resurfacing basement walls with cement?

debndulcyOctober 13, 2009

My house was built in the late 1940's and has am unfinished basement with stone walls covered with many uneven and ugly layers of waterproofing, etc. I patched any larger uneven areas with cement - and would like to take the approach further - to smooth the surfaces out and generally improve its appearance. After I'd re-cement (using a smooth stucco-like approach), I thought of (cement) resurfacing the floor and then painting all.

Looking at available Quikcrete products, it appears their surface bonding cement would do what I want (they recommend up to 3/8 layer, and I'm not sure that will be enough to smooth all). I also just went to buy some... and it's almost $15/bag and I'll need minimum of 15 bags for a minimum 1/4 inch layer all-around. I can't afford drywall, etc, so this seemed like a reasonable solution.. IF I can use a less expensive cement for the same purpose, - that will do the job.

Any input - re type cement/product I might use instead of the expensive one for the same effect - - or if you tried this and how it worked - - or think it's a good idea - would be greatly appreciated. I did see that the surface bond cement has waterproofing properties, which I'd add if needed with another cement product.

Thank you!

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You might want to check into having the walls sprayed with shotcrete or gunite. This leaves a very rough surface but it can be trowled smooth. The cost would be good deal more than 15 bags of Quikcrete, but that quantity seems way, way under what would be required and I have real doubts about how well a quarter inch layer would hold up on a stone foundation. If your primary interest is improving the appearance rather than strengthening the walls, you may be better off with stud walls and sheetrock.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 5:51AM
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Thanks, mainegrower. I want to improve the appearance and further waterproof them (they've been Drylocked but could use more). I am limited financially and need/want to do the work myself - so trying to find a lesser cost option.

I'd need at least 3/8" to smooth it at all. How can I learn more about what will hold up on a 'stone foundation' (and this one has many old rough layers of waterproofing material on it)? (I have been to the library and searched online but not found anything directly/especially helpful.)

Thanks again for any/all additional input, advice or comments.


    Bookmark   October 14, 2009 at 10:24AM
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I hate to be pessimistic, but I don't think what you propose to do is really a DIY project. You can certainly mix the concrete and apply it to the walls, but I doubt it would last very long or provide much in the way of better waterproofing.

You would need something like a wire mesh on the walls for the concrete to adhere to.

Waterproofing from the inside rarely works. It stops the water within the wall rather from the outside. This can lead to real problems from water pressure and freezing with resultant damage to the foundation itself. Seepage would very likely cause failure of the layer you want to add pretty quickly.

There are companies which specialize in basement waterproofing and foundation work in most areas of the country. I understand that the cost of this is not something you can absorb, but a free estimate/consultation would give you a much clearer idea what the problems are and what a solution would entail.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2009 at 5:26AM
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Thank you mainegrower; I have had professionals in and Drylok waterproofing applied last year (and also had the foundation checked out and one area repaired previously.) 'Not because I have water problems then or now - though there was effloresence and some flaking. The basement is a little damp - so I thought another coat of protection could only help.

Do you by chance know of a site which might give me good advice on concrete products and using them?

Thanks again -

    Bookmark   October 15, 2009 at 11:10AM
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Please remember that anything anyone applies will bond only to whatever is on the walls at the time of application. If the existing material is flaking off, the new material will also fail. Are you seeking to merely improve appearance or to increase the resistance to water intrusion?

    Bookmark   October 15, 2009 at 5:43PM
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The basement walls had a coat of Drylok put on last summer, so there is no flaking now. I wanted to trowel about 3/8 inch coat of cement to improve appearance. The walls have over 60 years of coverings - and it looks pretty rough. I had done some research online and in the library - and it seems it would be best to use a bond enhancer with a cement product (but I can't afford the Quikcrete bond surface cement at $15/bag so was wondering if something like their mortar cement or commercial grade cement could be used, etc). I plan to put latex paint on top for a brighter and even smoother finish.

Does it sound to you as if this might work?

Thank you!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2009 at 7:37PM
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I think the drylock was a bad idea. The stones in the foundation don't need waterproofing, only the mortar joints. If you had any leaks the best thing would be to repoint the joints that had leaks.

QuickWall surface bonding cement is awesome. A thin layer goes a long way towards waterproofing. Over a stone foundation I think you need to mix in the acrylic fortifier as well, which will further increase the price. It comes in white which is nice if you don't choose to paint it. It's not going to go on very smooth, especially because of the fiberglass in it but you can get it pretty decent. After painting it with a couple of coats of drylock it wasn't abrasive anymore but I wouldn't call it smooth. They told me it's waterproof enough without the drylock but I liked the appearance of it painted and figured a little extra protection doesn't hurt.

The problem you have is the walls are already painted. You're going to have a hard, or impossible time getting any concrete product to bond to it now. You might want to contact quickrete and see what they recommend.

If your basement is damp and you don't have any leaks you might just need a dehumidifier. Also check your gutters and the grade of the soil around the foundation to make sure that water sheds away from the house.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2009 at 10:42PM
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Thanks, organic-

I didn't have any 'leaks,' just some efflorescence (before applying Drylok last year); the exterior is properly grade, etc, d and I'm using a dehumidifier. I'm interested more in improving the appearance than waterproofing - though that can't hurt! It does seem checking with Quikcrete is a good idea.. I thought perhaps there was another line/product I could consider - that was obvious to those in the know..

Thanks again -


    Bookmark   October 18, 2009 at 11:44AM
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Efflorescence is caused by moisture passing through and taking salt deposits along with it so it was most likely on the mortar joints right? Just make sure it wasn't something else like mold.

Anything you apply will have a hard time sticking because of the paint. Here's an experience someone had trying to tile over drylock painted floor. It didn't work and he had to remove the drylock.

Unless you remove the drylock I don't think you can do what you want without it starting to fall off in future. If you don't care about waterproofing, you could just use a regular stucco mix but that still won't have a good bond because of the paint.

I think the best approach is to live with it as is and save up for a proper renovation in the future with framed walls.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2009 at 8:17PM
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The house is 60 years old and has MANY layers of - what I assume is waterproofing material over the walls - so there's no distinguishing joints from the stone. It was apparently a much rougher or thicker material (or maybe was applied w/o care) than it is today - and looks really ragged (eg, 3/4 inch brush streaks gong all ways and often as if popcorn or jagged pieces were painted over). I'd been here for 10 years before I put a new coat on, having hoped to 'finish' the basement instead, but I won't be able to do that anytime soon - and hate the way it looks.

Yes, before I applied Drylock, I was in touch with them about what I had read online, which advises that only paint can be applied afterwards (or they don't warrant it). For however much sense it makes, I had only put one coat of it on - not very good coverage. From what read of the bond surfacing cement, I still had a good chance of it sticking solidly. Maybe I'll experiment. I believe I had read somewhere online of someone who was successful in doing this with regular cement or mortar (but which type?) with the bond additive mixed in... Thank you, all.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2009 at 4:02AM
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