basement waterproofing dilemma

deanie1June 28, 2010

We just purchased a new home that is ten years old. During the latest storm we discovered water dripping down the wall of the basement "tornado shelter." This is a closet-like area excavated underneath the front bricked porch. We have also noticed what looks to be yellow mold growing on the back wall of the shelter, which seems to get bigger every day. No other water anywhere except some dampness where the floor meets the walls.

We've had two basement waterproofers come out and give us their opinions. One tested the concrete block walls of all the basement and deemed them three of them moist and recommended an interior drain, sump pump in the tornado shelter, and "rigid seal" (white cardboard looking stuff) on the walls.

The second said he doesn't believe in rigid seal because it traps moisture and recommended all basement perimeter have the drain and a sump pump in the lowest corner of the basement.

First guy gave us an estimate of $6500 -- second guy is still working on his estimate. I'd appreciate all your opinions as to who to go with. Both seemed like honest fellows. Thanks guys!

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Interior drainage of a leaking foundation doesn't get to the source of the problem. And since the water is still running through and into the walls, whatever damage it causes and continues to cause is never addressed. In particular situations--such as where access to the exterior is virtually impossible or the wall is of rubble--interior systems are your only choice. It's also a cheaper short-term fix with less disruption than an exterior system.

FWIW, I am currently planning to reuse a 1963 block foundation to comply with zoning restrictions and I will be waterproofing from the exterior as per the description in the link below. (This is not an endorsement of the company--I don't know them.)

Here is a link that might be useful: Exterior waterproofing

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 8:00PM
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wow, worthy, exterior waterproofing sounds very expensive. Neither of them suggested that. They both suggested the interior trough drain. What do you think of the rigid seal -- good idea or will it just trap moisture?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 9:21PM
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Yep, put the whole house under a tent.

So you've got some moisture where the walls meet the floors and an occasional liquid water problem in one closet under the porch. So, surprise, surprise, the contractors want you to spend big on the whole basement.

Both seemed like honest fellows

That's their job!

To begin with, it's natural for any basement wall to have moisture. Concrete is not a moisture barrier and your foundation is at least four feet into soil which has moisture. The intersection of foundation and floor is a cold joint, which, for various reasons relating to the original construction (see link) may be leak prone in the future. Or, this could be just evidence of moisture travelling up through the footings, as I'd think fewer than one in a thousand builders would install thermal breaks before putting up the foundation wall. Before embarking on this expensive and probably mostly unnecessary expenditure, install a portable dehumidifier. You should have one in any case.

The Rigid Seal is just a way to channel moisture to the interior drains. It doesn't trap anything. See link below with third party explanation.

Cold rooms under porches are a perennial problem. I'd try the cheapest fix first--leave the door open and dehumidify. Secondly, during heavy rains, go outside and look where the water is going in relation to the porch. An eavestrough may be overflowing, a downspout broken, the grading reversed to the house instead of away. The last is a very good possibility as in a ten year old home, settlement will be towards the home.

I just hate seeing people spending more money than they have to.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rigid Seal

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 11:14AM
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I am currently in the process of evaluating interior drainage waterproofing companies and I wanted to share my experiences so far. I am not expert in the field but from reading and talking to people over the past couple of years I have learned a couple of things concerning basements that have water problems.

(a) first check to see where the water is coming from. Check your gutters, liters, e.t.c and make sure that they are clean. If your gutters are fine make sure that you have extenders at the bottom of your liters to push the water far away from the foundation of your house. If your gutters need replacing replace them. If you have water coming from around your windows putting in a interior drainage system is not going to solve your water problem.

(b) the best kind of waterproofing is from the OUTSIDE NOT from the INSIDE. You want to prevent the water from coming into your house. WHERE PRACTICAL dig arond the foundation of your house and seal from the outside. All interior drainage systems do is route the water into your basement them back out via the sump pump. Inside drainage systems are practical when your house sits on a high water table (as in my case)or is below sea level. With interior drainage systems you are more prone to termites and radon gas getting into your home. Since I will be going with an interior drainage system I plan on monitoring the radon levels in my home.

(c) Where practical check you walls for leaks. Seal all cracks with hydrolic cement or something similar.

Below are the companies that I have met with over the years and my notes on each company. Most of them are bad and one is good.

ValueDry - definitely one of the more expensive waterproofing companies. The first time I met with them was in 2008 for both homes. The reps were very informative and polite. When I called again this year (2010) the sales manager said that I could email him some questions since they had come out to see my primary home in NY already. He emailed me back a quote (still expensive) and told me that I had three days to consider (most of the other companies give you 30 days). When I emailed him back a few days later with another question he told me that since the three days has passed the "special price" that I had received was no longer any good! NOTE: turns out company is not licensed in the county of NY where I live. Sounds like the company didn't really want my business.

American A-1 - my first time interviewing them. Read allot of good reviews about them on web. Checked references and the references were good. Had a good product at a decent price. Salesman was nice but was probably new on the job and not very knowledgeable. Tried to "con" me into buying stuff that I didn't really need. Really did not know his stuff. Tried to telll me that he had to drill a hole in my foundation BEFORE he could quote me a price and BEFORE we signed a contract. Guys who know their stuff will be able to look at the foundation near the floor and tell you what kind of foundation you have. I told him he could not just drill my floor BEFORE we agree on terms. So the deal was off. NOTE: turns out that American A-1 is under a company is not licensed to do work in the county of NY where I live. They told me that they were.

American Dry Basement Systems - definitely has some of the most rude salesmen of all the companies that I have ecountered. My first experience with them was in 2008 in my home in NY. This guy was busy "bragging" about how great the company is but didn't want to leave us any references OR literature. He thought that since he lived in the area that it would be an easy sell. I tried to ask him questions and basically his answers did not make any sense. When I tried to point this out to him he talked all over me. Salesman didn't seem to knowledgeable when I asked him certain questions. Since I didn't have any work done in the basement in 2008 and I called them again in 2010 and thought I would give them a second chance. This time I got a guy that got rude with me over the phone. ADBM, if you are reading this you definitely need to send your guys back to school to learn how to talk to people. NOTE: ADBM is not licensed to do work in county of NY where I live. They told me they were.

Vulcan - "The bigboys on the block" that have been around for years. So, since you have been around since 1949 why do you only offer only a 10 year guarantee when the other companies that have not been around as long as you offer 25 years or more? Price came in way less than the other competitors. Is it because your company offers a different kind of conduit for the water (polyethylene) which cost less is not as strong as PVC pipes? Salesman was also prone to bragging. Could not give me an answer why they only guarantee for 10 years. Also, why are you not a member of the National Association of WaterProofers and Structural Repair Contractors. I couldn't get a straight answer on this either. Salesman didn't seem too knowledgeable. Most states require a dedicated line for the sump pump. Salesman who claims to have been in the game for a long time did not know this!

Mid-Atlantic - met with them back in 2003. Salesman was very nice but when he saw that we had a finished basement (one part is a office, the other part is a living room area. we also have a tiled floor) the look on his face was "man, is your basement going to get jacked up by the time that we get done with it". He was very honest in telling us that the area would really get messed up with the jack hammering and everything else that had to be done. I believe he quoted me a price of $12,000 back then to do two walls. Good thing I didn't have it done then! Why? (a) that was during the housing boom when prices for everything concerning a home was much more expensive so quotes for waterproofing was also more expensive back then also (b) if I only had two walls done I would have had to call them back to do the other two walls years later because now my entire basement floods in comparison to just one section of the basement.

1st Quality Basements Systems - meet with this salesman about my home in NJ back in 2007 or 2008. Very courteous and professional. I believe he quoted me a price that I thought was too high for me to pay for an investment property that I was already loosing money on (might have been $7000). Ended up just putting a sump pump in the basement. Still have a water problem just not as bad. If I ever do have to waterproof this house I would find this person's business card and contact him. This company is part of Basement Systems Inc which the below company is also a part of. They are totally independent of each other.

Basement Systems of New York - very good experience so far. The salesman was very knowledgeable. I met with them a few days ago concerning my home in NY. The salesman broke everything down to me in simple terms that I could understand (now I know the difference between monolithic and two slab foundations). Waiting to hear back from them on a quote. If the numbers add up I will go with this company.
Note: all of the companies that were not licensed in the part of NY where I lived wanted to charge me MORE MONEY to do the job than companies that were licensed in NY. That seems real backwards to me. If anything, they should charge me LESS!!!

I read a a good article on the Bob Vila website about basement leaks. It is attached below. It is definitely recommeded reading for anyone who wants to understand basement leaks.

Feel free to email me with any questions at


    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 9:38PM
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When you own a concrete saw everything in a basement needs cutting.

Address the exterior first, especially for minor leaks.

Working gutters and drain lines to get the water away from the foundation.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 10:22AM
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