3 Basement Waterproofing Methods That’ll Help Protect Your Home From Damage

Laura Hennigan
Written by Laura Hennigan
Updated September 30, 2021
Finished basement
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The best way to waterproof a basement includes adding a drainage system and sealing cracks

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Whether it’s a storage area or your home bar, there might be no worse feeling than walking down to your basement and stepping in a puddle. Having water in your basement, whether it’s 2 inches or 2 feet, is a trigger for unprecedented levels of mess, frustration, stress, and hours of clean-up.

Taking a proactive approach to waterproofing your basement can help keep moisture at bay, and make a larger flood event less likely to occur. There are three recommended methods to waterproofing your basement, and you’ll need to consider a few different factors in order to determine which solution is the best one for your home.

1. Interior Waterproofing

Waterproofing sealant rolled onto wall
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A basement can be many things to many different people—where you host game night with friends, a playroom for the little ones, or even storage for holiday decorations. However you use your basement, you’ll want to protect it—and your valuable possessions—from water damage. 

The best way to waterproof your basement is to start with the interior. Luckily, interior waterproofing is the easiest and most affordable option, as well as a fairly basic DIY project.

Interior Waterproofing Steps

  • Strip away any paint or paneling

  • Clean the basement walls by combining dish detergent, water, and ammonia, then scrub gently

  • Search for any visible cracks and patch them with a tube of epoxy

  • When cracks are dry, apply a waterproof sealant evenly over the walls in a thick layer

  • If desired, the coating can also be applied to your basement floors as well

Interior waterproofing is a simple way to help keep moisture out of your basement, particularly if you are not aware of any other major issues that could cause water to accumulate. It’s not a foolproof method, however, and will need to be repeated every few years since the sealant eventually breaks down.

2. Exterior Waterproofing

Exterior waterproofing should start with a walk around the perimeter of your home. Visually inspect that all the gutters look secure, and that all the downspouts are facing out to help send rainwater away from the house.

Exterior Waterproofing Steps

  • Start by cleaning out gutters and downspouts. Since clogs can frequently cause moisture in the basement, these should be cleaned out at least twice per year.

  • Consider the landscaping around your foundation. There should be at least 6 inches of space between the house and any plants, and the soil should slope down from the foundation. 

  • Trees should not be planted any closer than 3 feet from the house, since roots could potentially disrupt the foundation.

The cost of basement waterproofing that goes beyond the above steps will be a larger investment, and will require hiring a basement waterproofing pro in your area.

This method involves digging out the dirt from around the foundation and then applying a barrier sealant to the walls. Many companies will also place a dimple board on top of the sealant and then fill it in with gravel before adding any dirt back.

3. Drainage

Whether you have an expensive television in your basement or old boxes of family photos, a drainage system will add another level of protection from water damage. An exterior drainage system can help keep water off your foundation walls, out of your basement, and directed away from your house. 

One of the best ways to waterproof your basement includes installing one of two types of drainage systems:

French drains

A French drain (also known as a curtain drain, perimeter drain, or agricultural drain) is designed for flat areas. 

Installation steps are as follows:

  • Dig a trench with a slope in the direction of the lowest point where you want water to go.

  • After you’ve completed that, fill the bottom with gravel, lay piping, and add more gravel on top.

  • Water is then directed away from the foundation. It seeps through the surface level gravel into the drain, and the gravel also blocks any debris from getting in. 

Footing Drain

This draining system involves putting a pipe around the foundation walls, then covering the pipe with gravel and soil. It works well for sloped areas, since the pipe collects water before it gets into the basement, and drains it away.

Which Basement Waterproofing Method Should You Choose?

No matter where you live, you’ll want to waterproof your basement to some degree. If you have never noticed a musty smell or seen trickles of water on the walls, a basic interior waterproofing project is a great place to start.

If you have seen standing water, cracks in the foundation, or visible condensation, it’s most likely time to investigate exterior waterproofing solutions. Depending on the condition of your home and the risk of flooding and storms in your area, you may choose to do a combination of all three ways to waterproof your basement to ensure total protection. 

Remember that maintenance and prevention will save you money in the long run, as well as protect the integrity of your home’s structure.

What Causes Moisture in the Basement?

Because of their location, and the way many homes are built, basements are unfortunately susceptible to accumulating extra moisture and water. There are several possible reasons for this, many of which develop slowly over time as the house settles.

Cracks

Even small hairline cracks in the foundation, walls, or windows can allow moisture to get into the basement. Many of these are not noticeable until they get larger, or may hide behind drywall or under flooring for years before being discovered.

Poor Drainage

Insufficient or improper drainage can account for moisture seeping into the basement. If the drainage is not designed to send water away from the house, it will likely end up coming inside through the foundation.

Broken or Leaky Pipes

Since almost all water and drain pipes are connected to the basement, any break or leaking will end up causing moisture issues.

Sump Pump Failure

The sump pump is one of the most important components in keeping water out of your basement. If the pump breaks or otherwise fails, water will inevitably begin accumulating.

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