Your Guide to Basement Waterproofing

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Your Guide to Basement Waterproofing

This article comes from The Spruce.

Your Guide to Basement Waterproofing

A reliably dry basement expands your living space, often doubling it. A finished basement—or even an unfinished but dry basement—increases your home’s value and guarantees that the home’s structure and upper floors will remain in good condition.

Why Your Basement Needs to Be Dry

Your basement should stay dry in case you want to renovate it into a habitable space. Minus vital services located in the basement such as the water heater, furnace, and washer and dryer, a finished basement can mirror the square footage of the floor directly above. A 1,000 square foot home can transform into a nearly 2,000 square foot home with a smart, well-planned basement finishing project.

With this, the stakes are high to create a dry space for those renovations. Few surfaces in the finished basement tolerate moisture well: drywall, carpeting, paint, and even hard flooring such as laminate or engineered wood flooring.

If you do not plan to remodel the basement, you’ll still want to keep your basement as dry as possible. Moisture can rot away building materials, including elements vital to your home’s structural integrity, and mold and mildew can develop. While not all molds are toxic, some molds can produce harmful mycotoxins.

Causes of a Wet Basement

  • Poorly Graded Soil: Earth next to your house that is level or which slopes back to the house can send water alongside the foundation, where it can seep into the house.
  • Missing or Improperly Draining Gutters and Downspouts: Gutters that are blocked can cascade water over the sides and next to the foundation. Downspouts may be missing pieces designed to send water away from the house.
  • Poorly Designed Window Wells: Window wells are the pockets in the earth around basement windows. Wells can pool up with water.
  • Poorly Installed Window Well Covers: Window well covers are designed to prevent debris and water from reaching basement windows. If covers are loose or missing, water may reach and infiltrate basement windows.
  • Ineffective Drain Tile: Drain tile is a buried drainage system close around the outer perimeter of a house. Tile is a misnomer since it’s not actually tile but pipe. This pipe may become blocked or crushed.
  • Blocked French Drains: French drains are buried drain systems that can become blocked with soil or roots.
  • Sump Pump Not Draining: Inside the basement, an inoperable or poorly operating sump pump cannot drain rising water.
  • Water Up Through the Sump: In flood conditions, water can sometimes come into the basement up through the sump pit.
  • Structural Cracks: Cracks in the foundation wall can permit water to flow into the basement.

Exterior House Methods of Basement Waterproofing

Add or Fix Window Well Covers

Galvanized steel or molded plastic pieces called windows wells are attached to the home’s exterior foundation. Window wells can also be fitted with window well covers.

Though window wells are chiefly designed to prevent soil collapse and to keep your window clear of debris, they can help with moisture infiltration, too. Enclosing the window wells with well covers prevents water and snow from reaching the window.

Window wells scoop out a section of the earth around the window to permit light and air to reach basements and to aid with egress. As with grading the soil away from the foundation, make sure that window wells do not direct water toward the basement window.

Waterproof or Damp-proof Seal the Foundation Wall

Damp-proofing is a common method where an asphalt-based material is brushed, rolled, or sometimes sprayed onto the outer foundation wall.

Waterproofing is a more involved project where thick rolls of impermeable material are bonded to the outside of the foundation. All seams are lapped to prevent water leakage.

Some foundation waterproofing methods use a sprayed-on material comparable to the thickness of the solid materials. The product is a liquid-rubber, elastomeric coating that must be applied multiple times to achieve the proper thickness.

Interior Methods of Basement Waterproofing

The best-case scenario is that you should not have to employ any interior methods of waterproofing your basement if exterior methods can do the job. But the reality of basements is that you’ll often need to extend your attention to the inside.

Interior Foundation Coatings

Waterproofing coatings roll or brush onto the inside of concrete block, poured concrete, or other types of masonry foundation walls. These ready-mix products usually come in white or neutral colors but can be tinted. Application is easy and usually fairly quick, depending on the scale of the project. Most waterproofing coatings drying in about three hours to allow for additional coats.

Waterproof coatings are the last line of defense for damp or leaky walls. Most coatings have a 10 to 15 psi water pressure rating. These coatings are effective at managing damp basement foundation walls.

Sump Pumps

Sump pumps are a common feature in basements that have problems with groundwater intrusion. They can, however, also clear flooding from within the basement.

Install a sump (the basin or pit portion) plus a sump pump if your basement has water issues. If you already have a sump pump, keep it well-maintained.

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