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Efflorescence

Spotting chalky, white streaks across your basement is a sign of efflorescence. What is efflorescence and how exactly can you get rid of it?

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Your basement should always remain clear and dry, even during the heaviest storms. However, if you see any chalky or crystalline streaks spreading down your walls or your floor, this might be a sign that you have efflorescence. This substance consists of a crystalline salt deposit that coats the surface of porous building materials such as brick, stone, stucco, or concrete. 

Oftentimes, efflorescence is seen as a minor inconvenience that can easily be brushed away. But it can be a sign of more problems brewing beneath the surface. Let’s take a closer look into what efflorescence truly is, what causes it in the first place, and how Ohio Basement Authority can permanently address the root cause.  

basement moisture problems

What is Efflorescence?  

Efflorescence is a white or gray-colored streak or formation that can either be powdery or crystalline in texture. This is often the result of any leaking water interacting with the salt deposits on the surface of your basement walls or floor. Salt is often found in natural components that make up the soil as well as the building materials that make up your house, such as brick, cement, mortar, lime, sand, clay, and other mixtures used to hold it together. If left alone for too long, it will start to flake away at your masonry within the basement. Efflorescence tends to spread along unsealed surfaces more often than sealed ones. However, this does not mean that sealed surfaces are completely protected, either. You may even see efflorescence spread along underneath the sealants as a white blush-like substance instead, which can obviously be a cause for concern since you would then have to break through the sealant to clean it up yourself.  

There are two types of efflorescence: primary and secondary. Primary efflorescence is when salt is already present in the building materials and water passing through these materials brings the salt to the surface. It is then that efflorescence will activate and start to spread in your basement. 

Should primary efflorescence occur after construction, this can be a sign that any present leaks have caused this efflorescence to form instead. Typically, primary efflorescence only presents a staining issue that can easily be removed by the right cleaning products.  

Secondary efflorescence is when a secondary solution other than water has caused efflorescence. This can be anything from road salts that melt ice in the winter to chlorine. If the materials used to build your basement are porous, then this solution can easily seep through the wall’s pores and break it down from within. Certain chemicals may also react negatively to different salts used in different construction materials, which can produce harmful odors that adversely affect your family’s health.  

Unfortunately, because both primary and secondary efflorescence tend to look like each other, it can be difficult to know which type of efflorescence is affecting your home. This is why it is important that you schedule an appointment with the basement experts at Ohio Basement Authority as soon as you can.  

Common Efflorescence Problem Signs  

Efflorescence will affect different surfaces in different ways. For example:  

  • Brick: Efflorescence often shows up as white streaks along bricks. Because brick is a porous material, it may absorb much of the salts present in the surrounding soil and in the water itself, which may result in efflorescence sprouting in the middle of the bricks as well as down the edges.  
  • Clay: Clay is often made of highly soluble salts, which makes it the perfect material for efflorescence to spread along.  
  • Concrete: Many basements in Ohio are made of concrete, and thus, these basements will show similar signs of efflorescence to one another. This includes very obvious white, gray, or even brown streaks flowing down the walls or along your basement floor.  
  • Lime: Lime can prove to be somewhat of a hazard if any unbuffered hydrochloric acid happens to come into contact with it. This combination can produce calcium chloride, which can cause excessive skin irritation if touched, burning in the mouth and throat if ingested, as well as other severe health hazards.  
  • Sand: While sand is not water-soluble, it can still contribute to efflorescence if it has come into contact with other materials that contain salt. Therefore, this problem will usually be taken care of at the construction stage, so you will not have to worry about any structures that have a sand base to develop efflorescence later on.  
Efllorescence on basement wall

Many homeowners may not know if their basement is experiencing any problems until substantial damage is done. It is a good idea to be able to identify these smaller problem signs before they grow worse.  

  • Leaks  

Leaks are perhaps one of the most common problem signs in the basement. It is not wise to ignore any leaks, no matter how small they might seem.  

Because Ohio is prone to summertime thunderstorms and snowstorms in the winter, your basement will face an excessive amount of water hitting it. Any leaks in your basement can then easily open wider and contribute to huge floods inside your basement.  

Leaks are also the main source of efflorescence development. You will notice the trails of this substance directly following the path of the leaks in your basement. Indeed, there may be salt deposits left behind by these leaks that activate the efflorescence.  

  • Cracks  

Cracks are more than just superficial damage to your basement’s walls or floor. They are also a sign of much deeper damage hidden directly below you, too. Of course, not every crack you see is a sign of immediate danger. That is why you should be able to identify which sorts of cracks indicate severe damage.  

Cracks that measure less than 1/8 inches wide can generally be left alone. However, you should still schedule an appointment with basement experts as soon as you can just in case it splits apart any wider. Often, larger cracks that measure more than 1/4 inches wide indicate serious damage to your foundation. If your foundation is damaged, the rest of your home’s infrastructure is sure to follow suit.  

  • Mold and Mildew  

Mold and mildew are types of fungi that thrive in humid environments. Given the fact that Ohio tends to be quite humid in the summertime, your basement acts as the perfect place for these fungi to grow.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mold spores can induce negative health symptoms in you and your family. This includes burning or watery eyes, stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing and/or wheezing, and skin rash. 

Those with asthma or chronic lung diseases may also find their own symptoms triggered by these spores. Indeed, you might even develop infections in your lungs if you are not careful.  

It can be difficult to distinguish one fungus from the other, as well as noticing the difference between mold or mildew spores and efflorescence itself.  

Mold is typically black and green while mildew is more gray or white in color. Similarly, mold is much slimmer or even fuzzier in texture compared to mildew, which is more powdery and fluffier. Efflorescence, on the other hand, is also white or gray in color and can sometimes have a powdery texture.  

If you are unable to tell if the streaks you see are made of mildew or efflorescence, it is best to call the basement experts at Ohio Basement Authority to inspect this substance just in case.  

  • Pests  

Pests are more drawn toward homes that have moisture issues as well. With much easier access to water, they will be less likely to leave your home and instead spread their infestation even further. Not only can pests be destructive to your home overall, but they can also spread certain diseases or allergens around your home as well.  

Efflorescence

FAQs

Efflorescence can be tricky to spot at first glance. However, there are a few ways you can identify if your basement is dealing with efflorescence or something else entirely.  

  • What Materials Make Up the Interior of Your Basement?  

Because efflorescence is made up of water and water-soluble salts, it might help to know what kinds of salts in building materials can be affected. Calcium sulfate (found in bricks), sodium sulfate (found in cement-brick mixtures), sodium carbonate (found in mortar), and potassium carbonate (also found in mortar) are all salts found in building materials commonly used in basement construction.  

Keep in mind that different materials in combination with these water-soluble salts may display different discolorations and effects, so you should be able to identify signs of efflorescence along different surfaces.  

  • How Fast Can Efflorescence Spread?  

Efflorescence can spread fairly fast down your basement walls and along your floor. The name “efflorescence” does mean “to flower out” in French, so you can imagine how quickly this substance can spread around your basement once it settles inside.  According to the Masonry Institute of America, efflorescence can develop as quickly as one month after the initial construction of the building to up to one year after completion. It is a truly frustrating substance that builders have tried their best to prevent and avoid at all costs. If your efflorescence problem has cropped up long after your home has been constructed, however, then this is likely due to a hidden leak or flood dredging up the salts embedded within the very walls and floor of your basement.

Efflorescence might seem like a substance you cannot entirely prevent on your own. Fortunately, there are a few ways to stop efflorescence in its tracks.  

  • Cleaning  

If you spot any efflorescence sprouting up around your basement, you can easily clean it off using a scrub brush and mild detergent. The efflorescence should come off easily with a bit of work. Though using water might seem counterintuitive in this matter, a power wash might also work to get rid of any crystalline efflorescence residue as well.  

However, you may have to routinely clean your basement if you do not address the moisture infiltration issues that are causing this efflorescence to develop in the first place. It can be frustrating to have to deal with the same problem repeatedly in the same spots. This is why you need to call the basement experts at Ohio Basement Authority.  

  • Why You Need Ohio Basement Authority  

Ohio Basement Authority’s experts have plenty of experience dealing with efflorescence as well as the various causes. We can easily identify the main source of your efflorescence issue and repair it so you will not have to deal with it ever again. Our solutions are guaranteed to keep your basement completely dry and efflorescence-free.  

Our experts are able to repair the cause behind your efflorescence problem to ensure that it never occurs again. Our industry-grade solutions are not available at hardware stores, so you will be able to benefit from uniquely powerful waterproofing solutions that truly work to keep your home protected and dry.

Efflorescence can be quite unsightly and eventually chip away at the structural integrity of your basement walls. You need solutions that will prevent efflorescence from infiltrating your basement altogether.  

  • Treating the Cause  

First, our experts will determine the true cause of efflorescence, and if it is due to primary or secondary efflorescence. Primary efflorescence will be fairly simple to treat. Regular cleaning and installing a sump pump and interior drainage system should fully protect your basement from any moisture or efflorescence infiltration.  

If it is secondary efflorescence, however, other solutions may need to be deployed to clear up the persistent formation of the characteristic white blooms. Ensuring that efflorescence is permanently resolved can be tricky – therefore we recommend that you have a serious discussion about the issues in your home before any work is undertaken.   

  • Other Solutions  

A sump pump and interior drainage system is an excellent start to waterproofing your basement from leaks, flooding, and other causes of efflorescence. However, they might not be enough to totally repair the damage previous floods have caused around your basement.  

This is where Ohio Basement Authority’s other solutions can come in. Our experts will also install solutions that repair any cracks or other openings that lead into your basement. Not only will this prevent moisture from infiltrating your home, but any mold and mildew spores and pests as well.  

Basement Waterproofing Solutions  

Efflorescence might seem harmless at first glance. However, it is not to be taken lightly. Your basement may face internal structural damage that will only lead to even more damage in the future. This is where Ohio Basement Authority’s waterproofing solutions can help.  

  • Interior Drainage Systems  

If the main problem with efflorescence is the infiltration of moisture, then it stands to reason that you need a solution that prevents moisture from coming into your basement in the first place. Ohio Basement Authority can install an interior drainage system that will collect any water that tries to seep through to your basement and redirect it to a sump pump.  

One of the biggest benefits of this system is how well hidden it is. You may not even realize that it is hard at work until you come down to a totally dry basement during a severe storm.  

Our interior drainage systems are also completely customizable to fit your unique basement. The pipes will be perfectly fitted to the wall and floor joints and are perforated with holes along the bottom so that they can collect any groundwater that tries to well up and flood your basement.  

  • Sump Pumps  

Sump pumps are a key part of the drainage system as well. These powerful pumps can collect any water that might try to infiltrate through your basement and pump it far away from your house. These pumps are also self-activating, so you will not have to worry about turning them on yourself in the event of a large storm.  

Indeed, it is fairly low maintenance overall. You will not have to worry about any moisture in your basement with both a sump pump and an interior drainage system installed.  

Contact Ohio Basement Authority for a Free Inspection Today  

Efflorescence is often viewed as superficial damage that is merely scrubbed away each time it appears. However, clearing away the same problem every so often is not a full-fledged solution, only a temporary one that only provides an aesthetic fix. You need a waterproofing solution that will not only prevent efflorescence from spreading around your basement but moisture from infiltrating your basement altogether.  

Contact the basement experts at Ohio Basement Authority for a free inspection of your basement today. Our highly trained and skilled experts offer some of the most thorough waterproofing solutions currently available, and we can provide free quotes on all our powerful systems. We serve all throughout Cincinnati and Columbus, and are always on hand to help, so please do not hesitate to reach out to us if you see efflorescence or other signs of damage around your home. 

Our Basement Waterproofing Experts can help you

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Our Basement Waterproofing Experts can help you

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