In Repair & Maintenance

Easy Basement Waterproofing Tips & Techniques

When you own a home, you want to get the most space you can in your one, usually small plot of land. Of course, we can all build up and put a second story on our home.

But most people end up going down into the earth and build a basement. The problem is that basement waterproofing is really difficult to get right. In areas of the country where groundwater intrusion is more of an issue, it’s even more important to get your basement waterproofing correct.

If you live in an area where groundwater levels are high enough, or the ground not stable enough, you may not even have the option of a basement. But I’ll show you the best tips to deal with groundwater intrusion and have the best chance at a successful basement waterproofing.

Start with a clean slate and get water out

Groundwater intrusion issues

If you do get groundwater in your basement, you need to first start with a clean slate. Hopefully, there isn’t too much and you can mop it up or wipe it up without too much trouble.

If you do have a large amount of water in your basement, you’ll want to start your basement waterproofing by investing in a good sump pump and start by pumping all the water out. A note…make sure that the pump is pumping water far away from the basement.

Once you get all of the water out, you can start the next step in your basement waterproofing endeavors and figure out where the groundwater is coming from.

Know where groundwater may be coming from

There are, unfortunately, no real shortcuts to figuring out where groundwater may be coming into your basement from. You need to check for a few key areas though.

Signs of Groundwater Intrusion

There are certain things that you are looking for in order to spot water coming in and where it may be occurring at. First, definitely look at any active beads of water that seam to be coming out of the pores in the concrete.

Second, you’ll want to pay particular attention to any staining that can occur from water running down the concrete. Water follows gravity just like you do and it will run vertically down the wall from where it gets in.

Windows & Vents

One of the first major areas that groundwater intrusion occurs is at the windows and vents. These holes in the foundations are a natural meeting point for water.

Start by going around and checking these holes, especially in the corners, for any indication of water intrusion. If the concrete is flaking or broken, that’s a good indicator of a weak spot.

Cracks

Of course, another logical area for water to be getting in is in cracks in the concrete. These can occur anywhere within the wall but definitely around any windows and along the connection between the wall and the floor.

Any cracks in the concrete should be paid special attention to. Cracks can happen often enough with simple aging but they may also be indications of structural integrity.

If you see any bulges or wide cracks, definitely hire a contractor who specializes in foundations to check them out. I show you some tips on how to hire a contractor in this article.

Use hydraulic cement to repair gaps and cracks

If you have small gaps, cracks, or holes in your basement, you can fill them with hydraulic cement. Hydraulic cement is a specialty cement, unlike any of the other masonry products I’ve explained to you, that is perfect for this task.

Hydraulic cement not only sets quickly but it also expands as it sets. This allows hydraulic cement to push into cracks and improve your basement waterproofing dramatically.

Use a waterproofing coating on interior walls

Interior basement waterproof coatings

Once you have pumped out any existing water, identified where groundwater may be getting in at, and filled any gaps and cracks, it’s time to apply a good waterproof coating on the inside walls.

A waterproofing coating isn’t required to prevent water from coming in but I am a firm believer in doing something right if you are going to do it at all. These coatings aren’t terribly expensive either, around $40 a gallon depending on the brand.

Ask for something that is made specifically for basement waterproofing. Before you start applying the coating, make sure that your walls are clean and dry. If there are previous paints or coatings, make sure to scrub them off as well.

If necessary, trench down and apply waterproofing coating on exterior walls

Exterior basement waterproofing options

If you’ve gone through all of the previous basement waterproofing techniques and you still have a leaky basement, you could always waterproof the outside.

If you want to apply a waterproof coating to the outside of the basement, you will need to dig a trench down around the foundation walls. This trench will need to expose several feet of wall.

For waterproof coatings, there are several from well respected building companies. Pretty much any company that makes roof coatings; Henrys, Blueskin, Blackjack, etc; will also make foundation waterproof coatings.

Similar to when you put on the interior coating for basement waterproofing, you should make sure that your exterior wall is clean and dry before applying the coating. This is the best way to prevent groundwater intrusion.

Grade your yard away from the home

Another thing that will assist in your basement waterproofing efforts is to make sure that your yard is graded correctly. What that means is: which way does the ground slope?

You want your yard to slope away from your home, with your home basically on a small hill. This way, any rainwater will tend to go away from your home. Again, water follows gravity and you can use that to your advantage.

Direct any water that does get in to a way out

If there is no way to successfully waterproof your basement and you have to accept groundwater within your basement, there are still methods of dealing with it.

You can always give that water a channel to flow through that eventually reaches a sump pump that pumps it back out again. This way, it at least keeps the water away from any appliances and possessions within the basement.

Final Thoughts

Waterproofing a basement against groundwater intrusion is incredibly difficult. Sometimes, it’s even impossible. You need to know how to spot groundwater coming in and you need to know how to repair the damage that it causes. If you are looking for more resources and tips on waterproofing you basement, check out Bob Vila.com for more information.

There are several methods of basement waterproofing that you can use. In all honesty, I would suggest using all of them at once for the best results. After all, they don’t prevent each other from working and they can only support each other.