If you’re a homeowner, chances are you might have run into the following scenario: one day you go down to your basement only to discover that it’s flooded. Rather than having a clean basement you’ve got several inches of standing water to deal with and wet belongings.
Full basements are one of three most common types of home foundations—along with crawlspaces and concrete slabs—but the tend to take on a lot of water since they’re usually built below grade.
How does basement flooding happen? Over time, as a house settles, cracks can open up or the soil around your foundation can become saturated. When that happens, water seeps through the cracks, soaks through the soil and can even come through your basement walls, creating water issues and damage to personal items, but also opening up a homeowner to potential issues with mold and mildew.
If you’re looking to waterproof your basement and do some basement wall repair, here are several helpful do’s and don’ts that will help the process go smoother.
- DO—Find a water source: When it comes to finding the source of basement flooding, wet streaks in concrete are usually a sign. Once you see streaks, you can look for cracks. Look for cracks along the corners of your windows, between your mortar joints and around your pipes. You can also do some testing along your basement’s wall surfaces to see if the water’s coming from outside or if you’ve got a problem inside your basement (like leaking from a shower).
- DO—Use hydraulic cement: When it comes to finding cracks, some of the most common places you can find them are along the bottom of basement walls. This usually happens because “cold joints” develop where you have weak spots in your foundation between your walls, which are created during the foundation setting process. As a foundation shifts or soil creates pressure, those cold joints open up.
Using hydraulic cement to fill in cracks can be very easily done if you’re waterproofing your basement as a DIY project. This cement contains additives which rapidly expand and set. It is typically mixed with water to form a sort of putty, which can then be pressed into any areas where cracks are. As the cement expands, it forms a watertight bond to keep water out of your basement.
- DON’T—Get ahead of yourself: If you’re trying to waterproof your basement, you’re not going to be able to do it if you’ve already got standing water to deal with. Trying to patch things up in a flooding basement can greatly increase your chances of getting electrocuted. You’ll want to turn off power to your basement and then use some kind of utility pump to get rid of the water. Once the water is dealt with, then you can get to work on any needed basement repairs.
- DON’T—Forget your windows: If you’re waterproofing your basement, one of your main concerns, understandably, is the basement walls. But don’t forget about your windows. Window wells can be a very common source of basement leaks because they can retain water if you don’t have a proper drainage system installed. Without one, it’s very easy for water to pool around your windows and eventually seep into the basement, leading to expensive basement repairs.
You can fix this problem by digging a few feet deeper in your window well area and then filling that extra space with gravel to help rainwater disperse. You can also use caulk around a window to provide some extra protection against a costly basement repair.
- DO—Waterproof bare interior basement walls: If you’ve done testing and determined that water soaks through your basement walls, you can seal the interior of the walls with waterproof paint and some other kind of waterproof sealant. The sealant will form a watertight bond and keep water from coming through, giving you better basement waterproofing.
When it comes to waterproofing your basement’s windows and walls, following the tips listed above will help you improve your home’s foundation and keep your basement dry, saving you from any unwanted surprises or basement repairs the next time there’s a heavy thunderstorm. A good basement waterproofing job can give you a 30% ROI and foundation repair contractors can give you some tips for doing a good job.