Waterproofing Your Basement: 6 Tips to Keep Your Basement Dry

waterproofing tips

All basements are prone to flooding and waterproofing your basement before a problem begins can save you a huge future headache. Since basements are underground, either partially or entirely, the ground water level is frequently higher than the basement floor. If the foundation is not properly waterproofed, at some point you'll find unwelcome water in your home.

When disaster strikes and you are dealing with a flooded basement, it is critical to dry the area as quickly as possible, especially the flooring and drywall. In some cases it may be necessary to replace beds, couches and other furnishings. 

Beyond an inconvenience, a flooded or leaking basement can also be a health hazard. Even after the area has dried out, there are plenty of opportunities for mold to grow. 

Prevention is the preferred solution in keeping a crisis from happening. Since a basement flood can be both an expensive and frustrating nightmare, these proactive waterproofing tips can keep your downstairs dry.

6 Tips for Waterproofing Your Basement

Tip #1: Foundation Sealants

A crack in the foundation's concrete is the most common entry point for water. Provided there is no structural damage, the cracks can usually be sealed from inside your house.

There are special sealants available, many with multi-year warranties, that are designed to fill the cracks. The sealant is injected into the crack and prevents any future moisture from seeping thru that particular crack.​

If you're unable to visually see any cracks in your foundation you may choose to use a concrete waterproof coating. These coatings are applied to all of the foundation's walls and they permanently seal the concrete. Your  foundation should be protected against dampness, condensation, major leaks and potential flooding once the coating is applied.

Tip #2: Rain Gutters

The purpose of a gutter is to channel the roof rain water away from your foundation. Lack of gutter maintenance is a common cause of basement flooding. It can also be one of the easier and inexpensive solutions. 

Rain gutters frequently become clogged with leafs and debris. When this happens, the collected roof water will have no where to go other than over the sides of the gutters. ​The ground around your home will become saturated and begin to pool. Eventually the water will drain along the side of your foundation and seep into any cracks or entry points within the concrete. 

Installing gutter guards will greatly reduce the amount of debris that finds its way into your gutters. Also, check that the gutters are in good repair. They can frequently become damaged by tree limbs and other foreign objects.

Tip #3: Gutter Downspouts

The water collected within your rain gutters needs some place to go. This is where downspouts comes in. A gutter collects the water and the downspout moves the water away from the house. 

A downspout has an important role, but if it's not placed in the proper location it can actually cause more harm. If there isn't adequate drainage where the downspout is delivering the water, the water will begin to pool next to the house and eventually run down the side of the foundation until it finds a crack or other entry point. 

Without downspouts the water would overflow the gutters, however, it would be more evenly dispersed along the perimeter of your house. Surprisingly, this scenario would be better than poorly placed downspouts!    

We're not suggesting that you should remove all of your gutters if you have large pools of water near your downspouts. In fact, the fix is pretty easy. Downspout extensions can be installed at the end of the downspouts to keep the water moving away from your home to a more suitable location.

Redirecting water only 4 inches away from your house can make a huge impact on protecting your foundation. Although the further away you get drop your water from the downspouts the better since it will also decrease the likelihood of water seeping into your basement. 

Tip #4: Landscape Grading

In most cases, when a home is built the surrounding property was graded to slope away from the foundation. However, as time passes the slope can diminish or even worse, begin to slope towards the house. 

​Proper grading of your home's surrounding soil is important in preventing seepage in your basement. This may not seem like a waterproofing task, but if the soil around the foundation does not encourage the water to drain away from your foundation, more water than necessary will come into contact with the concrete walls. The less water that reaches your foundation the less seepage can occur. 

​Houses settle with time and home improvement projects such as decks and patios are completed. Landscaping and flower beds are added, and even things that happen on your neighbors property can influence the grading of your property. Seldom is the slope of your grading considered, and overtime this can can become a factor for the health of your foundation.  

​The solution can be as simple as adding a few inches of soil along your foundation. This can shift the slope of the ground and redirect the water away from your house.

Although you don't need to be exact, a good guideline is never to allow the top of your landscaping soil to be more than 6-inches below the top of your foundation. This rule of thumb will not only help the water drain away from your foundation, but it will also help prevent damage to your home's siding. 

Frequently, newer homes are built so close to each other that the surrounding land is not able to be graded properly. In these cases, a trench can be dug between the houses. This will allow the water to collect within the trench and drain elsewhere. The trench should be filled with large rock to add to the landscape or it can be left unfilled. A French drain may also be a good option.

Depending on how severe your drainage problem is, or how much work you want to do, another option would be to build an extensive drainage system in the yard. Dig a trench and bury large corrugated plastic drain tubing directing the drainage to a more suitable location. It only needs to be a few inches underground, but it can dramatically improve your properties drainage.

Tip #5: Check your Sprinkler System

Sprinkler systems can be a major culprit of basement leaking. It's not uncommon for the spray heads to shift and spray water onto the house. Spray heads and sprinkler pipes can also break due to weather or other reasons. When this happens huge puddles of water can form, and if it's near your foundation, you may find your basement leaking!

Sprinkler systems are rarely the cause of a leaking basement, but they can make a bad situation worse.​

Tip #6: Install and Maintain a Sump Pump

​This tip is really a 2-for-1. Although installing a sump pump is not technically "waterproofing" since the water will be entering your basement. It can help prevent your basement from flooding and in some areas, used with other waterproofing methods, it's a must.

Sump pumps work by collecting the water inside your basement and moving it outside your home. However, if you already have a sump pump installed, be sure to perform regular maintenance and keep it in good repair. Relying on your sump pump to keep your basement from flooding is an excellent preventative measure, but if the sump pump fails, well, let's just say, you won't be happy.​

​Checking that your sump pump is working is as easy as pouring water into the sump pit. If the pump automatically starts, the sump pump is working. Performing regular maintenance will help prevent blockages and keep the pump working for a long time. 

Many homeowners choose to install a back-up sump pump as a safety precaution, and if your pump is running the majority of the time, a second pump is an inexpensive insurance policy. ​

Sump pumps are the perfect fit for many homeowners, but if you don't already have one we don't recommend installing one without checking tips 1 thru 5 first. At least 95% of basement leaks are the result of poor grading, gutters, and downspouts.

Start your waterproofing efforts outside first and pay attention to where the water is collecting and where it is being drained.​ By simply paying attention to how your home deals with a good rain storm, you'll be able to make a huge impact on your basement's waterproofing . . . not to mention saving money!