waterproofing basement walls - ACME Waterproofing

Waterproofing Basement Walls: What You Should and Should Not Do

Floodwaters in your basement? Whether you knew about it when you bought your home, or it was a complete surprise to find a lake in your laundry area, water in a basement is a big problem.

Maybe you don’t have a lake, but you do have a leak. Even a small amount of water in a basement can lead to bigger headaches. Wet basements are a breeding ground for mold, hence, the headaches.

Have you considered waterproofing basement walls?

You may get away with using a wet/dry vacuum a few times to suck up the water, but that gets old fast. Why not explore a better option? Before you dig too far into a waterproofing project, read these dos and don’ts.

Do the Foil Test

Before you waterproof, you should find the source of the water. If it’s coming from a leaky plumbing pipe or floor drain, waterproofing the walls won’t stop the flood.

Concrete reveals many secrets about water. It’s porous and often shows wet streaks that indicate the entry point of water. Inspect cracks, window corners, and around the entrance and exit points for pipes.

If you have cement block walls in your basement, look between the mortar joints.

Sometimes it’s the whole wall that’s wet. In that case, you’ll need to investigate further. Do the foil test, also called a condensation test. Here’s how:

  • Dry an area of the wall.
  • Cut a one-foot- square piece of household aluminum foil.
  • Use duct tape and attach the foil to the wall.
  • Wait 24 hours.
  • Peel off the foil and check for moisture underneath the foil.

If it’s wet, you have water seeping in from outside your home.

Don’t Forget to Fix the Cracks

One mistake many DIYers make when attempting a waterproofing project is forgetting about wall cracks. Since water naturally flows toward any opening it can seep through, it makes good sense to check the walls for cracks.

If you notice cracks, even hairline cracks, you can find products such as hydraulic cement that you apply to the cracks. Be aware that if the foundation settles, you may end up repairing your repair job.

The bottom line on cracks? You can’t ignore them, paint over them, or cover them up with drywall. If you don’t address wall cracks, you’ll still have a leaky basement.

Reminder: Don’t repair cracks when you have standing water in the basement!

Do the Dig

It might sound like the name of a dance from another era but it’s not. What we’re talking about here is one of the first things you do when waterproofing basement walls from the outside.

In most cases, the water you find in your basement comes in from the base of the foundation. There are a few exceptions we’ll talk about in a minute, but for now, let’s focus on the foundation.

If you decide to waterproof by installing a drainage system, you’ll dig. Starting at the outer perimeter of the basement, you’ll dig down to the base of your foundation. The keyword is outer—this is an outside job.

After you finish digging, you’ll install your drainage system. Depending on the type of system you choose, you’ll install a gravel drain, tiles, or pipe. You’ll set the drainage system up so any water collected flows away from your foundation.

This may or may not be a great project for a DIYer. If you’re already feeling a little overwhelmed, call in a waterproofing team that can get the digging done for you. They’ll even install the drainage system!

Don’t Forget Your Window Wells

It’s easy to forget about basement window wells, especially if they’re full of leaves (and spider webs). Who wants to spend a Saturday pulling debris out of a window well anyway?

We know they get overlooked, but without maintenance, window wells can’t do their job. The primary job of a window well is drainage. If they’re clogged with trash, the water can’t drain down to the window well drain.

You don’t even need to clean them every weekend. Clear out debris in the fall after the trees drop their leaves, and then again after winter ends.

If your window wells don’t already have drains, you can call a professional waterproofing company to install them.

Do Check Your Grade

Remember where that basement lake comes from—the foundation. Before you begin waterproofing any basement walls, check outside your home for grading issues.

Your house should sit at a high point. Your yard, at least the part directly surrounding your home, should slope downhill and away from the foundation.

If you don’t want water seeping into the basement, the slope directs water away from the house and prevents it from collecting at the foundation.

You may not be at fault for improper grading alongside the foundation. Settling is often the culprit.

When the construction crew built your foundation, they excavated the soil around the perimeter. They used backfill, or loose dirt, to fill in the excavated area.

Over time, the soil may settle, creating areas of improper grading.

Address any grading issues so that you avoid water pooling next to the foundation. By the way, fixing the grade lessens but won’t eliminate problems with basement flooding.

Need Help Waterproofing Basement Walls?

Hopefully, our dos and don’ts, helped you figure out some steps to take when dealing with your wet basement.

There are many ifs, ands, or buts when managing soggy basements. Finding the source(s) of the water is the beginning. Deciding how you’ll seal up cracks, divert water from your foundation, or whether you should install a new drainage system all include different variables.

Sometimes it’s better to consult with professionals who deal with waterproofing basement walls every day. That’s us! Contact us and we’ll set up an appointment to talk about the best options for your unique needs.

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