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How Do I Determine if I Need to Waterproof a Basement

By Edited May 12, 2015 0 3

In my architectural practice I have often encountered clients with questions such as, I can't use my basement because it's wet every time it rains. Or How do I stop the leaks into my basment. And of course the worst possible comment is that there is black mold growing in by basement because it leaks after it rains. If you unfortunately built your basement below the water table in your neighborhood and your contractor did not make provisions to utilize waterproofing membrane or some other means to mechanically control the infiltration of water in your basement, then you have a much more severe problem than we will address in this article. I have found that in most cases, water leaks in basements can be cured quite easily. Just follow these tips.

Things You Will Need

Civil Engineer
Architect or Engineer

Step 1

The first thing that needs to be determined is how the land surrounds your house is related to your basement wall. In most cases I have found that excavators have improperly contoured a homeowners' or business owners' land so the water actually runs toward the building. At times there is no way around this, but if this is the case there should be a swale or depression around your structure to "head-off" the water before it meets the foundation wall. If this is the case with your building it is quite likely that this is your problem or a big contributor to the problem.

Step 2

Additionally, if you do not have a downspout and gutter system installed on your structure, that can certainly add the to problem created in the above step. In any event, any water that has the chance of laying against your foundation wall will drain down the walls and eventually work its way through the foundation wall system/footing system.

Step 3

In determining the complicated issues of how land forms slope and what elevations are around your house or building, I would suggest that if it is suspected that your land does indeed slope toward the building, hire a competent civil engineer to give you a topographical survey of your property. Also ask him to provide you with point elevations around the perimeter of your building. This document will give you the road map to solving your problem.

Step 4

You will want to additionally determine if water is actually coming up through your basement floor, for instance through a crack in the floor. If this is the case you have a ground water table problem. Also is water coming in the seam where the basement concrete floor meets the wall? If so, then it is likely your water problem is a surface water problem and can be solved quite easily.
Water or moisture in your basement can be a very concerning issue, especially when it comes to the black mold issue. If you have a surface drainage problem (i.e. reverse slope to your house), and/or water from your roof drains directly along your foundation walls, rest assured you can handle this minimally

Tips & Warnings

Surface water issues do not require extensive measures such as cutting your basement floor out to place drain tile around the perimeter and through the center space. This can cost 10's of thousands of dollars and will not solve the problem. Do NOT let a contractor talk you into this expensive remedy without additional research. Rather try a much more passive route, which I will explain in detail in the referenced link included.


Jan 29, 2009 10:20pm
This is really bad advice.

Gutters and yard drainage are important to keep water away from the foundation. You can easily determine yourself if the gutters are working properly and the soil slants away from your home.

However, if you are getting water seepage in your basement where the wall meets the floor (called the cove joint) it is due to hydrostatic pressure. That means excessive ground water is forcing itself into the basement.

The one and only remedy is a drain tile system around the perimeter of the wall (or walls) where water is seeping into the basement. You will have to break out the concrete along the wall(s), install a drain tile system to collect the water, direct it to a crock and using a sump pump discharge out of the basement.

The author suggests hiring a civil engineer, excavator, and architect. This will cost you an enormous amount of money that will not solve your problem.

You have two choices: Peaceful coexistence with water in your basement, or hiring a BBB certified waterproofing company. A complete basement drain tile system with crock and sump pump will typically cost less then $5,000.
Jan 29, 2009 11:16pm
As readers will note, this author did encourage homeowners to utilize gutter systems. The author of this article is an architect with multiple years of experience and has helped numerous clients who have had issues with water in their basements, on both a commercial and residential level.
Nov 10, 2011 10:53am
Nice Artice, Thanks
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