Last week we talked about basements, why and where they exist and the added value for your home they have, if they are dry and utilized correctly! DRY!! That’s the key here, as many of you already know.

There are many reasons why a basement would be wet and other areas of your home not so much. That’s what you must understand first, and stop fighting the moisture day in and day out. A basement is underground, and your concrete foundation is a porous material! The question is not, Why is my basement wet? It’s, how can I help it remain dry?
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By following some, or all of the steps here, your basement is guaranteed to be dry for the rest of your life!! There are only so many ways to go about obtaining a dry basement, some are more economical and easier to do, some are less economical and much harder to do. However, many times the main source of moisture stems from one or two issues, that are easily fixable. I have detailed the possible solutions to your moisture issues in order of most economical first.

Interior foundation sealing (Drylock or other masonry paints)
Hydraulic cement holes and cracks in floor and walls
Repair your gutters and extend your downspouts
Insulate interior water lines and duct work
Install an interior capillary break (rigid Insulation) at foundation walls
Install a French drain around the interior of the foundation
Correct exterior grading
Properly seal the exterior side of the foundation

This may seem like and exhaustive list, and many of the item’s may be unnecessary all together. However, the most important thing to remember is that the best way to eliminate moisture from entering your basement is to stop it in its tracks, before it has a chance to even enter the home. Some of the items listed above are measures to take after you have allowed the water to enter, but understanding the difference is very important.

Interior foundation sealing; the most popular choice for “locking out” moisture with a product called Drylock. drylockIt’s an easy application, like painting a regular wall and can work well if its done correctly. Thats just it however, applying the product correctly, and under the right circumstances, is vital to it actually providing any benefits. Read the directions on the can and the website for the best results, but generally speaking the existing foundation must be dry, debris free, holes and larger cracks sealed and a few other perquisites. In my opinion, this option is best suited for a fairly dry basement to begin with, where the homeowner would like to simply seal the walls, from what little bit of moisture way be seeping through. If there is a large amount of water coming through, water stains down the walls, or something similar, I would not recommend taking this step fist.

The second option, patching in holes and cracks in the foundation wall and floor using a waterproofing cement, is something that should be done regardless of moisture issues, but can be a big source of moisture if their left undone. hydro cementHydraulic cement, is perfect for the job, but be quick as this material sets up within 5 minutes or so and is no longer good if it’s not used. My advice? Mix small quantities until you are familiar with how quickly it hardens. Simply, mix the product, lightly moisten the hole or crack, apply and allow to harden. The cement will form a water tight seal. If your using cement on cracks, particularly one that is of concern for water coming through, it may be a good idea to channel out the crack with a mason chisel and then fill the void, as you will get better adhesion.

Repairing your gutters and downspouts, is very easily done, and can be a huge contributor of moisture to your basement, if there in bad shape. Sometimes your gutters may be, clogged and overflowing, pulling away from the fascia board, or simply installed wrong from the start. Also, many times your downspouts drain directly at the foundation and don’t extend off the house. Picking up some extensions form your local hardware store and sending the water 5 or 10 feet off the house, may just fix your problems entirely. Consult with a local gutter company if you think you have issue with the gutters themselves, otherwise make sure they are clean, draining properly and away from the home.

Insulation on your interior water lines and duct work is an option that many people neglect all of the time. Un-insulated pipes and duct work, will produce condensation in the summer months, and in an average size home, drop more than a gallon of water on the floor each day. You can purchase pipe insulation and duct insulation at your local hardware store an attempt this yourself, but it may be wise to obtain a few estimates on the work, as it is tedious (to do correctly), and can be tough to get it right.

A capillary break is commonly referred to as any break, gap or barrier that stops the flow of moisture when it is traveling through capillaries of any kind. Paper, wood, plants, tress and many other substrates, have small capillaries that suck up water and pass it on to the next capillary in the chain, allowing water to move against gravity, or in any direction it wants. Just as water will climb out of a cup, up a paper towel, if you place just the corner of the towel into the water. The same thing happens with concrete and yes, your foundation is concrete! Meaning, water from outside, can move inside rather easily in some cases.

Many new home builders will have provided this capillary break so a basement stays dry right out of the gate, but most older homes do not. One thing that can be done, is to purchase closed cell foam insulation panels, masonry anchor them to your foundation walls and tape all of the seams. This does of coarse stop the moisture at the back side of the panel, but if a french drain is installed or another collection system at the bottom edge, this method can be very effective.

A French drain is probably the most common approach to basement water issues, and usually a highly effective one. Unless you’re in your youth, have extensive construction knowledge, or you are guided by someone who does, I would not try installing one yourself. They usually consist of cutting, breaking and removing concrete from the floor around the inside of the foundation, burying a drainage pipe that drains into a basin in one of the corners. From here, a pump takes the water automatically to the exterior. This system is very effective and can be done many different ways, with many different materials. It takes a professional to look at your particular basement and moisture issues, to determine the best way to approach a french drain for you.

Exterior grading, while somewhat costly is very important. In new construction, grading is usually not an issue but it can still be missed or done incorrectly.bad draining Make sure water shed runs away from your home in all areas and never back toward your home. This can be the grass, gardens, patios and driveways. If the moisture can’t get away from your home to begin with, you stand no chance at a dry basement. Consult an excavation company to have your property looked at and make sure the grading is in good shape. If its not, the company may propose to bring in soil, remove existing patios or driveway sections and redo them entirely.

The last and certainly the most expensive solution, would be to properly seal the exterior side of your foundation. This is however, probably the best approach as well if you currently have severe water problems. It involves digging up the grade outside, all the way around your home, all of the way down to the footing. Thoroughly, power washing the foundation, then applying a foundation mesh and foundation seal coat. This method, 100% locks away all moisture from entering your foundation walls but can cause quite a disruption to your exterior gardens and anything else in the way!

With 8 methods of water proofing your basement detailed, you should be covered on any base. If you have any questions, comments or concerns please leave them. Please upload any pictures of your basement or moisture issue with your question and I would be more than happy to try and help. Another important note is Radon control. Radon is a poisonous gas that, more recently, has begun to be tested for and radon removal systems installed when necessary. Make sure to consult with a radon specialist before making any penetrations in your basement floor.