2 contractors. 2 different waterproofing solutions

marcoloJanuary 26, 2011

The patient:

1924, 2+ story colonial with poured concrete foundation. Lot slopes away from the house in the rear, but is about level with the street in front--though grade pitches idiotically toward the foundation in a few spots. Slope can't be fixed until spring, but I want some protection in place before the local Ice Age thaws out during the spring rains. Clay soil.


- Pretty high humidity, somewhat remedied with a large dehumidifier

- Occasional small mystery "damp spots" on floor after heavy rains in random locations

- A small rivulet of water appeared twice during bad storms, always in the front of the house, always flowing from L to R, where it disappears into an open pit containing a now-sealed cleanout or drain pipe. The rivulet always rises out of the floor: once from a wooden post (now gone) that penetrated the concrete to anchor in the dirt below, and once from around a recently-replaced water supply line.

- Efflorescence in various places across all 4 walls, along with areas of crumbly surface

The diagnoses:

I brought in two different contractors, with two different recommendations. I have no idea who is right.

Both recommend an interior French drain with sump along the front of the house where the Mississippi occasionally appears, with small elbows coming back to where the corner ends.

One suggests doing a drain around the whole basement now, because it's cheaper than coming back twice, but acknowledges that may not be necessary.

Here's where they diverge.

Contractor A says the efflorescence and chipping are coming from dampness outside penetrating the concrete; any waterproofing material like tar is probably long gone. He suggests doing a Thoroseal or similar application along the crumbly areas, after power washing off the loose concrete.

Contractor B says the efflorescence and chipping are coming from condensation reacting with the cold concrete walls. He suggests stucco up to grade (where the crumbling stops).

Obviously, the fact that the crumbling stops at grade doesn't prove either fellow right. Foundation above grade is above groundwater, but it is also obviously warmer in summer.

Who is right? What should I do?

BTW, no, there isn't an extra 18 grand lying around to dig up the front yard and waterproof from the outside.

Thanks for any ideas!

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Neither is right. The chipping and efflorecense is the result of moisture entering the walls from the outside. Both the thoroseal and stucco will be a temporary coverup,if the reason the water is entering is not remedied. The water control approach will solve the seepage issue, but do absolutely nothing to repair the wall and humidity problems, and in fact may make the problems worse.

The 18 grand figure sounds like a price that the inside guys put out there to scare you off the best repair which is to excavate. Water is a symptom, and you can choose to deal with it by allowing it to enter in order to pump it back out, or you can repair the problem and keep the symptom out all together.

Poured concrete foundation leak usually for one of two reasons. Exterior footing tile failure, or a crack or opening in the wall. Tile failure usually results in leakage where the floor and wall meet, or up through the floor, and is usually not specific to one location. My best guess is you have a crack or opening and maybe all you need to do is dig up the problem area and repair it.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 12:54PM
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The water control approach will solve the seepage issue, but do absolutely nothing to repair the wall and humidity problems, and in fact may make the problems worse.

By the water control approach, you mean the stucco or thoroseal? How could this make things worse? My sense is coating the interior walls could be good, bad, or useless, but a french drain is probably an OK move no matter what.

I'm not sure houses built around here in 1924 had footings, much less drain tiles.

In any case, I have not yet found one contractor in the Boston area who specializes in exterior waterproofing.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 3:51PM
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No. The stucco or thoroseal is nothing more than a cosmetic cover up. The interior drain tile and sump is the water control system. Most companies in this industry only do water control systems. All of the franchise companies are water control companies. You have to search the smaller outfits if you want to waterproof.

By continuing to allow the moisture to transfer through the walls, the wall problems will continue. Your home has a footing and exterior tile. I am certain that home hasn't leaked since it was built. So what changed. The walls developed cracks, and the exterior tile is not keeping the water level lower than the floor.

Like I said previously, the interior drains and sump will take care of the seepage, just don't expect it to solve the issues with the walls. Talk with you cities building department. They may be able to direct you to companies that dig. Call local waterproofing suppliers and ask for referrals.

We waterproof a lot of homes that previously had interior systems installed. We get called in when the walls begin to show damage and moisture. With the newer waterproofing products available today, like elastomeric membranes and drainage mats, a proper waterproofing job will last a lifetime.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 10:20AM
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Efflorescence is the result of excessive inward movement of moisture though the concrete bringing soluble salts to the surface.

This same inward movement is what eventually pushes all the interior "waterproofing" products off the wall. The exception would be crystalline waterproofing materials such as Xypex.

Interior drains etc. are water control "solutions" not waterproofing. The damage to the walls and the footings continues, you just don't see it.

In the good old days, a friend once attended a seminar on "houseflipping". If the basement leaked, the guru advised building an elevated floor and finishing the basement as is. It'll look good till the cheque clears!

    Bookmark   January 28, 2011 at 7:21PM
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Incredible Worthy! This industry still amazes me. I am starting to see a slight shift around here where some previous interior water control companies are now beginning to offer true waterproofing, but not many.

These water control companies charge ridiculous prices for jobs that require minimal labor and material costs. Many of these companies derive a 70% profit on this band aid approach. As a result, the commission salesmen that this industry employs make a lot of money, so they attract the best salesmen in home improvement.

I do believe, however, that with the advent of the internet' and all the good information that can now be found, these system companies will find the going harder and harder.

Purchasing waterproofing or foundations solutions is not like buying new windows. The wrong solution can have extremely bad results for a homeowner. Read these water control companies web sites. They are full of dire warnings about foundation failure, and or the health effects of mold, when their solution does absolutely nothing to alleviate these problems, and often make them worse. This is just wrong no matter how you look at it.

I have enjoyed you helpful advice on this forum. You have an excellent and informative grasp on this subject, and you pass it along in a good common sense way.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2011 at 12:08PM
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Actually I'm sure this home has always had some sort of moisture or water problem. Many homes in this area do--clay soil, poor drainage.

Generally, exterior waterproofing on these old houses is completely cost prohibitive around here.

I think I'm going with the French drain and skipping the stuff on the walls for now. Does Xypex actually work?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 11:51AM
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I used Permaquik brand crystalline waterproofing before System Platon-type membranes were available here.

I needed the permission of the local Buildings Department, granted after they reviewed the technical literature and the written recommendation of a professional engineer.

Crystalline waterproofing is used in commercial structures, including water-retention vessels. Its principal drawbacks are that it doesn't bridge cracks more than about 1/16" , the preparation and application requires special care, such as first washing down new walls with a muriatic acid and according to some contractors may have to be repeated in a few years.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 6:05PM
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We love the results we obtain with the system platon.

Just to add one more tactic that interior water control companies use. They will tell customers that they do all methods. They will even price the different methods and of course price the exterior method ridiculously high.

Where we work has clay soil, poor drainage, and old homes as well.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2011 at 11:31PM
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Just to confirm--anybody think a French drain would be a bad idea in my case? Incomplete, maybe, but bad?

Remember when I do get actual water, it comes up through the floor, not the wall. The walls only seem to get water vapor and occasional mild dampness in spots.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 12:20AM
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Water generally bubbles up approximately a foot away from the front wall, especially toward one corner. However, this spot moves, anywhere from the left wall corner more toward the center of the basement. So I imagine a French drain will land right along where the water is collecting anyway.

I would love to even speak to a company that does exterior waterproofing in MA. I have been unable to find one. I can only deal with the contractors that exist.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 12:32PM
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Your right. There are not many exterior companies in the Boston area. I spoke with a supplier of a product we use and he has some referrals. I talked to the guy in New Haven, but I am sure any of them could help.

As far as eliminating the seepage, the interior system will probably accomplish what your looking for.

Here is a link that might be useful: Local basf reps

    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 4:56PM
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Thanks! I've emailed the guy from MA. Which BASF product are you using, so I can describe it if he asks?

    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 7:49PM
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HLM 5000. It's an elastomeric waterproofing compound.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 10:36AM
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wtrprfr. Thanks for your help!!! I have an exterior waterproofing contractor coming out next week.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 3:37PM
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Hi there,
I am also looking for waterproofing help: We have a 1942 house in the DC area that has a seepage/moisture problem. While we have never seen major water intrusion, we have only lived in the house for 2.5 months and realize we are peeling back a very bad onion that was pretty on the outside and failing in the middle. It began with mold, and we thought that we'd solved the problem by installing a sump pump/drainage system. However, they totally messed things up, with us having to identify when they were drilling weep holes in the wrong place etc (they were rated #2 on angie's list, btw). At any rate, we cannot do much outside excavation since there is only about 35" of space between our exterior wall and a public alley on one side, and about 4' of space on the other until our neighbor's property.

So, my question: Now that we have spend $7K on an interior "system" that may/may not properly drain the block walls (with some areas of brick), we are faced with interior waterproofing of the problem walls. What is the best interior waterproofing application for the walls? Bituminous inside? Elastomeric? CWM? We have been told that the only reason we don't have major structural issues (no big vertical cracks, etc.) is because we have softer mortar so the foundation can move; as a result, we have been cautioned against using very solidifying/inflexible applications, so I wonder if CWM is one?

So, what should we use? And do we have to clean off the efflorescence (which is substantial) entirely with acid first? I am worried that will eat through the mira drain that is against the wall, and the pipe that runs below the concrete floor within the gravel.

Any help is awesome, I'm totally overwhelmed (b/c this is not our only problem...)


    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 7:21PM
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When all you own is a concrete saw, all problems are solved ion the inside (after the water has entered the foundation).

No one wants to pay for all the digging and landscape damage from placing footer drains.

While some of the digging can be done by smaller backhoe equipment, it still takes a large amount of plain old hand work.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2012 at 10:55AM
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