What is Basement Waterproofing?


Due to their underground location, basements are notoriously vulnerable to leaks and seepage from a number of sources. Damp or wet basements can result from various factors including heavy rains or snow, proximity to ground water buildup and a downhill location that receives the brunt of any flow of water. Other causes can involve leaks from interior or exterior pipes and condensation. The best way to waterproof your basement can depend on the specific factors that place it at risk of water damage. Typically, both exterior and interior work is needed for optimal effectiveness.

Waterproofing your basement means taking several important steps to prevent water from entering your basement and to remove any water that has already entered. If you are already experiencing problems, your approach to waterproofing should begin with figuring out effective drainage, then addressing the specific factors that allowed your basement to get wet. A permanent drainage system may be in order if there is a large enough likelihood of recurring leaks or flooding.


Even if you do not yet have a problem, waterproofing your basement while it is still dry is a smart precaution to take that will save you annoyance and expense in the long run. Your contractor can help you assess the most likely sources of water based on your location and your home’s construction. This will allow you to use the basement waterproofing materials and methods that are most suited to your circumstances. Customizing your approach to waterproofing is a good way to keep your basement dry and structurally sound.



How to Waterproof


The two major components of effective waterproofing are drainage and sealing. Drainage ensures that whatever moisture enters your basement will not accumulate. Applying proper sealing materials to interior and exterior walls keeps water out. The waterproofing method that is best for you can depend on many factors such as the weather in your location, the soil type surrounding your home and the type of foundation you have.

Whichever technique you decide to use, you first need to make sure that no gaps or cracks remain in your basement walls. Start by inspecting the walls and sealing cracks with a waterproof material such as epoxy filler or polyurethane caulk. Once this stage is completed, you can proceed to install the waterproofing system of your choice.


In addition to factors such as location and construction, cost is another important consideration that affects your selection of techniques and materials. While some methods can be applied by most homeowners with a modicum of home improvement skills, others are best left to professionals.

Some interior basement waterproofing techniques that you may try on your own include sealers and paint. If you want to apply these to the interior walls of your basement, be sure to follow the application instructions exactly. Another popular technique is using plastic sheets to cover the walls in combination with an interior drainage system lines with basement drain tile. Instead of keeping the water outside your walls, the plastic sheets contain the water that comes in and direct it into the drainage system. The water flows through the system and into a sump pump, which then moves it away from your home.





Interior / Exterior Waterproofing


There are pros and cons to each type of waterproofing. Some interior methods are relatively simple and can be performed by most homeowners. On the other hand, exterior waterproofing is significantly costlier but is also more effective. Exterior waterproofing should only be undertaken by experienced professionals.

The simplest and most cost-effective interior waterproofing methods are paints or sealants that you apply to the interior walls of your basement. As long as you follow instructions, including proper preparation of the surfaces, these coatings can go a long way to keeping your basement dry. This is especially true if your problem is low-grade seepage from ground waters rather than flooding or leaking.

Another type of interior waterproofing is the installation of a drainage system with a sump pump. The water will get through your basement walls, but will be directed into a trench lined with interior drain tile that leads to the sump pump. Many people prefer to hire professionals for this kind of project to ensure that the trench is watertight and that the sump pump is properly installed.



Exterior waterproofing is the most effective but also the most complex method. You will need to excavate around the perimeter of your foundation apply waterproofing materials to the exterior of your basement walls. Then a trench made with exterior drain tile is installed to lead the water to a drain at the lowest point of your foundation, which lets the water flow away from your house. Depending on the layout, you may need a sump pump at this point if the water will not flow away by force of gravity.




Paints, Concretes, and Cements


There are several types of waterproofing materials popularly used to insulate basements from water. One of these is waterproofing paint, which is typically an acrylic formula designed to be applied in a thick coating. Most paints can go over painted surfaces and can be applied with a brush, sprayer or roll. Once it is cured, you will be able to paint over it. While more costly than regular wall paint, this is still a fairly inexpensive option used by many homeowners.

Silicate-based concrete is another popular sealing material. It is more effective than paint, as it hardens into a thick, waterproof surface. Rather than forming a film, it reacts with the construction materials of the wall. Other advantages include the lack of subsequent flaking or peeling. Most concrete sealers can be painted over once dry. However, you can only use concrete sealers on surfaces that have not been previously painted or sealed, as the presence of prior paint or sealant particles will prevent the concrete from reacting chemically to form a waterproof surface.

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