Brad Ross: Keeping your basement dry in Delaware County


Except for a few hours on Saturday, the weather for the Delaware County Fair has been perfect — sunny, beautiful blue skies, white puffy clouds and low humidity. It sure lent extra enjoyment to my pork tenderloin sandwich as I was experiencing all the fair had to offer. This is such a great time of year for spending time outdoors.

Not to be Mr. Doom and Gloom, but … can you remember those seemingly endless rainy days of June and July? I hope that we don’t live through that again anytime soon. However, all Ohioans know that the weather is the one constant change in their lives.

Were you one of the unlucky ones who had to do more than use an umbrella and put on boots to get through those bleak days? I am referring to the dreaded wet basement. When I was a kid, everyone I knew used the basement for storage and for the washer and dryer. Today, more and more new homes are coming with finished living and bedroom spaces in the basement. A wet basement is more than a mere inconvenience, even if it is only used for storage. Such wetness can produce molds and mildews that can lead to health problems.

There are three common sources of moisture in the basement. The first is liquid water from rain or soil conditions. The second is interior moisture that is generated from humidifiers, unvented clothes dryers, bathrooms and cooking, as well as the moisture in concrete after construction. The third source is exterior humid air that enters the basement and condenses on cooler surfaces.

The first source is the purpose for this column – liquid water from rain or soil conditions. As a faithful reader of this column, you will recall that Delaware County is blessed with a variety of productive soils; however, some of these same soils are considered poorly drained or very poorly drained, according to the Delaware County Soil Survey.

Some of these soils have a high water table at least part of the year. With such soils, management of rain water and soil conditions is essential to keeping your basement dry.

One of the simplest ways to help keep your basement dry is to grade the soil so that it slopes away from the foundation. Add to that a functioning gutter and drainage system for the one-two punch. Roof water needs to make it into the gutters and then into the downspouts which must lead away from the house. For urban and suburban homeowners, the drainage likely leads out into the street and storm water management system.

For rural homeowners, the drainage likely leads to a ditch, creek or stream. Where the downspout outlets onto the ground, it is imperative that it extends away from the house and does not outlet near the foundation. Downspouts without extenders concentrate a huge volume of rainwater from the roof in a single location near the basement.

Another key to keeping it dry is to plant wisely. Tree roots can plug drainage lines. Landscaping and mulch can inadvertently direct rain water towards the basement wall. Soft maple species, such as sliver maple along with willows, are a few examples of trees that are not recommended near the house or drainage tile.

Sump pumps are designed to pump water collected from drains around and under the house. They need to be checked routinely and should include a backup power source and a childproof lid.

If these suggestions do not solve your particular drainage problem, there are additional measures that are recommended by the experts. Does your home have a drainage system on the perimeter of the house beside the footer? If not, you may need to install one. If so, perhaps it is clogged and needs to be cleaned. Sealing the basement walls on the outside is also a recommended practice for our local soils.

A valuable resource is a publication from the University of Minnesota Extension which can be found at Click on “housing technology,” click on “moisture management,” and you will find a selection of informative articles.

If you are looking to build in Delaware County, we recommend you check out the soils first. Take a proactive approach and avoid expensive headaches later. Visit or call 740-368-1921 for your soil and drainage questions.

Brad Ross

Contributing columnist

Brad Ross is communications specialist at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at [email protected].

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