Basement Waterproofing: Waterproof Paint vs Epoxy

gloved hand painting cement wall with waterproof paint
  • 2-20 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 100-800

Sometimes, having lots of different options actually makes things a whole lot more complicated. When it comes to basement waterproofing, waterproof paint vs epoxy is one of the early decisions you will make, but it might not be an easy one.

When you want to get good basement waterproofing, this decision really matters, and you need to know what to apply and how to apply it.

Why Basement Waterproofing Matters

Basements are underground spaces, which means they're already sort of set up for failure. After all, how arrogant is it to put an entire room under the ground?

Humans pretty much survived as a species because of arrogance. And you can have your basement and enjoy it moisture-free, too.

Going underground is a good way to get more space and get more use out of your home. However, going underground is an invitation for Nature to cause damage and wreak havoc on that home.

Humans may be arrogant, but they learned how to battle Nature and win a long, long time ago. And you can win the battle with your basement and waterproof this space.

Water from rain and natural groundwater can seep into the basement if the walls are not sealed against it. One thing you definitely don't want in your basement is for moisture to seep in through the walls.

Not only will moisture potentially damage the stuff you have in the basement, but it can also damage the walls. Moisture also makes it possible for mold to grow, which you certainly do not want in any room of your home.

Moisture is just bad news all the way around, and it can do a lot of damage. There are ways to remove moisture in the basement, such as using a dehumidifier, but if water is seeping into the space through the walls this is something you need to address with some serious waterproofing.

How to Waterproof the Basement

Whether you're going to use waterproof paint or epoxy, there are some things you're going to have to do first. Before anything can be applied to the walls, you must first remove all the old paint that's on the walls.

Most of the time, old paint can be scraped off with a putty knife. You might also need to use a chemical paint stripper.

If the paint is stubborn, it might be necessary to give the walls a power wash. This means you'll have to remove everything in the basement first, but it is a necessary step.

Basement sealants, including waterproof paint, will not work properly if they are being used on top of old paint. Get rid of all paint first or your waterproofing efforts will be in vain.

Removing old paint will likely be the longest and most difficult part of this process, but that’s good news. Everything after this point will be much easier.

Waterproof Paint

Waterproof paint has some characteristics in common with everyday, standard wall paint. Like wall paint, this paint can be oil- or water-based.

However, there's not much chance that you will mix up waterproof paint with your day-to-day wall paint. Waterproof paint is much heavier than standard paint and it’s easy to see the difference in consistency.

Waterproof paint absolutely works. It will prevent moisture and keep the basement dry…but nothing lasts forever.

The pressure of moisture pressing against basement walls over the years will eventually cause the waterproof paint to fail. This is an inevitable evil of water.

Remember, water is a force powerful enough to literally carve out the Grand Canyon.

They just don't make paint strong enough to hold back that force for ever, so you will need to re-apply waterproof paint every few years to maintain the waterproof seal you've created for your basement.

When the paint begins to bubble or crack or you start to see moisture seepage on the walls, you know it’s time to apply a new coat of waterproof paint.

Again, you will need to remove all of the existing paint before you apply fresh paint to the walls, which becomes a pretty labor-intensive process. You must repeat this entire process every time you need to re-paint the walls with waterproof paint.

Waterproof paint also has limitations beyond longevity. If you have a problem with leaky walls, this paint alone won't fix that problem because the paint can only hold back so much water pressure.


You can choose epoxy over waterproof paint if you want, as this is another option. But there are a ton of differences between epoxy and waterproof proof in how they look, how they perform, and what they do.

Epoxy waterproofer hardens into a clear, ceramic-like finish that creates a tough waterproof seal.

Epoxy is applied with a paintbrush, and it actually withstands a lot more moisture pressure than standard waterproofing paint. Even if your walls are seeping and leaking, a layer of epoxy can keep the moisture out because it becomes so hard when it’s dry.

Epoxy also lasts a whole lot longer than waterproof paint. You can expect waterproof epoxy, when properly applied, to last for about 30 years.

Waterproof Paint vs Epoxy

When it comes to waterproof paint vs epoxy, which one should you choose? That all depends on the type of basement you want to create.

Waterproof paint comes in a range of different colors, including white, and visually looks a lot like everyday, standard paint. Epoxy, on the other hand, dries in a heavy clear finish, so visually, these two are very different.

Waterproof paint has to be re-painted every few years. Epoxy waterproofing will last much longer.

Both are applied in a similar fashion, using paintbrushes, and take about the same amount of time to apply. Which waterproof treatment you choose depends entirely on how much waterproofing you need and what you want to visually see in your basement.

Once you know the qualities, cost, and effort required for both options, you can choose the waterproof solution for your basement that’s going to work best for you and your space.

Basement Waterproofing FAQ

waterproofing paint applied by roller

How long does it take to waterproof a basement?

The amount of time you spend waterproofing the basement really depends on the size of the basement. Waterproofing the basement with paint or epoxy takes about the same amount of time as painting a room, to give you an idea of how much time you'll spend on this project.

Removing the old paint, if present, will take up most of your time when you’re waterproofing the basement. Otherwise, you can get the walls painted in a few hours, unless you have a particularly large basement.

Remember to follow standard safety precautions. The same measures you would take when painting a room should be used when you’re waterproofing.

Cover the floor and any furniture or items in the basement to protect them while you paint, and wear clothes that you don’t love, because you may get messy during this process. If your basement is not well-ventilated, place a fan in the room to get air circulation, and take frequent breaks to step outside and get fresh air.

Standard painting equipment, like wall brushes, is all you need to apply waterproof paint or waterproofing epoxy.

How much does it cost to waterproof a basement?

Price is always a consideration with DIY projects, even something as important as waterproofing the basement. The cost of waterproof paint isn't too different from the price you'll pay for more standard paint, if you buy somewhat fancy wall paint.

Waterproof paint costs, in general, $30 to $60 for one gallon.

Waterproof epoxy costs anywhere from $30 to $150 for one gallon, depending on the brand you choose.

You will also need brushes to apply the paint or epoxy with, scrapers to remove old paint, and probably a ladder to reach up to the high areas of the room. If you’re working on a ladder, make sure you have another person to assist you and hold the ladder to keep it secure because even a shortfall from a ladder can cause serious injury.

Can you paint over waterproof paint or epoxy?

Waterproofing is all well and good and you definitely want to have it in the basement, but you also want an attractive space. So after you've done your waterproofing, can you put a nice coat of paint on top of it to give the basement a finished look?

Both waterproof paint and epoxy waterproofer come in different colors, so you can choose the look you want. However, it is possible to paint over waterproof paint or epoxy if you want to change the look of the room or get a color that's not available in a waterproof variety.

However, painting over waterproof paint or epoxy can be a challenge because you have to carefully select the paint. Epoxy also has to be sanded, and the entire surface must be rough before you paint or else the paint won't stick.

The process of sanding all the walls will be lengthy and rather labor-intensive, even with a power sander, so it's best to start with an epoxy in a color shade you like.

If you’re painting over your waterproof walls, choose a water-based paint. Latex-based paints may not stick well to the waterproof wall surface.

Painting over paint is always very tricky and typically takes a lot more work than painting on bare walls. So while it’s possible to paint over waterproof paint or epoxy, you’ll save yourself a lot of work and effort if you don’t.

Does your basement even need waterproofing?

Your basement may not have moisture problems. You might live in a dry climate, or the builders may have already treated the room for waterproofing.

But there are many ways to find out if you have a moisture issue in the basement. There are certain signs to look for that can tell you whether or not it's an issue.

Is the drywall soft or discolored anywhere? Do you see lots of condensation on pipes and ductwork in the basement?

You might also notice musty odors or a sort of "wet dog" scent, or even feel the humidity in the air. Go into the basement and simply feel the environment and atmosphere of the space, and you will probably be able to get some sense of whether it feels moist or dry down there.

If your Spidey senses just aren’t tingling, there's an easy way to check if you have a moisture issue in your basement, and you can even determine exactly what that issue is with a very simple test. To do this, tape a small piece of aluminum foil to the wall and leave it alone for about a week.

The foil can be very small, just an inch square, or it can be larger. As long as a piece of foil is taped right to the wall, you’re doing the test.

After at least several days up to one week have passed, check the foil to see if it is wet. If the side facing outward into the room is wet, this is an indication of condensation and not of water seepage.

If the side of the foil facing the wall is wet, the walls are seeping moisture, and you need waterproofing.

This quick test will immediately clue you into whether you have a moisture problem and what’s causing the moisture.

Further Reading

Basement Heating Options and Tips

Basement Remodeling Ideas & How Tos

Bringing Light into Basements

Finishing Basement Walls: Furring Strips vs Stud Wall

How to Choose the Right Paint and Tools

How to Convert Your Basement into an Apartment (Legally)

How to Cover Your Concrete Basement Floor

How to Dig Out a Crawl Space to Make a Basement

How to Strip Wallpaper

How to Waterproof Your Basement

Locating a Foundation Leak in Your Basement

Proper Drainage Makes for a Dry Basement

What Is the Best Carpet for Basement Living Spaces?