Basement waterproofing...where to turn? LONG post! ;)

callisto9December 25, 2009

I live in a 720SF home built in 1950. Basement is the same size (24 x 30Â). When I bought the home, basement was dry. Paint on floor was not peeling. Within a few months of purchasing the home, yep, water in the basement. House was a foreclosure, so I had no recourse. I bought the house in May of 2006

The basement was sectioned off with wood framing, paneling and Styrofoam behind the paneling. Some walls were not covered at all. Frost line cracks were evident. One wall was so bowed in that I got it repaired for free (or else I wouldnÂt have bought it). Needless to say, I bought a dumper of a house, but IÂve turned it around and itÂs quite nice now.

The water comes in several places where the concrete block meets the floor. When we get a good rain, 12+ hours later I have several tributaries running all across my floor. Fortunately 1) they kind-of run towards the drain in my laundry room and 2) the water is no more than ¼" high  just little streams.

I got used to the wet basement. When it rained, I just let it go. The basement was only used for storage and laundry. It was musty, and I knew there was mold. I ran a dehumidifier most of the year.

Late last summer I was downstairs and wondered how easily the paneling could be removed. Water sat up against the wood framing when it rained and it had been rotting for several years. I took a pry bar to the paneling and a few months later, we had the entire basement cleared of wood, paneling, framing, Styrofoam, old never-completed previous drainage attempt (Beaverboard?) Â everything. We cleared it down to the bare walls and support beams.

Pics of the entire process can be found here:

My friend and I then cleaned the walls with OxyClean and bleach, hosed them off and patched all the holes with hydraulic cement. At the time, I didnÂt know where the water was coming from, but I knew it wasnÂt the holes in the wall 5 up from the floor. Yes, someone had nailed wood framing into the concrete block walls! LOL After that, I painted the entire basement walls with UGL Drylok  three coats. Most of the walls already had paint on them, but we did scrape off as much as we could before we did the hydraulic cement. I know that Drylok wonÂt work over old paint, but I knew water was not coming through the old paint.

I left about 4-5" of wall unpainted towards the bottom where the wall met the floor. After we did all the cement work and we had our fist good rain, I knew for sure this is where the water was coming in.

Before it got really cold, I put hydraulic cement along about ¼ of the basement where the floor met the wall. I painted it with Drylok. I wanted to see if I could prevent the water from coming in, but didnÂt want to do the whole basement in case that method didnÂt work. I put the cement down about ¼" thick.

We had a pretty good rain here yesterday and the basement got water. The area I covered with hydraulic cement where the floor met the wall didnÂt get any water except by the end of the stairs  which is one of the worst areas in the whole basement. I canÂt tell where itÂs coming in, but we have quite the pool at the end of the stairs.

So, firstly, very sorry for the long post! I felt this info was all necessary in order to get advice from anyone who might want to help. Secondly, I donÂt know where to go from here. Am I foolish in thinking I can tackle this problem on my own? Will hydraulic cement stop the tiny amount of water from coming in? Is that a reasonable solution for me or do I need to call in the pros at this point?

IÂve read everything there is to read on basement waterproofing. I know all about hydrostatic pressure, French drains, interior systems, negative-side waterproofing (which is what IÂm doing), sump pumps, grading, drain spouts. What I HAVENÂT read are many success stories. Everyone has a water problem, but no one seems to have posted what works. IÂve seen debate after debate about interior waterproofing vs. exterior waterproofing. Both points of view make sense to me; "thereÂs no way you can stop water from building pressure against your house so invite it in and route it away" vs. you have to prevent water from coming in in the first place; negative-side (interior) waterproofing will not work long-term".

IÂm fried.

I am now seeing the potential in this 720SF space and it would be a lot cheaper to finish the basement then add a room onto our house (we really could use the extra space). If I go the professional waterproofing route, I want it done once and done right. I have a history of home improvement problems with handymen, professionals and just about anyone who enters this house. IÂm picky and I expect near perfection when IÂm shelling out 100s upon 1000s of dollars.

Any advice anyone can offer me would be greatly appreciated. If you take a look at the pics IÂve posted, you can see what IÂm dealing with. I feel like IÂm close, but IÂm at a point now where I donÂt know where to do.

Thanks in advance. I appreciate any input anyone has to offer. :)

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I build new and try to do it right from the beginning.

But I've had three existing basements with water entry problems. Solved one by redoing the eaves on one side, adding an extra downspout and extending the downspout exits ten feet from the house. On the second, we excavated to the footings on one side, put in new weepers and fixed a large crack. Then, for good measure, we added three layers of fibrated asphalt and fiberglass fabric, followed by Baseclad insulation. (Baseclad is now called GlassClad.) In the third case, water was coming down the crack between the concrete walkway adjacent to the foundation and the foundation. I filled it with a few bags of tamped down asphalt driveway "hardpack." Crude, cheap and quite effective. But you have to check it every year. Beat removing and replacing the walkway and redoing the wall.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2009 at 11:41AM
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Thanks for your reply! I appreciate it.

So you feel it's best to tackle the problem from the outside, then? I don't know that I can bear to dig around my house on all four sides. :( I have so much landscaping...

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 5:32PM
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So you feel it's best to tackle the problem from the outside?

Usually, but not always. Where you're dealing with an old foundation of blocks, rubble or stone, stopping the water from going through the wall may increase water pressure on the wall and weaken it. Indeed, digging around old foundations--particularly stone--may result in their immediate collapse, as the soil was keeping the wall intact.

This is why Building Science Corp. has specified interior waterproofing in cases and gives it the nod in a Building America article.

Furthermore, you have to compare the costs/benefits of the various methods.

With no exterior membrane, block foundations are going to be leaky. All those joints. And when water enters it can travel down and sideways through all the joints and voids.

I'd be inclined to waterproof from the outside. But the home is modest. Will the cost--including landscaping--be worth it? (I dug up part of my own yard this summer for a pool and it was so dispiriting.) And, as you've found, the quality of workmanship shall we say, varies.

If you choose to go the "inside route" see Alternative Four in the link below.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 10:45AM
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If it's happening after rain you're not talking about ground water, so it probably won't take much digging down to fix. You need to get the surface water away from the house. Re-grading the area immediately around your house would seem a first step, and make sure the downspouts aren't releasing the water any where near your foundation.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 10:45PM
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"One wall was so bowed in that I got it repaired for free "
The contractor that repaired this basement wall before might be your best resource for determining the condition of your foundation walls.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2009 at 3:31PM
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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 9:36PM
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I totally understand about your landscaping. I live in a house built in 1839 and have heritage gardens all around the house. The answer is outside. 6 years ago I had to relocate my heritage plants - leaving an 8 foot wide path around all sides of the house. I dug all of them up, and heeled them in the lower forty. The equipment came in and work was completed within 4 days. I and we had french drains installed. I returned the plants to their location, watered them in good every day for 1 week. The water problem is solved and all of my plants made it save one.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2010 at 8:35AM
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Basement Systems offer interior water control systems. This is not waterproofing it is water management. While this system will eliminate seepage, it will not eliminate wet or damp walls. The best method to deal with water intrusion is on the outside.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2010 at 8:57PM
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You might look into a product called Sanitred. We used it successfully in our basement. One area was kind of a 'cold cellar' that leaked like a sieve - did that one a year ago and it hasn't leaked once. The other area was the high end of the hill we live on. Just finished that one 2 weeks ago - had a nice heavy rain shortly there after and NO water on that side at all.

We looked into exterior excavation, but due to the placement of our patio and drive way, it wasn't practical.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 11:11AM
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Why would a drive and patio make it impractical to do it the right way? Concrete is easily cut and re poured. If all you had to do to eliminate water problems in basements was to paint something on the walls you sanitred people wouldn't have to continuously spam all these forums.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2010 at 12:47PM
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LOL @ wtrprfr1 - it cracks me up that you think I'm 'one of those sanitred people' spamming the forums! I don't work, nor have never worked for sanitred. I just happened to use their product and have seen it work - sorry if you don't like the message.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2010 at 11:20AM
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