Basement Waterproofing ideas for do-it-yourselfers: How bad is the problem * How to inspect your basement * Fixing small cracks * Landscaping to drive water away from house * Window wells * Water pipe condensation * Raise your utilities
Dry is good. Fortunately, 2013 has had a quiet hurricane and storm season thus far. We have had mostly great weather, a dry and hot Indian summer. It was a good time for tackling house projects large and small – such as trying to fix that wet basement.
Do it yourself? Perhaps. There are a number of remedies for waterproofing your basement. Every region, home and basement is unique and requires different approaches to solving the problem.
The extent of the problem is also a factor. Is your basement wet with every rain, or just in extreme weather conditions? Do you have standing water, or a little trickle in the corner that dries quickly? Is the problem getting worse? While many of these waterproofing solutions do require specialists, such as those at Vulcan Basement Waterproofing, quite often the problem can be reduced with a little do-it-yourself know how and effort.
Most of the following information deals with waterproofing an older, existing home basement. The experts at Vulcan can also work with your new home contractors/builders to ensure that your new home is constructed to the highest basement building standards and with the latest waterproofing techniques and materials.
Take a Close Look
The first order of business is to closely inspect your basement walls. The pros at Vulcan Basement Waterproofing recommend:

  • Taking a close look at your interior basement walls using a good light source. If the walls are poured concrete, note the condition surrounding the exposed ends of the metal tie rods embedded in the walls. Efflorescence is the white deposits of lime created by the leaching of moisture out of the masonry. If it is present, scrape and clean the surface and seal the immediate area around the ends of the rods with epoxy or hydraulic cement.
  • 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.
  • Examine the walls for vertical and horizontal cracks. Is there efflorescence or discoloration? This indicates moisture penetration. To repair a crack in the wall, chisel out the crack in the form of a V, with the widest part of the V inside the wall. Then trowel epoxy filler or hydraulic cement into the V. The inverted shape of the V will help keep the repair material in place when water trying to penetrate from the outside exerts pressure on the area. Finish the job by brushing epoxy sealer or waterproof masonry coating over the patched areas.
    (Note: Interior sealed repairs are often a temporary or cosmetic solution.)
  • Openings frequently develop in the area where walls and floor meet. Seal these crevices with epoxy or hydraulic cement, as per above.
  • Inspect the mortar joints around piping and conduit that enter the basement below grade. These should be made watertight with epoxy or hydraulic cement.
  • Look for efflorescence on the slab floor of the basement. As on walls, it indicates water seepage. To repair a crack in the floor, chisel out the crack in the form of a V and trowel in the new epoxy or cement.
  • Condensation dripping from pipes can ruin basement ceiling tiles and everything underneath. Wrap overhead water pipes with insulating tape before installing a ceiling underneath them.

To Finish or Not to Finish (And Other Questions)
Do you have a finished or unfinished basement? Of course an unfinished basement gives you access to vital basement components and allows you to (hopefully) easily locate the source of the water problem. Finished basements are trickier. For sure, if you have had a flood or water issue you want that problem completely solved before starting expensive reconstruction.
Are you near a stream or river or canal? Is your home high enough on its foundation so that you can bring in topsoil and grade the surrounding landscape so that rain and other surface water flows away from your home. In emergency situations, many bring in sandbags to block water flow. I have also seen sandbags pushed by Sandy waters cave in the garage doors they were supposed to protect.
Basement Window Wells
The purpose is to drain water quickly from exterior window areas so there is no build-up of water or pressure. Purchase galvanized window well walls (usually a corrugated pattern) and gravel. Dig down approximately 2-3 feet from the bottom of the window. Clean and coat outside basement wall under window with masonry waterproof coating. Follow product instructions and let dry. Fill well with gravel to just under bottom of window.
There’s no question that this is a big job. Depending on the extent of the problem, before starting you may want to contact the experts at Vulcan Basement Waterproofing to see if they would recommend this, or possibly excavating and sealing the entire outside of your basement walls with a waterproof barrier. This of course is a job for the professionals.
A Little More Height Can Be a Big Plus
In the utility area of the basement, can you place your washer and dryer on a higher platform to give better protection against minor flooding? Even a few inches can make a difference. Ideally, you also have your gas or oil burner on concrete blocks to get them as high off the floor as possible. The same goes for your water heater. Never use wooden platforms for these hot utilities. Unless you are a licensed electrician or plumber, you will need to hire professionals for your boiler or water heater work.
Be Confident Your Electrical Service Is Safe
Finally, where is your electrical service located in the basement? If you can, have your electrician move the box as high as possible. Electrical outlets, too. There have been too many instances of electrical service boxes that got wet, dried out, and were still working once the power was turned back on – only to cause a fire later. Always have your electrician inspect your service after these types of flooding events, even if it appears all is well. The recent New Jersey boardwalk fire shows what can happen when salt water gets into the electrical components.
Wet Basement