windows used in bedrooms must be egress windows so the bedrooms’ occupants can escape in case of a fire. According to the South Dakota Department of Health, egress windows must meet all of the following requirements:
- Minimum net clear opening: 5.7 sq. ft.
- Minimum width of opening: 20 in.
- Minimum height of opening: 24 in.
- Maximum sill height above floor: 48 in. (local or municipal codes may be more restrictive)
Basements are a common area of concern for first-time and repeat homebuyers alike, but it's easy to spot major problems earlier in your homebuying timeline, before a professional inspection. By paying attention to these few key factors, you can gain a better understanding of what may need to be done to a home before you buy.