Basements are one of the areas in the house that are most prone to water damage. The sub-ground level of most basements makes it susceptible to water flows or accumulation of water from other higher levels of the house. Many homeowners wonder why basements are always damp and no matter what they do, they cannot seem to keep the room dry. There are several possible causes of water leaks and other sources of moisture that can cause dampness in basements. In worst cases, flooding can pose the most serious threat to basements for typical homes across the nation. Some of these causes might be quite obvious but some causes can come from the most improbable of sources. In any case, waterproofing the basement is a critical necessity to keep homes safe structurally as well as for the healthy well being of occupants.
Some old homes have basements and stone walls that are basically several years old and constructed using the old stone and mortar method. Water can easily seep in through gaps in the mortar or the stones particularly during heavy rains. Flooding in the surrounding area can aggravate the situation with water accumulating against basement walls, which will eventually find its way inside the basement.
Moisture and water in the basement has serious implications for the home and the occupants of the house. One of the most crucial concerns is the possibility of serious structural damage to the house, as well as damage to valuables and other articles stored in the basement. Structural damage includes peeling of paint and coverings on walls, as well as lifting of floor tiles, damage to panels and deterioration of carpets. Rust and corrosion of metal fixtures and parts of appliances can also occur, which includes damage to heating and air conditioning facilities. These problems can bring the value of the property significantly low.
Cause for concern can also be brought up regarding the health of occupants in the affected home. Moisture in the basement can be a primary cause of mold and mildew infestations, which can bring serious health risks to the owner of the home and other family members. These include serious allergies, respiratory ailments, skin diseases and other internal complications that can prove fatal. This alone can justify the importance of basement waterproofing.
The Causes of Water Leaks and Moisture in Basements
Rains and flooding outside the home can cause accumulated water near the basement’s base to seep through cracks, fissures and other openings in the walls, as well as through the basement window wells. This high water table around the house periphery will build-up water pressure against the walls. This high hydrostatic pressure against the wall can make water seek entry into the basement through any possible openings.
Concrete floors and walls are porous and absorb water and moisture like a sponge. This capillary effect causes water to accumulate in the walls and floors that could be transferred into the basement. Leaks from plumbing, downspouts and even wet clothes can increase the humidity in the basement, which will condense and settle on the walls and floors, causing the dampness.
Each of these possible causes can result to severe moisture to the basement and should be addressed properly through waterproofing. Basements can be applied with waterproofing materials at both inside and outside faces of the walls to address these problems.
Preliminary Considerations for Basement Waterproofing
Statistics indicate that basement waterproofing performed in do-it-yourself mode only succeed in 20 percent of cases. The reason for the high failure rate is the lack of preparation before actual waterproofing process, as well as the use of wrong materials and methods.
One example is the fallacy that waterproofing the outside of basement walls is not a good idea as the pressure of water from can cause walls to buckle in and create structural damage. Some misinformation have misled owners to let water into the basement to stabilize the pressure and prevent the walls from buckling. However, the issue of buckling can be attributed to poor foundation construction and not the pressure of water. Letting water in the basement can make it impossible to control the humidity that is the main cause for mold, mildew and other fungus that can cause serious health concerns.
Homeowners that ignore the potential problems that water in the basement can cause, will eventually contend with the serious damage these issues can bring to the home. Delaying basement waterproofing can lead to further water damage that would eventually lead to the proliferation of molds and vermin, as well as serious structural damage. The final result will be degradation in the home value, which can reach as much as 25 percent.
Before proceeding with waterproofing the basement, the homeowner should first determine what type of improvement or waterproofing should be done. Knowing this can determine the cost of the work and facilitate proper planning for the work to be done. If the homeowner eventually hires a contractor to do the waterproofing job required, the homeowner should identify the credibility of the company by asking for licenses and accreditation. On top of that, the work to be done should be covered under a written contract. Do not use a contractor that lacks the skill to do the waterproofing job. Look only for licensed contractors from certified companies.
Types and Methods of Basement Waterproofing
One of the most common waterproofing materials used for waterproofing basements are tar and clay based products and substances. These substances are mixed and applied in layers over existing stonewalls and concrete walls. However, these products that dry out to form rigid structures cannot expand and contract at the same time as concrete and will eventually become brittle and crack. This is not advisable for homes that are located in sunny areas as the sun can hasten the brittleness of the material, which will eventually crack.
Other waterproofing materials use liquid based coatings that can be injected or applied to the cracks and fissures in the basement walls. However, some materials have poor qualities and are prone to deterioration or degradation that will eventually break down. An example is epoxy crack injection where epoxy sealants are injected into the cracks in the concrete. The problem here is that the epoxy has a different tensile strength than the concrete. Micro shifting in the house’s foundation can allow the cracks to open up and cause leaks. However, there are new materials that have good flexible adhesive characteristics. These products have elongation rates that are over 600 percent and can be elongated up to 3’ before breaking.
One method of waterproofing the basement walls is through the use of waterproofing felts or fabrics. The walls are covered with these materials and are cemented together using hot coal-tar pitch. If done properly, it can properly seal and waterproof the walls. More recent advances in this area involve the use of substrates and flexible sealing materials to attach the substrate panels to the walls. Joints in the panels are sealed using liquid rubber. The structure is then finished off by applying another layer of the flexible material onto the final surface.
Repairing the exterior basement walls can be done using sodium bentonite and other similar substances. The dry material expands after being mixed with water and will penetrate and seal cracks. Parging is another method used for exterior walls, which involve using two coats of Portland cement mortar on the exterior walls. However, this method can only work in dry weather to allow normal drying of the cement. Another method used for external walls is through the use polyethylene or polyvinyl films. These are applied to the exterior walls to prevent water from entering or being seeped into the walls.
Other Things to Consider Regarding Basements and Waterproofing
Even after you have sealed the walls and concrete with waterproofing material, hydrostatic pressure can pose some additional problems. Drainage problems are some of the reasons for the increase in water pressure outside the walls that can push water in. Part of a good waterproofing system involves putting a good drainage system in place.
Regular checking of rain gutters for debris accumulation can ensure that water during rains can go directly to drainage systems and not overflow back into the home. This is one method that does not require sophisticated methods and equipment.
Lawns that are sloping towards the basement walls can cause problems with water accumulation. A simple watering of the lawn can get the basement wet if this is the case. The tendency of the accumulated water is that it will flow towards the lowest part of the house, and this includes the basement. The lawn should be properly graded to change the slope and divert water away from the home and basement. Another method to correct the slope is to put a terrace on the lawn, with the highest area located near the house and the basement. The similar principle applies by putting up flowerbeds at an elevated label of the home.
One waterproofing method involves sealing the basement with waterproof materials except for an area at least 3 inches from the floor. This will involve the construction of a drainage system that will collect and channel moisture out from the basement. These are easy to install and can be hidden well.
Basement waterproofing is a tedious job and can be frustrating if not done properly, and can lead to serious problems for the household. Applying these guidelines in basic waterproofing method and procedures for homeowners can go a long way in preventing water damage to the basement.