In this article, we’ll be discussing all you should know about basement efflorescence, its causes, and what you can do to get rid of it from your walls.
This guide also contains some of the best basement efflorescence treatment options.
Basement Wall Efflorescence
Your basement is the lowest point of your home, and as we all know, water always moves towards the steepest parts of any surface. This means there’s a good chance you will experience basement moisture problems at one point or the other.
One of such problems is efflorescence, and since you’re reading this, we assume you’re dealing with it even as we speak.
What Is Basement Efflorescence?
Have you ever come across white powder on cinder block basement walls?
For those who don’t know, efflorescence is the build-up of white-colored minerals on the surface of the brick or concrete walls. It is caused by moisture and doesn’t take long to form, so it catches most homeowners unaware.
White Stuff On Basement Walls
It starts as a minor white dust-like substance on masonry surfaces, then grows into crystalline materials that look like plants. It is easy to confuse an efflorescence build-up with mold, thanks to their unpleasant physical attributes. However, they aren’t the same thing.
They are both eyesores, but unlike mold, efflorescence does not pose any health dangers to those who are exposed to it.
But if it isn’t mold-growth, then what exactly is it? Well, the white substance is nothing more than a mineral formation that grows as a result of evaporating water from masonry works.
The good news is, it can be removed without too much stress!
Causes, Fix, And Prevention Of Basement Efflorescence
In more detail, we will be discussing the exact causes of efflorescence, how to fix it, and how to stop it from ever popping up on your basement walls.
What Causes Efflorescence On Basement Walls & Floors?
When moisture and dissolved minerals pass through your basement walls, then efflorescence can form on the surface. Keep in mind that cement and bricks, in general, are quite porous, this means they are a gateway for traveling moisture.
You should also know that the masonry used in the construction of the basement walls and floors is packed with natural minerals such as limestone and clay. And just like other natural minerals, there are usually some harmless bodies dissolved into the mix before they are cast.
These bodies break down along with the water and move to the brick’s surface together. Although the water will eventually evaporate, the dissolved bodies will remain on the surface, and this is what we call efflorescence.
One of the most common bodies that travel along with water to masonry surfaces is salts like calcium carbonate. If you live in a coastal area, then salty air and rain can spike efflorescence formation.
During the winter season, rock salt can blend in with melting snow and find its way into your home’s foundation. Those with poor drainage are most likely to experience this.
How to Prevent Efflorescence In A Basement
Now that you know what causes efflorescence in your basement, let us give you quick tips on how to prevent it from ever occurring.
One of the best ways to prevent this eyesore in your concrete basement is to seal your basement. A professional contractor is in the best position to do this.
Thankfully, there’s a good variety of coatings you can use to achieve this. They don’t all cost the same, and they are made for different sealing purposes.
If you’re looking for a good lightweight sealer, then you should go for acrylic.
They aren’t just light, they are also great on decorative concrete surfaces. However, they aren’t ideal if there’s heavy foot activity around the basement.
This is because acrylic is nothing more than a topcoat that rests on top of the concrete surface.
If you’re looking for a more rugged sealer, then you can try epoxy sealers. They are far more durable than acrylic sealers and would last longer.
There are also penetrative sealers that are made with chemical formulas. These sealers have the ability to fill up the pores in the concrete floors, as opposed to just serving as a protective cover for the surface.
There are many varieties of top-quality penetrating sealers, and they all have different chemical compositions.
The major downside to using penetrating sealers is that they won’t keep the top surface free of blemishes as epoxy does. However, they have excellent moisture-resistant abilities.
How To Remove Efflorescence From Basement Walls
In a case where you have failed to prevent efflorescence from popping up in your basement, then you’ll have to fix the problem. The good news is, it’s very doable.
These options will help in removing efflorescence from basement walls and floors.
Basement Efflorescence Repair
Keep in mind that the longer you leave efflorescence on your basement walls, the harder it becomes to remove. This is why tackling the problem early on is the best approach.
We will list out some methods by which you can get rid of efflorescence from your concrete.
Use a scrub: Not all efflorescence removal methods are complicated, some only require simple items like a brush and detergent. This approach is ideal if you’re dealing with minor efflorescence on the walls.
Using your brush, some water, and detergent, you can scrub off the minor “stains” with ease.
Don’t just splash the surface with hot water and think the job is done. At first, it may seem the water has shaken the efflorescence off, but you will be heartbroken to find that it is still there after the water has dried off.
Use a good detergent and put in good pressure as you scrub to get it all off.
Use a pressure washer: For more stubborn efflorescence marks, you will need something more thorough than a brush and detergent. A pressure washer would be more effective in this case.
Pressure washers are high-powered and can blast off efflorescence in a matter of seconds.
Be warned though, do not use pressure washers on your interior walls. They are more suitable for areas like the aboveground parts of your foundation wall that have efflorescence issues.
Use chemical treatments: If the efflorescence on your basement walls is very severe, then you would need something really strong. And this is where chemical treatments come in.
There are several types of chemical treatments you can use to treat severe efflorescence. These include acids that can etch the surfaces.
Acids may be considered too harsh, but there are other “softer” chemicals you can use.
Acid is very dangerous, so be advised not to carry out this approach on your own. It would be best to hire an experienced contractor to do the job.
Professionals are equipped with all they need to carry out an acid treatment. These include special respirators and adequate clothing.
If the acid touches your skin, it can melt through it and into the bones. The fumes are also dangerous to inhale.
With these in mind, there is every reason to higher the pros!
Is Efflorescence In Basement A Problem?
Efflorescence in your basement isn’t a health hazard like mold, but it is still a problem or at least an indication of one. This is because it won’t be there if your basement is moisture-free in the first place.
It also does not lead to any damage to your structures, it is just one of many pieces of evidence of leakage.
On its own, efflorescence is nothing more than a cosmetic concern, as it doesn’t look good on your masonry.
Does Efflorescence Mean The Basement Leaks?
If there’s efflorescence in your basement, then there is a high possibility it was caused by a leak. To be sure, you need to do a thorough inspection of the affected areas.
When minerals move through to the surface of a concrete or brick wall, it is just an effect of a natural phenomenon. Therefore, little blots of it don’t necessarily mean the foundation is leaking.
If the walls are properly sealed, then they shouldn’t have any efflorescence on the surface. Severe efflorescence only means that there is serious leakage coming from somewhere.
Poor drainage can also lead to the development of efflorescence on your masonry surface.
Finishing a Basement With Efflorescence
If you plan on finishing your basement, and there’s efflorescence on the walls, you shouldn’t panic or pause your plans. This is not to say you should ignore the problem, as moisture can ruin all the hard work.
Be sure to hire a professional contractor to remove all the efflorescence deposits and seal the masonry works before proceeding with the finishing.
After removing the efflorescence and treating the surface, you can then proceed to frame the walls and install the flooring.
Basement efflorescence does not lead to health issues as mold does, it also does not cause any damage to your basement’s structure. The only problem with it is that it makes your masonry look terrible.
Also, it is a sign that there is moisture penetrating the walls. Thankfully, it can easily be gotten rid of.
As we have mentioned before, DO NOT try an acid treatment on your own. If that approach must be used, then get a professional to do it.