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An Introduction To Basement Waterproofing

What is basement waterproofing and how do you accomplish it? Having a nice, dry basement can dramatically increase the useable living space in your home, thereby increasing your home’s value. This post will run through the basics of basement waterproofing and answer questions such as; where do you start, can you do it yourself, which products should you use, how do you find a good waterproofing contractor to do the work if you can’t do it yourself, and how much will it cost?

1. Waterproofing a basement- Where do you start?

The best and simplest place to start waterproofing a basement is on the outside of your home. Confused? Don’t be. Here’s a short list of things you can check yourself to ensure you have a dry basement:

A. Gutters and downspouts. It’s important that your homes’ gutters and downspouts are clean at all times. When they become plugged or blocked, water will overflow and erode the soil next to your foundation. Over time, this soil will become saturated and increase the potential for basement water problems.

B. No groundpipe. At the base of your gutters there should be a groundpipe or extension that directs the water away from your foundation. Once again, this is to avoid saturating the soil next to your foundation wall. An effective groundpipe should direct water at least three feet away from your foundation.

C. Proper grading. This is simpler to check than it sounds. Look at the ground next to your foundation. Does it direct water away from your foundation or towards it? Proper grading will provide a slight (almost unnoticeable) angle in the soil to direct water away from your home.

2. DIY basement waterproofing- Can you do it yourself?

There are many different aspects to basement waterproofing. Some you will be able to do on your own. Others may require hiring a professional basement waterproofing specialist. What you can accomplish will all depend on your current skill level and what kind of problems you’re having. A simple rule of thumb is this: if you don’t feel comfortable doing it, hire a contractor. Any mistakes you make will cost you more money to fix later on. So what can you do by yourself?

A. As mentioned above, check outside your home for the things that can be done simply and inexpensively. If you can’t clean your gutters, look on Craigslist for someone who will do it for a reasonable price. Extensions for downspouts can be purchased at your local Home Depot or Lowes. And grading can be done by a local landscaper, or you can have the topsoil delivered and you can do it yourself.

B. Basment wall cracks. Depending on your level of skill and comfort, this might be a project worth tackeling yourself. But before I go any further it’s important to note that you must determine the underlying cause of the crack before doing any repairs. Otherwise the crack may reform, wasting your time and money. With that being said, there are two popular products for basement crack repairs: hydraulic cement and epoxy. Stay tuned. In my next post I’ll provide more detailed instructions for repairing basement wall cracks with these products.

C. Concrete waterproofing paint. While this is not going to solve any major issues, sealing your basement walls with a good waterproof paint just adds one more layer of protection from the moisture that’s trying to find its way in. But just like anything else, there are steps you must take to do this job properly.

First, you need to make sure your basement walls are clean. Use a scraper or wire brush to remove any excess mortar, efflorescence, or dirt.

Second, make sure to patch any holes or cracks in the wall with hydraulic cement. Paint will not do this!

Third, the walls need to be dry before applying the waterproof paint. If necessary, you may need to run a dehumidifier in your basement for several days before painting.

And finally, paint. Use a generously coated paint roller made for rough surfaces (heavy knap) for best results, as this will more effectively coat all the nooks and crannies. Wait for the paint to dry and inspect your work. Touch up any areas that you may have missed. A second, and possibly third coat of paint may be necessary for best results.

Diagram of Basement in Buffalo NY

3. Basement waterproofing products- What should you use?

Waterproofing paint. We just went over this, but it will help if we go into a little more detail. Waterproofing paint does not actually waterproof your basement! At best it acts more like a vapor barrier, which is still a good thing. Sealing your basement walls with a good waterproofing paint will help prevent moisture and mold in your basement. So which one do you choose? The closest thing I’ve found to an actual waterproofing product is this: Hydro-Seal 75 Waterpoofing Epoxy by Northern Industries. This stuff is not cheap, but it is more effective than most products you’ll find on the store shelf.

Hydraulic Cement. It cannot be overstated that every basement situation will be different. There is no one solution that fits all. With that being said, hydraulic cement is one of the more popular products available today, but it is not always the most effective solution for basement waterproofing. Let me explain why. Although hydraulic cement hardens fast and can be used in wet situations like leaking basement cracks, it has no give. So if your foundation shifts, settles, or expands, the crack will reform. If you don’t have to worry about those issues, hydraulic cement is cheap and fast.

Epoxy Concrete Crack Repair Materials. In many cases, epoxy resins are a more effective solution to repairing basement wall cracks than hydraulic cement. Epoxy is a much stronger material when hardened and will also be effective at keeping water out. And unlike cement, which will only patch one side of the wall, a low pressure injection epoxy kit will fill the entire crack.

4. Basement Waterproofing Contractors– How do you find the right one?

Referrals from friends and family. This is probably the best place to start looking for a contractor to handle your basement needs. You’ll almost always feel more comfortable dealing with someone recommended by someone you trust. Even so, you’ll still want to do some research before hiring a contractor.

Online reviews. In todays day and age of technology, most companies have a website or some kind of online presence. And even if they don’t you will usually be able to find some kind of feedback about that company or their work online. Do some research and get as much feedback as you can before you even call a contractor.

Interview multiple contractors for the job. Call several companies or contractors to come and give you an estimate. You should never have to pay for an estimate! When they come, pay attention to what they’re doing. A good contractor will look for the underlying cause of any issues you can see, such as mold, or cracks, and they will explain everything that needs to be done.

Avoid high pressure sales tactics. Once you’ve met with several contractors and have received multiple estimates, go with the contractor you feel most comfortable with. A good contractor will never use high pressure sales tactics. They will let their explanation of the work needing to be done, along with their estimate and repuation speek for themselves.

5. Basement Waterproofing Cost- Some things to consider.

I mentioned this earlier but it is worth repeating. Every basement situation is unique. Just because your neighbor got a basement crack repaired for $200, that doesn’t mean that’s all you will need. You want to make sure the underlying cause is repaired, not just the effects.

The lowest price is not always the best. This is why it is vitally important that you get multiple estimates from contractors. Most bids should be fairly close. When you get one that is far below or far above the others, this should be a red flag. A low bid could mean that the contractor doesn’t really know what he’s doing, and is underestimating his costs. This will only lead to problems later. For them and you!

So there are some of the basics of basement waterproofing. Stay tuned for more specific information on waterproofing and drainage