Waterproofing Basement Walls: Do's and Don'ts
Since basements are built below ground level, they tend to take on water. If your home has a basement, at some point you may have noticed moisture either in your walls or on the floor. In seasons of heavy rain, moisture can find its way into your downstairs quarters. This can lead to peeling paint, mold, rotten wood and even damage to items stored in the basement.
While contractors take actions to waterproof your basement during initial construction, homes settle with time which can create cracks in basement walls.
Rainfall and snow-melt during the seasons spell soggy soil conditions that your basement walls are pressing up against. When the soil around the exterior walls becomes saturated, water can seep through these fractures. Even basement walls that are structurally sound can take in water from saturated soil and allow it to pass through into the interior space. As the absorbed water evaporates, it makes the basement air humid. A part time solution to this problem is investing in a high-grade dehumidifier. However, the most effective lasting solution is to waterproof the walls.
Depending on the factors for the cause of moisture in your basement (such as old egress windows), the solution could be as straightforward as a DIY fix, or it might call for the assistance of a specialist. If you’re considering attempting to waterproof your basement walls yourself, these following tips will help you get started.
DO take actions to keep water far from your basement.
In some cases, the remedy to a damp basement is simple. For example, removing planters around foundation walls, such as flower beds or bushes, that require additional watering. When these plants are watered, it creates added moisture in the soil below which raises the chances of water seeping into your basement. Likewise, examine your gutters and downspouts and repair if needed. They should be directed away from your house so water doesn’t flow back toward your foundation. If possible, grade your yard away from your foundation as well.
DON’T forget about interior drainage solutions.
Another technique to achieve dry basement walls is to set up a drainage channel underneath the basement floor. This drain resembles exterior drain tiles but is modified to lay just inside the basement walls. New walls are built on the inside of the drainage unit which end up hiding the original walls. This waterproofing method is performed by foundation contractors and can be quite pricey. However when it’s completed, you’ll have new, dry walls. Any water that seeped through your old walls will be directed away by the drain channel.
DO identify the water source.
Due to the fact that concrete is porous, you can typically see water streaks appear and therefore know where the water is coming in. Places to look for streaks are along wall fractures, at the edges of windows, in between mortar joints as well as around pipelines (water-supply lines or a sewer pipe).
However, if the whole wall surface is damp, you’ll need to do additional sleuthing. To perform a straightforward test, completely dry an area of the wall with a cloth. Afterwards, using duct tape, tape a one-foot square piece of aluminum foil to the wall. Remove the aluminum foil after 24 hours and inspect how the bottom of the foil feels. If it is wet, this concludes that water is leaking through the wall from outside. If the foil is dry, the dampness in your wall is coming from somewhere else. Commonly, this problem is caused by a basement shower head which can be easily fixed by installing a vent fan to direct steam outdoors.
DON’T conduct wall repairs with standing water in the basement.
Throughout wet seasons, a basement wall fracture can allow for an inch or two of water to seep in. Before rushing to fix the crack, clean up the water on the floor first. Working in a flooded basement raises the risk of getting electrocuted or an electrical shock. Additionally, shut off the power to the basement when cleaning the water up. Once the basement is water-free, then you can proceed with evaluating, repairing and properly waterproofing your basement walls.
DO apply a masonry waterproofing item to bare interior basement walls.
If your aluminum foil test revealed that water is in fact soaking through your basement walls, seal the walls with a top quality water resistant paint. When applying the paint, make sure to use a thick layer and apply it with a paint brush or roller. Using a thick layer will fill in all the little holes in the wall and make it difficult for moisture to seep through. Allow the paint to completely dry before applying the second coat. The importance of using a water resistant paint is that it forms a watertight sealant to keep any moisture from coming into your basement.
DON’T apply sealant on top of painted walls
If you are wanting to paint your basement walls with water resistant paint, then you need to first remove the paint already on the walls. Water resistant paint only adheres well to bare masonry. It’s not uncommon to find multiple layers of paint when removing the top coat of paint, especially in older homes. If this is the case, it’s best to get it all removed by professionals with a sandblaster. Alternatively, these layers can be removed by wire brushing which is a very laborious job. However it can be an inexpensive DIY task.
Overall, waterproofing your basement walls will not only stop water from seeping into your basement, but will save you money in the long run. Before rushing into a waterproofing solution, take the time to assess the situation and determine the correct waterproofing method for your basement. If you’re attempting to waterproof your basement walls yourself, hopefully these tips will help!
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