Wet basements can pose many problems for homeowners. A wet basement can be a health problem, cause structural damage, and make headaches for homeowners. This is especially true if you live in a wet climate or have poor drainage on your property, but really, wet basements can be a problem anywhere. Soil contains moisture, which in turn can seep through the porous cement block walls.
Unfortunately, it's very common for basements to experience leaks until they've been properly waterproofed. Knowing the signs that your basement needs to be waterproofed and what you can do about it can help you take care of your property.
The good news is, sealing your basement is a very doable project that you can probably tackle yourself. Here's what you need to know.
Signs That Your Basement Needs To Be Sealed
Water coming up through the floor after rain is an obvious sign that your basement needs to be sealed, but you don't have to wait for a rain to know that your basement has a water problem. Watch for these warning signs:
- Musty smell. Water leads to mold, and that can lead to a musty smell in your basement.
- Efflorescence. Efflorescence is a white crusty film that can appear on basement walls. Efflorescence is made up of deposits left behind after frequent floods.
- Water stains. Floods leave behind stains. Look for water stains around the windows, and around cracks in the walls and floor.
- Mold. Mold is a clear sign of a moisture problem. It can also be damaging to your health and the health of others in your household. Look for spots of gray, brown or black on the walls, around the window sills and on the joists above your head.
- Cracks in the walls or floor. Cracks can occur because of pressure from moisture and soil on the other side of your home's foundation. Cracks are also a point of entry for water, so if you see cracks on your walls or floor, this could be a symptom and a cause.
- Pest problems. Bugs and even mice are attracted to wet basements because they need water to survive.
Waterproofing Basement DIY: Do You Need a Pro?
Very likely, you do not need a professional to waterproof your basement. DIY basement waterproofing is possible! Materials used to seal basements can be applied by a homeowner almost as easily as a contractor: simply follow the manufacturer's instructions. If you don't feel comfortable applying sealer to your basement, contact a contractor.
If the property around your basement has water drainage problems, you may need help from a contractor to install a sump pump and/or a French drain. If you're not sure how to apply concrete sealer, what basement waterproofing products to use or what is the best concrete sealer, consult with an experienced professional to get advice.
What to Know Before Waterproofing Basement Floor and Walls
While waterproofing your basement may not be a very complicated task, there are some things you should know about the waterproofing process before getting started.
How to Determine the Source of Water In Your Basement
You'll need to know how to tell where water is coming into the basement. Water leaves its mark, so very likely you'll be able to see streaks around the cracks and crevices of the walls and floor. These streaky areas are points of entry where water is entering your home.
If your basement walls routinely feel wet, it may be hard to tell whether the walls are leaking or the basement is simply too humid. To find out, dry a part of the wall and put up a piece of foil, then use duct tape to secure the foil to the wall. Leave the foil in place for 24 hours. When you remove the foil, if the wall and foil are still dry, then the problem is humidity in the room. If the foil is wet, the problem is water seeping through the walls.
What Are the Risks of Not Waterproofing Your Basement?
In the short-term, a basement that is not properly waterproofed will flood regularly. Wood that gets wet and stays wet could start to mold, which can have dangerous health effects for you and your family. In the long term, failure to waterproof your basement could lead to serious structural damage.
What To Do About Efflorescence
Before you can seal any surfaces in your basement, you'll have to remove the efflorescence. There are a variety of products on the market that can be used to remove these deposits, including muriatic acid. If the efflorescence is only a minor problem, then you may be able to remove it with vinegar and a stiff wire brush. If you buy a product to help you remove the efflorescence, follow the manufacturer's instructions to avoid injury or doing damage to your home.
What to Do If You Have Painted, Sealed, or Epoxied Floors
Painted surfaces can't be sealed, in much the same way that efflorescence can't be sealed. This can be removed with a wire brush but will require a lot of elbow grease. Keep in mind that homes built before 1978 may have lead-based paint on the walls. Lead dust is toxic and can cause permanent physical damage to children and adults. Children are especially vulnerable to the dangers of lead dust. If you need to strip the paint from the walls of your pre-1978 home, hire a professional.
Why You Shouldn’t Spot Seal Your Basement
Spot sealing your basement is unlikely to work. The water may be coming in from many parts of your basement, so spot sealing can make it difficult to determine if what you're doing is working. Spot sealing can also plug a leak in one place only to create a leak elsewhere. If you're going to seal your basement, plan to do the whole thing.
What Is the Cost of Waterproofing Basements?
Basement waterproofing cost can vary. Sealing your basement can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $10,000, depending on the work that needs to be done. If your property has a drainage problem, plan to shell out enough money for a French drain, new gutters and maybe a re-grading of your property. The average homeowner spends around $4,500 to seal their basement.
What Are the Types of Waterproofing?
If you're going to waterproof your basement walls, you'll need a product to fill the cracks in the walls, and a product to stop the water from soaking through the concrete walls of your basement.
Hydraulic cement is a crack filler that contains an additive for quick expansion and rapid setting. This material is putty-like when it's first applied but quickly expands into the crack and bonds to the walls of your basement. It begins to set within three minutes of being mixed, so you can only mix a little at a time.
What is the best sealant for basement walls? Waterproof paint for basement sealing is a type of sealant that goes on like paint, but forms a watertight bond with the surface it's applied to, thus preventing water from entering the basement through the walls. This is a good product to use if your foil test showed that the water was entering the basement through the pores in your basement walls.
What Can I Use to Waterproof My Basement Floor?
Are you seeing water coming into the basement where walls meet the floor? Waterproof your basement floor with epoxy, which creates a durable, impenetrable surface for your floors. Epoxy looks like paint and can come in different colors, so you can choose the color that you like best.
Apply several coats of epoxy if you're planning to lay down a flooring material (like carpeting) over the floors. This creates a moisture barrier that can prevent future leaks and maintenance headaches. Follow all manufacturer's instructions and wait for the epoxy to cure fully before applying another material on top of it.
What Additional Steps Can You Take to Keep Your Basement Dry?
As already mentioned, some basements need more than a coating of sealer and epoxy to prevent moisture problems. Your basement could be wet for more than one reason. If this is the case, you won't be able to fully waterproof your basement unless you take multiple steps. Water-logged soil could be the cause of your troubles. Some ways to improve drainage on your property include:
- Construct a creek bed.
- Build a rain garden.
- Create a dry well.
- Fix or replace your home's gutters.
- Plant "water-loving" plants on your property.
- Add a French drain.
- Fix the slope of your yard to direct water away from your home.
The steps above may require the help of a contractor. Set up a consultation at your home before getting started installing basement waterproofing solutions. For best results, consult with multiple professionals. If you do decide to do the work on your own, follow all manufacturer's instructions.
Basement Waterproofing Products by ENDUR-O-SEAL® USA
Please consider our basement waterproofing products when you are ready to start your project. Each one is specially formulated for concrete age, texture, and basement moisture levels. To get help choosing the right products for waterproofing and sealing your basement, call 1-800-259-8855.