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How to Stop Basement Wall Leaks in Their Tracks

Wet basement walls affect your basement’s health and appearance, and their repair isn’t something to be taken lightly. Keep them permanently waterproofed with professional assistance from local experts.

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cracking and peeling paint on basement wall

Your home’s basement can be a functional space for storage and living, but it is not without problems. Water can easily leak inside and lead to damage, and it is important to get to the bottom of those problems and tackle them at the source. None of these issues, including a wet, leaking basement wall, can be adequately repaired with DIY solutions available from big box stores. While sealing basement walls with “waterproof” paints, sealants, and other widely advertised products has become popular among homeowners, it would benefit you to steer clear of these products. 

To effectively waterproof your basement walls, using professional assistance is key. If you suspect your basement walls are leaking, reach out to your local Groundworks company to book a free inspection and estimate. Our highly trained professionals will complete a thorough evaluation of your basement, accurately diagnose the problems and causes, and recommend repair solutions tailored to meet your basement’s needs. Something your inspector may suggest to waterproof and improve your basement walls is a wall vapor barrier, which is also part of a comprehensive basement waterproofing system. To date, Groundworks companies have waterproofed more than 12,000 basements nationwide, and we are ready to waterproof your home too. 

Below, we will cover how your basement was built, why the walls leak, how not to repair them, and why our durable, long-lasting solutions are the most effective options. 

Building a Basement 101

While there are many different types of home foundations, a below-ground basement is a popular type that is particularly common throughout the northeast and Midwest. Here is the process most builders will follow when constructing a home with a basement: 

  • To begin, a hole big enough to fit the house is excavated in the ground. 
  • The footing, slab floor, and foundation walls – all typically made of concrete – are then poured and put into place. 
  • Either concrete masonry blocks, precast panels, or poured concrete will be used to construct the basement walls
  • After the basement is finished, damp proofing is applied to the exterior walls and exterior footing drains are installed. 
  • Dirt is then backfilled around the walls, and the rest of the house is built.

Reasons Why Your Walls are Leaking and Wet

Apart from internal leaks like burst plumbing pipes, water can seep into your basement and through the walls for a variety of reasons. Here is what is happening to cause wet, leaking basement walls. 

Degrading Damp Proofing and Failing Footing Drains 

Wet basement with peeling paint and wet floor

The coating of damp proofing and footing drains are meant to help keep water away from the basement. However, dampproofing does not stop water leaks or floods, but simply delays the flow of water vapor from the earth to the basement. The damp proofing can also degrade and wear away over time and the footing drains can become clogged or crushed under the weight of the soil. Water will then be able to easily leak inside the basement. 

The Clay Bowl Effect and Hydrostatic Pressure

hydrostatic pressure

The clay bowl effect and hydrostatic pressure are two phenomena that have an adverse influence on concrete basement walls. Backfilling the home’s exterior with excavated soil follows the completion of the foundation and walls. This produces a type of “clay bowl” and an artificial water table. It is easier for the looser backfilled soil to retain water, especially if it contains clay. The soil expands and pushes against the walls with enough force during periods of intense rain or snowmelt to cause the walls to crack and leak. 

Porous Concrete Walls 

cracking and peeling paint on basement wall

While concrete is a durable material, it is also porous, meaning it absorbs water through a path of capillary holes or tiny pores that formed when the cement to create the concrete was poured. Any water that collects behind walls will fill invisible holes in the concrete when the pores begin to draw water from the earth. Calcium is a component of the cement paste that holds concrete together. Water causes calcium to dissolve, so when water is present, the pores gradually enlarge. The sequence of microscopic veins in the concrete will enable water to seep within. 

Excavation and Damp Proofing Reapplication

Excavating down to the footing to reapply damp proofing or install new drainage pipe are two options. However, this approach has a number of drawbacks, including high cost, potential for lengthy duration, and need for substantial landscaping after restoration. The actual issue with external excavation is that it has previously been tried and failed. The damp proofing coating will only wear away again, and drainage pipes may clog wherever they sit in the ground. 

Applying Interior Paints or Sealants 

Many advertised DIY products are paints or sealants applied to interior basement walls that claim to be waterproof and effective at locking out water and moisture. The problems with these sealants include: 

Underlying Issues: Although a sealant may temporarily stop cracks or leaks, it won’t deal with their root causes. Call your local basement waterproofing professionals c to have them examine your home rather than employing a sealant. They will be able to identify the cause of the issue and resolve it. Simply said, using the sealant without taking care of this issue first would be a waste of time and money. 

Durability: Sealants may be advertised as fantastic answers to your issue, but they are brittle. The seal may be broken by efflorescence (white chalky substance left behind as water comes to the concrete surface), and hydrostatic pressure might cause it to come off in situations when the water table is high. Additionally, a moist wall cannot handle a sealant. It will take days or weeks for the wall to dry before you can apply it. 

Temporary Fix: A sealant is not a long-term solution, despite the fact that homeowners are drawn to it by its affordability and ease of application. The sealant will only serve as a short-term fix that covers up cosmetic issues. It will begin to wear away after a few months, so it would need to be continually purchased and reapplied. 

Effectively Waterproof Basement Walls with Professional Vapor Barriers 

Basement vapor barrier 3D

Instead of ineffective sealants, professionally engineered and installed vapor barriers attached to basement walls are a better, longer-lasting solution. Groundworks companies across the country install these barriers as part of a complete basement waterproofing system that also includes interior drainage, sump pumps, and dehumidifiers. 

If the inspector with the Groundworks company serving your area notices wet walls, leaks, or efflorescence in your basement, they may recommend the installation of our wall vapor barrier. This plastic barrier is 12-mil thick, waterproof, mold-resistant, and guaranteed to stop vapor intrusion through porous concrete walls. 

After the vapor barrier is placed on the walls, any water that seeps through the walls will automatically run behind the material and down into the interior perimeter drainage system. Water in these drains is directed to a sump pump that pumps the water up and out of your home. 

Additionally, if your basement walls are cracking or bowing inward, you may need foundation repair solutions including reinforcing carbon fiber straps or wall anchors to counteract hydrostatic pressure. These solutions are compatible with the wall vapor barrier and can be installed at the same time. 

The best part about these repairs is they are long-lasting and will keep your basement protected for good. While sealants only last a matter of months, some vapor barriers have a five to 10-year lifespan and others can last up to 20 years or more. Once our wall vapor barrier is permanently fastened to all the perimeter basement walls and the other components (interior drainage, sump pump, and dehumidifier) are installed, you will have a fully warrantied dry basement. 

Contact Groundworks for Permanent Basement Waterproofing Solutions 

Wet basement walls are an ugly nuisance that diminish your basement’s safety, health, value, and appearance. Applying a store-bought paint or sealant is not going to fix the problem long-term. For a more reliable, long-lasting solution, trust your local Groundworks company. We have experts across the country who are well-versed in all types of basement problems, including leaking, wet walls. Our professionals will properly diagnose your basement issues and recommend the best solutions to fix them, including wall vapor barriers. To get started ensuring your basement’s health and safety, contact the Groundworks company serving your area to schedule a free inspection and estimate. 

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