DIY Basement Waterproofing
Vulcan Basement Waterproofing – A Do-It-Yourself Guide To Leaking Basements
All too often families move to a new house and immediately remodel the basement, only to find that it becomes a sodden mess with the first rain or thaw. Before you begin renovation, make sure you don’t have a leaking basement. There’s no use trying to make a basement livable unless you are certain that it presents no major moisture problems.
Even if you have lived in your house for several years, you may not be completely aware of the amount of moisture that penetrates the basement walls and floor. Even a relatively dry basement at times can admit or generate enough moisture to injure finishing materials. So the first step in remodeling a basement is to inspect it thoroughly for signs of water penetration or moisture. If you find any, you must then determine their cause and take appropriate corrective action.
How do you proceed? Vulcan, the time-honored and nationwide name specializing in basement waterproofing, offers the following suggestions for DIY Waterproofing:
2. If your basement walls are made of masonry blocks, check the condition of the mortar joints. Crumbly joints will admit water from the outside and should be repointed. If deterioration is widespread, the joints will probably require the attention of a professional because this condition undermines the strength of the foundation walls.
4. Openings frequently develop in the area where walls and floor meet, permitting insects and moisture to enter the basement. Seal these crevices.
6. Check the structure where the frame rests on the foundation wall. Unevenness in the top of the wall (particularly common in a poured concrete foundation) often leaves gaps between it and the framing. These gaps allow outside moisture to enter the basement and should be grouted or caulked.
8. Check water pipes for condensation (caused by warm air flowing over cold pipes). Condensation dripping from pipes can ruin basement ceiling tiles. So as a precaution, you may do well to wrap overhead water pipes with insulating tape before installing a ceiling underneath them.
In short, you should examine all ways that water can get in the basement. If you find only very minor moisture penetration, you may be able to fix it yourself. There are many do-it-yourself kits and preparations on the market to help you. One such kit, for instance, contains epoxies for sealing tie rods and small cracks. To repair a crack, you chisel it out in the form of a V, with the widest part of the V inside the wall. Then you trowel in an epoxy filler and finally brush on an epoxy sealer.
Also widely available are waterproofing paints and epoxies that you apply to inside the basement walls. You brush on the paints or scrub them into the walls. The epoxies consist of two vehicles that have to be mixed. You can brush some of these compounds on, but others are thick and have to be troweled on. Generally, the epoxies are deemed to be more effective than the paints.
These coatings can remedy many basement moisture problems. Their effective life is of short duration, and then re-application becomes necessary. So they’re not recommended as the sole waterproofing protection for basement walls you intend to panel or sheetrock, thereby making re-application impossible.
So far we have been talking about things you can do inside your basement to help alleviate seepage. All the measures mentioned have value. But none of them solves the most important problem connected with basement waterproofing: keeping as much water as possible away from outside basement walls below grade.
Two contributing causes of leaking basements are faulty roof gutters and leaders. Gutters that overflow and leaders that empty next to foundation walls flood the walls with rainwater which almost inevitably finds its way inside. You should make sure that your gutters and leaders are functioning properly. It will help divert rainwater away from your house.
Check your gutters. They shouldn’t sag and allow water to spill over their edges in heavy rains. They should be free of leaves to permit proper drainage, and the same thing applies to leaders. Leaders can become so clogged that no water can pass through them, with the result that it backs up, causing gutters to overflow.
Waterproofing paints and epoxies that you apply to the insides of basement walls can help alleviate moisture problems that are not severe. Re-application is necessary from time to time.
A contributing cause of leaking basements is leaders that empty next to foundation walls. Plastic sleeves that you attach to leader outlets will help divert runoff away from your house.
To give basement walls added protection from runoff, slope the surface of the earth adjacent to them at a 25-degree angle for at least 5’ so puddles of rain can’t develop and seep into walls.
Drastic, but a more effective solution to leaking basement walls is to excavate around them and encase them with layers of waterproofing materials, such as tar, membrane, polyethylene film.
Installation of a sump pump and a sump pit will help control high-level build-up of water on the basement floor.
To help control moisture in a basement, maintain even temperatures, preserve finishing materials, build studded walls 4” out from masonry walls. Insulate between the studs. Also wrap water pipes in insulating tape to retard condensation.
Once you have determined that your gutters and leaders can handle room runoff adequately, make sure that your leaders do not deposit this runoff within 5’ of your house. You can do this by attaching sections of the bituminous fiber pipe to the end of the leaders, so that they empty the required distance away from basement walls. Or, instead of the pipe, you can use plastic sleeves that are especially made for attachment to leaders. In dry weather, the sleeves roll up out of the way. In rainy weather, water flowing out of the leaders forces the sleeves to unroll and direct the water away from the house.
Time was when waterproofing contractors recommended that you divert water from leaders into dry wells. But experience has shown that dry wells can fill up quickly, causing water in the leaders to back up and spill over the gutters. So best practice now calls for leaders simply to empty at some grade-level point where run-off can’t find its way back to the house.
As an added precaution, you should slope planning beds away from basement walls. A slope of 25 degrees for a distance of at least 5’ is recommended. It will keep rain that falls directly on the beds from settling in puddles next to the house and seeping into the foundation.
These measures may help to keep water from penetrating basement walls. But, if they prove inadequate, you may have to erect a waterproof barrier between the walls and the surrounding earth. There are two ways to do this, and both require the services of professional waterproofing contractors.
First, you can hire a contractor to excavate the earth around your basement walls, exposing them so that he can encase them with waterproofing material. A layered coating consisting of tar, membrane (tar impregnated fabric), polyethylene film, and more tar makes a good moisture barrier. In addition to this, the contractor may install drain tiles around the footings of the walls.
Properly done, this outside coating method of waterproofing is more effective than those previously explained, but it is a drastic and costly solution to a problem. It involves chopping up and replacing established landscaping and concrete, such as plantings, grass, adjacent walks, steps, patios, etc. Coating outside walls, in many cases, if well done, will help alleviate water seepage though the walls into the basement. But all too often, there are many cases in which further treatment is required.
These cases involve hydrostatic pressure (water pressure from underground springs, rivers, ground water, etc.) and a fluctuating high water table (a build-up of ground water that lies close to the surface of the earth). A basement affected by one or more of these conditions pose a special problem. Signs of their presence is indicated by water that seeps in at the cove (where the wall meets the floor) or up through the slab floor. The solution to these problems lie (1) in relieving the water pressure under the floor and around the foundation perimeter and (2) in diverting the water to a point where it can be pumped out or otherwise removed from the basement.
To successfully arrive at this solution, a method advocated by the Vulcan waterproofing people employs a pressure relief system that requires no outside digging or destruction of property. It involves cutting a trench in the floor around the perimeter of the basement, next to the foundation walls. The trench must be excavated down to the footings and in it a system of drain tiles laid. The system must be adequately sized so that it can carry off all the water to a sump pump or drain for removal from the house. After the lines are installed, the trench must be filled with gravel, bleeders installed in the block walls and the floor re-sealed with concrete.
If the system is not properly designed, it will clog and back up. So, even though a handy homeowner could conceivably install the system himself, he would probably do better to engage a professional waterproofing contractor to do the work – and a contractor who is willing to guarantee it.
Indeed, a written guarantee for all professionally done waterproofing is essential. Like many segments of the building industry, the waterproofing business attracts some fly-by-night operators. The homeowner who requires waterproofing must take it upon himself to check the reliability of any waterproofing contractor he hires. He must also demand that all work be guaranteed and back by a service agreement, should problems arise.
Most any basements subject to severe water penetration, like that cause by hydrostatic pressure, can be finished for living. If your basement is relatively dry and you decide to remodel it, these further points may be helpful:
In some basements, condensation or clamminess is a problem. You can determine its severity by this simple test: During humid weather, tape a sheet of aluminum foil to a basement wall overnight. If the foil is wet the following morning, condensation is something that should concern you.
To correct it, as noted earlier, you should insulate water pipes. You should also make provisions to dry out the air in the basement. You can do this by heating the basement or by installing a window-ventilating fan that exhausts humid basement air to the outdoors. In the case of severe condensation, you may have to install a dehumidifier. But remember this:
Outdoor conditions cause humid basement air. You can’t eliminate it by opening windows. They’ll only bring more of it inside. Your best methods of control are drying it out, through heat or a dehumidifier, or by exhausting it to the outdoors. However, the following system for finishing your basement can also decrease humidity.
If you intend to stud your basement walls so you can gypsum board or panel them, build the studded walls 4” out from the masonry walls. Nail the top plates of the studded walls to the ceiling joists and set the sills on the slab floor. In between the plates and sills, toenail tight-fitting studs that exert pressure on the sills and keep them in place. The object is to eliminate the need to nail the sills to the slab floor, for the nails used to affix wood to concrete often crack the masonry, allowing water to penetrate.
In between the studs, install foil-backed insulation. This insulation, plus the 4” of dead-air space between the studded walls and the masonry walls, will help control moisture and maintain comfortable temperatures.
But the main thing to bear in mind is this: If at any time water has penetrated your basement, chances are good that under certain weather conditions it will do so again, unless you take corrective action. So before you invest in basement finishing materials and furnishings, be sure that you have solved any major moisture problems your basement presents. DIY Waterproofing takes time and patience.