Sara and Zac* have an older Colonial home which had a typical northeastern Ohio half-finished basement. One half was a walled off play area. It had a nice piece of remnant carpet, colorfully painted foundation walls, kid friendly furniture and well used electronics. The other half was a concrete floor, bare cinder block walls, the washer/dryer and storage.
The unfinished side was always damp and had a “little bit” of water seepage. When it rained a lot or during the spring thaw water trickled down the wall onto concrete floor, but it never made it as far as the finished side. They were able to keep the basement from feeling damp and musty smelling with a dehumidifier — the more water the higher they turned it up.
This is a common basement strategy for home owners in our area. Sara and Zac became used to the trickle of water and stopped “seeing” it as a problem. They defined it as ordinary and manageable, not as an issue which needed to be addressed. Checking the basement during a rain or a snow thaw and adjusting the dehumidifier became tasks they did without thinking.
It is basic human nature to want the easiest — not best and usually harder — solution to a problem. It’s typical to think that once a difficulty has been “solved” it doesn’t need to be re-examined. If we think we’ve handled the problem we don’t notice if the solution wasn’t really effective in the first place or when the situation has changed and the fix isn’t working anymore.
The problem continues to creep up on us and we keep ineffectively readjusting until it becomes impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, when it gets to the point of being hard to ignore the situation is much worse than if we’d handled it right the first time.
Sara and Zac didn’t reevaluate when the water seepage increased (happening during normal rain storms or snow thaws) or when they needed a second dehumidifier to keep up. Upon returning from a vacation they found a flooded basement with several thousand dollars worth of damage. They “suddenly” had a foundation problem, which they had watched develop.
* A composite.
Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 100 articles published. She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction. She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator. She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes.