Efflorescence is a chalky white residue that is commonly found near moist concrete or soil. This phenomenon happens when the minerals in concrete or soil react with water. This substance is produced from soil and salts in concrete that rise to the surface under continuous exposure to water. Therefore, if you notice you have efflorescence in your basement, you may have a drainage or leaking problem.
What Are the Problem Signs of Efflorescence?
Fortunately, homeowners can often find the problem signs of efflorescence before it forms on their basement walls or floors. This helps to resolve the issue before it gets worse. Watch out for these common problem signs that could point to efflorescence or even worse basement waterproofing issues.
- Damp Walls and Floors
Finding damp walls and floors without knowing where the water has come from is the earliest sign of efflorescence. Unfortunately, this may be tricky to determine if this is signaling the possibility of efflorescence forming, especially if both your walls and floors are constructed from concrete. This is because damp basement walls and floors may arise from damaged drainage systems or leaks from pipes or water heaters.
However, if either your wall or floor are made from different materials, you may be able to determine if the dampness is a sign of efflorescence. Some basement walls are made from drywall. More often than not, basement floors are made from concrete. If you find the dampness localized to parts of your basement constructed from concrete, you have more evidence that this is a warning sign of efflorescence.
- Water Stains or Cracks
Damp walls and floors in your basement can typically lead to water stains and cracks, but they can also be present at the same time. This indicates that water is beginning to intrude into your basement, which will hasten the formation of efflorescence. Water stains are commonly found near the water source, so these are important to take note of before seeking repairs.
Cracks are also found near the water source, but they can still spread. However, cracks on basement structures result mainly from a structural problem rather than the formation of efflorescence. Finding moisture or something indicative of water leakage, such as water stains, provides more solid evidence that efflorescence may form soon.
- High Humidity Levels
If you notice your basement feeling a lot more muggy than usual, it is very likely that you have a water problem. Much like damp walls and floors, it can be quite difficult to find the source of the problem. But higher humidity levels can indicate that the formation of efflorescence on your basement walls or floors is imminent. This is because increased humidity is linked with an increased amount of water evaporation in the air. More water presence means a higher chance of having the white debris form on your basement walls or floors.
- Musty Smells
Musty smells are quite common in basements that have water issues, especially if water issues have been ignored. Most musty smells come from a combination of leakage, mold and mildew growth, and a lack of airflow in a given space. Since basements are very prone to all these things, musty smells are prevalent due to a high risk of water invasion from the outside.
- Bowed-In Walls
Water can be quite heavy. Large volumes of water that accumulate from the outside of your basement walls can result in a significant amount of inward pressure. With this exposure to continuous stress over time, your basement walls can bow inward. This can be quite dangerous because bowed-in walls are a structural integrity issue. Without proper vigilance and care, walls may break and cave in.
Fortunately, this tends to be one of the more extreme problem signs of efflorescence. It is more than likely that you have already found the other problem signs before the issue has escalated to bowing walls. Furthermore, there is a high chance that the formation of efflorescence has already occurred, so you should not be overly concerned unless you do not check your basement on a regular basis.
What Causes Efflorescence in Basements?
There are two main causes of efflorescence in basements: the clay bowl effect and hydrostatic pressure. The one thing that both of these causes have in common is that they occur when there are issues with water drainage. Since both Alabama and Tennessee experience rain all year round, the clay bowl effect and hydrostatic pressure are very common phenomena. However, other internal issues may also cause efflorescence.
- Clay Bowl Effect
Contractors must excavate the earth before they can build your home’s foundation and, ultimately, your house. Once your foundation walls have been constructed, the hole that has been formed is backfilled with soil. However, this backfilled soil is much looser and less stable than the undisturbed, densely packed soil particles.
Loose soil around your home can be more problematic than one may think. Even soil types that are capable of draining water well can easily become oversaturated with water easier than compact soil. Over time, it can become clay—a soft mineral that can be easily washed away in the presence of more water. This is a common occurrence in Alabama and Tennessee, especially since the area endures rain year-round.
Once clay around your home foundation has been washed away, it forms a clay bowl under and around your house. This bowl accumulates high amounts of water which can make its way into your basement and foundation. Once this happens, efflorescence can form due to the increased amount of moisture.
- Hydrostatic Pressure
Water can be quite heavy, especially in large volumes. Hydrostatic pressure refers to the force that large volumes of water can exert. When it comes to your home, hydrostatic pressure that builds up in your soil can push basement walls inward, cause cracks to form, and eventually, result in efflorescence on your basement walls or floors. As hydrostatic pressure increases, so does the likelihood that this water will encroach upon your home structure.
Hydrostatic pressure typically occurs when soil becomes weakened by continuous exposure to water. For instance, Alabama is abundant in sandy loam soils—a very fine, granular soil that can easily be washed away by either water or wind. This is also known as soil erosion. When soil erosion happens, this can cause rainwater to accumulate under the ground much more readily, therefore contributing to hydrostatic pressure against basement structures.
Clay soil dominates the middle and eastern Tennessee areas. Clay soil is infamous for having poor water drainage and filtering as its particles also expand upon water absorption and shrink when water evaporates. When soil experiences this swell-shrink cycle repeatedly, it can become weakened over time. This weakened clay soil, along with its inability to drain water properly, allows water to easily collect around your basement, exacerbating hydrostatic pressure.
- Damaged Drainage Systems
Your drainage systems are a critical part of keeping your basement dry and clean. Some of these drainage systems include sump pumps, pipes, and various types of floor drains. If one of these becomes damaged in any way, it can introduce water leakage through your floors or walls. It may even result in flooding if the damage is severe enough. Since your home drainage systems carry water within or under your basement, efflorescence can form quite quickly if even one of these systems becomes damaged.
- Your Area’s Climate
Homeowners in Alabama and Tennessee are very familiar with year-round rain. Unfortunately, this can have negative impacts on your basement. Constant exposure to water increases the risk of basement leakage, flooding, and the formation of efflorescence. Places in Alabama like Birmingham and Huntsville, and Tennessee cities like Knoxville and Chattanooga all experience higher rainfall in the first half of the year, while Mobile, Alabama, has higher amounts of rain in the latter half of the year. Nashville experiences peak rainfall in the spring months (April to May).
The soil type in Alabama and Tennessee can be quite problematic as well, especially considering that it rains all throughout the year. Alabama and middle Tennessee (Nashville) are characterized by loam to sandy loam type soil, which is incredibly vulnerable to soil erosion. On the other hand, clay soil dominates Eastern Tennessee (Knoxville and Chattanooga)—a soil that is infamous for poor water drainage and swelling when saturated with water. Both soil erosion and poorly draining soils can lead to water encroaching upon your basement walls and floors, which may potentially cause efflorescence.
You may have heard about sandblasting: the traditional method of removing mold or efflorescence. While it is certainly effective in clearing up these problems, it can be detrimental to your home structure.
Sandblasting is a common process used by professionals to clean various surfaces. Contractors typically use some sort of abrasive material, such as sand or grit, and apply it to the problematic surface at high pressures. The sand or grit essentially “scrubs” the particles off the surface, leaving it clean.
However, this abrasive material can be damaging to your basement structures. For instance, if you have drywall, sandblasting may rip into the material. Even if you have concrete basement walls, you may find that sandblasting will permanently damage them. Furthermore, sandblasting is known to break up mold and efflorescence particles rather than eradicate them completely. These broken-up particles can spread throughout the air, which is very dangerous to one’s health and may aid future mold formation elsewhere.
- Why Soda Blasting Is the Better Option
Soda blasting utilizes baking soda rather than any other abrasive materials, so that homeowners do not have to be concerned about structural damage when soda blasting is performed. It is also able to effectively remove both mold and efflorescence without risking their spread—unlike soda blasting. Baking soda is also dually functional. The use of baking soda in soda blasting also works to eliminate unpleasant odors that may be characteristic of mold and efflorescence.
Although soda blasting produces a decent amount of fine dust, it is a significantly cleaner method in comparison to sandblasting. It is much easier to clean up, so the AFS contractor will be able to accomplish their job quickly. Soda blasting is also a more budget friendly option, when comparing it to other common mold and efflorescence removal methods. Soda blasting is the best option, as it can gently and safely remove efflorescence from your basement without breaking your bank.
Prevention is always the best course of action. Fortunately, there are some things homeowners can do, right in the comfort of their own home, to ensure they minimize efflorescence formation. However, this is not a substitute for professional help.
What You Can Do at Home
Because water and moisture is the main issue surrounding efflorescence formation, you want to make sure that you are controlling the amount of water that is absorbed in the ground. This could mean regularly controlling yard sprinklers and watering plants only when necessary. Furthermore, homeowners should take the time to inspect their own drainage systems, such as their downspouts. You want to ensure that they are functioning properly because they are the backbone of home maintenance. Ensuring proper airflow in your basement will also help to minimize humidity.
Be wary of DIY repairs or methods. If you find that your drainage system or a pipe has become damaged, it is incredibly tempting to fix it yourself to save money. However, more often than not, this can worsen the issue and may be more expensive in the long run.
When To Rely on the Experts
It is important to know when to rely on the experts in order to help you. They possess the proper knowledge and skills to teach you how to prevent efflorescence and to install the appropriate tools.
AFS contractors can help you select from the numerous preventative options offered. This can include:
- Sump pumps
- Drainage systems
- Waterproof basement wall panels or liners
AFS Repair offers a wide variety of drainage systems. All of them seem so important—which one should you choose? The following is a more detailed breakdown of each kind of drainage system.
- Sump Pumps
Sump pumps are the first line of defense against basement leaking and flooding. These large water basins are connected to a powerful pump that is often connected to the exterior and interior perimeter of your home to prevent water from entering. As such, having a sump pump that works and is effective is important if you want to maintain a dry basement and prevent efflorescence from forming.
Homeowners have the option to choose between the basic AquaStop Sump Pump and the Triple Complete Sump Pump System. Both systems are equipped with an airtight water lid, which prevents odors, debris, and water leakage, and a water alarm that signals that the water in the basin has surpassed the optimal limit, and that you may need repairs soon. You also have the option to install the battery backup sump pump so that you are guaranteed to have your sump pump running even when the power goes out.
- Interior Drains
Typical interior drains are often installed in the exterior perimeter of your home. This can be problematic for several reasons. Installation requires the removal of plants and certain structures, such as steps and walkways. The location of interior drains also leaves them prone to clogging by mud, debris, plant roots, and even frozen water.
The AFS AquaStop Drain® avoids all of this because it is installed in the perimeter edge of your basement floor. It sits on top of the mud, so that you do not have to worry about it getting clogged. Because there is no gap between your basement floor or wall, it can effectively collect and drain any water from your basement, while also preventing humidity from collecting around it. The AquaStop Drain® can work simultaneously with your other drainage systems, such as your sump pump, to further enhance basement waterproofing and prevent the formation of efflorescence.
How Can I Fix Efflorescence in My Basement?
Knowing the problem signs and causes of efflorescence in basements is half the battle. Taking action with solutions that last takes a new level of effort and precision. Fortunately, AFS Repair offers a wide variety of solutions and preventive measures for homeowners in both Alabama and Tennessee that you can choose from based on your home’s unique needs.
- Soda Blasting
Soda blasting refers to a much safer, gentler, and cleaner way to remove efflorescence. Although it is commonly used to remove mold, soda blasting can also be quite effective against efflorescence.
Soda blasting involves using baking powder to remove efflorescence or mold. The experts at AFS will use high amounts of air pressure to blow these baking powder particles onto areas with efflorescence stains to effectively clean the surface.
- Sump Pumps
Sump pumps are very important for removing water from in and around your basement, so it is critical that you have the best one to prevent efflorescence formation. AFS Repair offers two different kinds of sump pumps for your basement: the AquaStop Sump Pump System and the AquaStop Triple Complete Sump Pump System.
The AquaStop Sump Pump System is the most basic and affordable sump pump available. It carries a powerful sump pump that can drain thousands of gallons of water away from your home. Homeowners have the option to also have the battery-backup sump pump installed with your AquaStop Sump Pump System for a higher level of protection. The battery backup ensures your sump pump will continue to run even during a power outage, so you can be comfortable knowing that it is still doing its job, even in an emergency.
The AquaStop Triple Complete is equipped with two additional pumps. During times when the primary sump pump requires more power or in the event of failure, the other pumps will kick in to take over the job. Just like the AquaStop, the Triple can also be installed with the battery backup.
- Drainage Systems
AFS Repair also offers different drains. Most can be installed around the perimeter of your basement and collect water that falls from basement walls or floors. Your AFS contractor will help to determine which is the best option for you.
- AquaStop Basement Wall Panels or Wall Liner
Both the AquaStop Basement Wall Panels and Liner work to prevent more water leaks and efflorescence from forming. This waterproofing solution acts as a protective layer installed directly onto your wall, giving it a sleek, modern appearance while simultaneously combatting water invasion and thus efflorescence.
The difference between the two is that the wall panels are drilled directly into your wall so that any water or moisture from the outside is kept out. The wall liner, on the other hand, is made of a special waterproof plastic that guides moisture from behind it to your drainage systems, so it does not remain in your basement.
- AquaStop™ Dehumidifier
The AquaStop™ Dehumidifier helps to ensure that your basement stays dry by removing up to 90 pints of water from the air per day. It also dually removes musty smells in your basement and filters your air for you. By controlling the humidity levels in your basement, you are effectively curbing efflorescence from forming.
Seek Out Your Local Experts at AFS Repairs
Efflorescence is not a pretty sight and indicates there are other underlying problems. Luckily, AFS Repairs has the proper knowledge to diagnose and address the issue. Contact us to schedule your free inspection.