Quick Guide to Water Proofing Your Basement

Repairing cracked foundation

If your basement leaks when it rains, look at the age of your house. A few decades ago, new homes were standardly water proofed with a solvent-based asphalt. Unfortunately, this imperfectly water proofed the foundations, and the technique is out of date. Good for new homes, but still a problem for aging homes.

Water proofing prevents liquid water and water vapor from permeating a surface, while this old technique only prevented vapor. Successful water proofing solutions to protect your foundation or seal your basement are actually somewhat difficult to find, never mind how complicated the chemistry of it all is. But it’s incredibly important to invest in quality here, as 98% of basement will receive water damage, so a wet basement is a disaster waiting to happen.

So today, here’s a handy guide to the ins and outs of waterproofing your home. Know your materials so your money doesn’t leak right into the ground!

  • Solvent-based asphaltic emulsion. The old technique mentioned above. Only prevents water vapor from penetrating; liquid water is still a danger.
  • Rubberized asphalt. The most popular of water proofing solutions today. It can be sprayed or a peel and stick sheet. It’s vulnerable to UV light, so it must be out of direct sunlight. The spray type is water-based and therefore not hazardous to work with, but this also makes it vulnerable to freezing before it dries into a seal, so it’s best not to instal is while it’s cold out.
  • Rubber. Another spray. Also sensitive to UV light. Can be applied safely in cold weather without freezing.
  • Polyethylene. Used in sheets rather than sprays, usually three layers and partially made of recycled material, making it a great eco-friendly choice. Once again, it’s sensitive to sunlight.
  • Bentonite. A gel which comes from refined clay. It blocks liquid water, but not water vapor. It’s usually installed two layers of cloth which can make up for the deficiency. Popular for commercial uses.

Now, water proofing membranes need to also be covered. These covers provide protection from backfill damage, insulation, and drainage to funnel away the water you repel. Always consult with a professional to ensure you’re following your local building codes (especially in cold climates, which complicate waterproofing needs).

It’s complicated stuff, but proper water proofing solutions will protect your home form not only water damage but also mold and mildew

Spraying on Your Material

Since so many of the above materials come in sprays, and since you’re most likely to use a spray to seal foundation leaks, it’s worth the time to learn how to properly use them. The manager of Van Wyks, Waldo, Wis. says when they use a modified asphalt rubber product, “It’s a water-based material that must be heated to about 120° F in order to spray properly. If a foundation wall is wet the application can become diluted and if it rains right after spraying, the product can wash off the wall.”

Since full foundation repair can be a nightmare, you can seal your basement yourself if the damage is 1/16 inch or less, but a professional concrete contractor should handle anything 1/4 inch or more.

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