Basements are an essential component of many homes, as a space that provides airflow below upper levels and supports the building structure.
Think of the basement as the inside of the foundation. While it plays an important structural role, it can also be a usable space. Even an unfinished basement makes for great storage.
A finished basement can add significant living space in the form of a bedroom, playroom, entertainment space, or an entire apartment.
However, basements are highly susceptible to water damage and, as such, should always be protected through the proper floor and wall coverings, as well as water diversion practices.
There are some things you should know, though, before you grab the paint rollers and order the vapor barrier.
1. Waterproofing Barriers Are Not All Created Equal
You’ll need to assess what types of materials you currently have in your basement.
Typically, it’s concrete walls and floors, but if it’s not, be sure to select paints and other supplies made for the type of material you have.
Just like every other product, waterproofing materials are manufactured for a specific purpose, so don’t waste your time using the wrong product.
Invest your time finding the perfect match instead.
2. Allow Time For Thorough Drying
If you already have moisture in the space, especially following any kind of flood, it’s essential you completely and thoroughly dry the space out before applying any type of waterproofing materials.
If you fail you have dry surfaces, you will seal the moisture in, causing yourself big problems down the road.
3. Find the Problem Areas
Before tackling any waterproofing inside the basement, look outside the basement for problems causing the water to run into the space.
Ensure all water is diverted away from the home. This can be done through landscaping or drainage.
Slope the surrounding area away from the foundation and include a French drain or other solution to carry water to the street or drain field.
Similarly, address any issues with gutters and downspouts that may cause water to accumulate near the foundation.
Finally, install, update, or service the sump pump to make sure it’s doing its job in moving water out of the area.
4. Be Careful of Sealing Too Tight
Every part of your home needs a bit of room to breathe. While a tight envelope is great for energy savings, too tight of a seal can result in trapping moisture and air pressure.
While you're busy sealing up cracks in the walls and floors, leave any small gaps between the wall and floor where pressure can release.
5. Check Basement Windows
If your basement has any windows, they can be an inadvertent opening for water. Install window drains or clear away the area around windows where water may be accumulating.
6. Don’t Delay
Perhaps the most important step in waterproofing any basement is making sure it gets done promptly. Water may not seem like a big deal, but it can be incredibly destructive, and it happens quickly.
Not only does it cause rot to any wood surfaces (of which a basement should have few), but it contributes to mildew and toxic mold growth.
Allowing water damage to continue can even lead to expensive repairs to the foundational integrity of the home.
7. It’ll Cost You
Proper waterproofing is not a cheap endeavor.
Undoubtedly it’s an investment that will help you avoid even more significant costs in the future, but supplies alone will cost several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on your needs.
It’s not uncommon to spend between $2,000 and $6,000 sourcing and installing protective barriers, drains, and pumps throughout the space.
8. Check for Permits
Depending on the type of repairs required, you may need to get permits to complete your project. Check with your local planning department before getting started.
Communicate about the required inspections and timelines so you don’t find yourself having to tear out progress so the inspector can access work.
Make sure the inspector has signed off at every phase before continuing.