About 67% of homes built in the Mid-Atlantic — including Pennsylvania — have basements, according to a Reddit.com report.
Whether it’s an old farmhouse with low ceilings meant for storing winter vegetables, used for necessary utilities, or a finished well-appointed walkout basement with sliding glass or French door access to yards or gardens, basements are trending in 2024, according to MossBuildingAndDesign.com.
Dennis Gehman, president of Gehman Design Remodeling in Harleysville, said the first questions he poses to clients asking for a basement project include:
• Use: Define the purpose of the finished space
• Budget: How much money do you plan to spend?
• Access: For finished or living spaces, including a bedroom, there must be at least one emergency exit directly to the outside from the location. The Pennsylvania Egress Building Code provides requirements for exit window access and doors.
• Safety: Is the basement sound and water tight? Are there high radon levels? Is it prone to taking in water?
A February 2023 MarFlex.com report said among the finished basement benefits is added home value, better protection from natural disasters like tornadoes, floods and other weather events, boosted energy efficiency and flexible space.
While many Bucks County homes with basements have flooding problems — or at least leaking issues during heavy rains or storms — several measures can help reduce or even eliminate the problem.
“Take a walk around the house and make sure the downspouts are draining a few feet away from the house,” Gehman said.
Consider adding downspout extenders, which can help redirect water away from the home, gutters and downspout system.
Look at the grading. Water may be entering the home because the grading slopes toward — rather than away from the home’s foundation. Make sure there is no soil or mulch buildup around the foundation, too.
Consider a general contractor or landscape professional to correct grading problems.
“Make sure you don’t fill the ground up on top of wood framing or siding as this can hold moisture and do damage to the wood structure of the house,” Gehman explained.
Both block and poured concrete foundations can leak water into a basement.
“Block [foundations] is more porous and water can get through it more quickly,” Gehman said.
Waterproofing the foundation from the outside can help reduce infiltration.
While they can be expensive and invasive, installing a French drain or drainage system can correct water problems.
If decks are flush against a house, they can introduce water infiltration problems, too. Slopes that are either poorly installed or eroded will make this problem worse.
Poor or mounded sloping issues in the soil under decks can often be corrected without major disruption to the deck, he said.
Make sure sump pumps are in good working order, especially the gravel or drainage pit around them, Gehman said.