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Waterproofing your Basement

Though water is great for plants, animals, and life all around, it is not for the home! This is why waterproofing your basement is so important.

Water can weaken foundations, damage floors, and cause mold, all of which are dangers to your home.

Mold is especially dangerous. It forms in a dark, poorly vented area with high moisture levels and the basement is often neglected, allowing the mold to grow for a longer period of time.

It can cause harm to some residents, ranging from nasal congestion to fungal infection in the lungs. Mold feeds on materials in the basement like wood, paper, gypsum board, and fiberboard. This is why waterproofing is such an important step to protecting the home and those in it.

Waterproofing is the process where your house becomes impervious to water penetration, unlike water-resistant, which means it is waterproof to a certain point, more likely a mild exposure to water. There are places throughout your house that should definitely be waterproofed. Most importantly, and the most susceptible, is the basement.

Though the thought of needing to waterproof your home may seem unnecessary, it is the best way to protect yourselves from a major expense. The cost up front will be well worth it.

your Basement

This winter has been a mix of snow and rain, with November topping out at a little over 10 inches of rain in the Northeast. Though that doesn’t sound like a lot, for every inch of rain the average size roof will dump nearly 1,000 gallons of water onto the ground surrounding your home. Warmer weather, snow, and all this rain has saturated the ground. Groundwater is very dangerous to basements, especially those that aren’t protected. Water saturated soil can cause pressure on the basement walls and then seep into cracks or windows.

When thinking about waterproofing a basement, consider both the exterior and interior. Interior waterproofing methods (explained below) will protect the home and clear out water and are the least expensive and quickest to install.

Exterior, on the other hand, is the most preventive in that it can prevent water from getting into your home.

Interior

Interior waterproofing methods ensure that any water leaked into the basement is removed. The most common way that water makes its way into a basement is through cracks in the foundation of the house.

If you choose to go with interior methods, you will most likely choose from vapor barriers, a drainage system, or an injection. We’ll discuss these below, beginning with vapor barriers.

Vapor Barriers

Vapor Barriers are plastic or foil sheets that are installed along the basement walls to seal out moisture. Vapor barriers will protect the home from humidity and will seal any crack that is leaking water into the basement. As concrete with moisture in the cracks begins to dry, the moisture will move into the insulation and fiberglass causing mold. The sheets are easy to install but you’ll have to be sure to pay close attention to detail and cover every crack. Be sure not to have a breach between the sheets. In addition, it helps if your basement is insulated. The next category of interior waterproofing methods falls under drainage systems.

Drainage Systems

An interior drainage system collects water from leaks or from excess groundwater under the foundation. It requires that you drill a trench in the concrete foundation, then you’ll install a drain and a sump pump. These are known in the industry as French drains, and though they may have different names, a French drain is simply an interior draining system. Water is moved via a sump pump out of the basement. A sump pump (seen below) will remove any water that has accumulated in the sump basin. Sump pumps are usually equipped with backup batteries in case of a power outage. Sump pumps have a long life making them a great investment for any home. You can read more about them in our free Flood Precautions eBook.

interior sump pump drainage system

Injections

Epoxy injections are known more like a band-aid fix and will only be suitable for concrete walls with cracks no wider than a credit card, but you may want to consider calling a contractor if there are a large number of cracks. If the inside of the cracks are wet, they will have to dry before the epoxy can be injected.

These methods are less expensive than exterior waterproofing and can help protect your home from flooding or water damage.

Exterior

Exterior waterproofing will be the first line of defense for your basement and house. These include gutters and downspouts that collect and move the water away from the home. This is why having clean gutters is very important!

Membranes

A membrane installed around the foundation of a home seals out moisture, protecting the concrete from cracking and absorbing water. The membrane will protect your foundation from groundwater flooding. Although installing a membrane is an option, installing drainage systems may make more sense.

Drainage Systems

These methods will require excavation but are highly effective in moving water away from your foundation. Water will find its way into your home due to hydrostatic pressure. This is the pressure that forces groundwater through the walls or foundation of the basement. Exterior drainage systems are installed at the lowest point along the homes outer perimeter and redirects surface and groundwater away from the foundation through a series of perforated pipes. Drain tiles are then connected to a sump pump and the sump pump will move the water out from near the foundation. Exterior drain tiles might be considered if you have a masonry foundation, because the joints in the masonry wall are points for leaks since mortar is more permeable than the brick, stone, or block. You may also want to consider it if your basement is already finished. Tearing out the floors and walls for an interior drainage system will only extend the process.

 

Exterior waterproofing is the most expensive method of keeping water away from your home, but is also the most effective. It is something to consider if you live in a high-risk flood zone or on the coast.

Conclusion

Living in New England makes life a little more challenging with the unpredictable, sporadic, and extreme weather patterns; therefore you need to be prepared to handle the worst. Doing your research is the first step. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and look for reviews on the people you plan to hire.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article, contact us if you would like to discuss insurance or have questions relating to your basement. We have a strong relationship with contractors that we could direct your way.

Pete Covill
195 Kempton Street
New Bedford, MA  02740
508-997-3321

 

 

Cover Photo by EricThriller on Unsplash

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