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Why Your Basement Leaks & 5 Easy Ways to Fix It

A basement serves multiple purposes, offering storage space or functioning as an extra living area. However, it’s not immune to issues. Water leaks can lead to significant damage, highlighting the importance of addressing moisture problems at their source. 

DIY solutions for problems like a leaking basement wall, available at big box stores, are often inadequate. While “waterproof” paints and other popular products for sealing basement walls have become popular, it’s better to avoid them.

On this page, we detail the causes of basement wall leaks, repair pitfalls to avoid, and why our reliable solutions are the ideal choice for long-lasting results. 


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Cracked foundation

Why Do Basement Walls Leak?

Basement walls develop leaks for many reasons, requiring waterproofing solutions to address the issues. Understanding the factors contributing to basement wall leaks is crucial for implementing reliable and lasting repairs.  

Reasons basement walls leak include: 

Failing Dampproofing and Footing Drains 

Wet basement with peeling paint and wet floor

During construction, dampproofing solutions such as tar coating and footing drains were applied to the exterior walls to prevent basement water infiltration. However, dampproofing merely slows water vapor flow and doesn’t fully prevent leaks or flooding. Over time, damproofing degradation and footing drain clogs may lead to basement water leaks. 

The Clay Bowl Effect and Hydrostatic Pressure

hydrostatic pressure

The clay bowl effect and hydrostatic pressure adversely affect basement walls. Following the construction of your home’s foundation and walls, backfilled soil forms a “clay bowl” and an artificial water table. This soil, particularly if it contains clay, retains water, expanding during heavy rain or snowmelt. The expansive soil exerts pressure on the walls, resulting in basement wall cracks and water leaks. 

Porous Concrete Walls 

cracking and peeling paint on basement wall

Concrete is robust, but it is also porous, allowing water absorption through a network of capillary holes, or tiny pores. Accumulated water behind the walls fills these pores, causing basement leaks. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Waterproofing Basement Walls

Basement leak repair requires a careful approach. Here, we highlight two methods to avoid when waterproofing basement walls: 

Excavation and Dampproofing Reapplication

applying exterior dampproofing

Excavating down to the footing for dampproofing reapplication or installing new drainage pipes is costly, time-consuming, and requires extensive restoration afterward. The dampproofing coating is prone to degradation over time, and the risk of clogged drainage pipes still exists, making this method one to avoid. 

Applying Interior Paints or Sealants 

DIY solutions tailored for issues like a leaking basement wall are insufficient, temporary fixes. Paints, sealants, and other advertised waterproofing products for sealing basement leaks are rarely effective. 

The drawbacks associated with these big-box retail products include: 

  • Underlying Issues: Sealants temporarily stop cracks and leaks, but they won’t address the underlying causes of basement leaks.
  • Durability: Sealants are brittle and susceptible to compromise from efflorescence or hydrostatic pressure.
  • Temporary Fix: Sealants do not offer lasting basement leak repair, as they require frequent reapplication.
Basement vapor barrier 3D

5 Simple Solutions for Basement Leaks

Implementing a comprehensive waterproofing system ensures your home remains dry and leak-free. Groundworks professionally installs vapor barriers, exterior waterproofing, interior drainage systems, sump pumps, and dehumidifiers for a holistic basement leak solution. 

1. Vapor Barriers

The optimal approach to addressing basement wall leaks involves employing AquaStop WallSeal™ vapor barriers, a professionally installed liner affixed to the basement walls.  

Vapor barriers resist moisture intrusion and water vapor through the porous surfaces of basement walls. By creating a protective shield, these barriers maintain a dry and secure basement environment, preventing mold growth and structural damage. 

2. Exterior Waterproofing

Exterior waterproofing involves creating a protective barrier on the outside of your basement walls. This method prevents water from penetrating the walls and causing leaks. It often includes specialized coatings, membranes, or drainage systems that redirect water away from the foundation.

3. Interior Drainage Systems

Interior drainage systems are effective in managing water that seeps into the basement. These systems consist of drains along the interior perimeter of the basement, directing water to a sump pump. The sump pump then removes the water from the basement, preventing potential leaks and flooding. 

4. Sump Pumps

Sump pumps are crucial in basement waterproofing by effectively managing water accumulation. These pumps automatically remove excess water from the basement, preventing flooding and potential water damage. When a reliable sump pump is integrated into a comprehensive waterproofing system, it maintains a dry and safe basement environment. 

5. Basement Dehumidifiers

Basement dehumidifiers are essential components of an effective waterproofing strategy. These devices help control basement moisture levels, reducing the risk of mold growth, musty odors, and structural damage. Basement dehumidifiers extract excess humidity from the air and contribute to a healthier, more comfortable living space. 

What to Expect During and After a Basement Inspection

basement vapor barrier installation

During basement inspections, damage such as wet basement walls, leaks, or efflorescence will be identified. To address these issues, a waterproof 12-mil thick plastic wall vapor barrier is recommended. This solution provides mold protection and prevents vapor intrusion through the porous concrete walls. 

Once the vapor barrier is in place, seeping water is directed behind the material into the interior drainage system. From there, an installed sump pump removes the water from your home. 
For cracked or bowing basement walls, foundation repair solutions like carbon fiber straps and wall anchors are installed alongside the wall vapor barrier for structural reinforcement. 

The most significant advantage of these repairs is longevity. In contrast to sealants with a mere lifespan of months, certain vapor barriers can provide protection for up to 20 years or more.  

With a vapor barrier and all necessary basement waterproofing components installed, your basement will remain dry for many years.

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Contact Groundworks for Basement Waterproofing Solutions

Enhance your home’s safety, value, and appearance by addressing wet basement walls with effective solutions. Ordinary store-bought paints and sealants do not provide a lasting fix. 

Choose a reliable, lasting basement repair solution by trusting your local Groundworks company. Our experts diagnose basement issues and recommend the best basement leak solutions, including wall vapor barrier installation.  

Ensure your home’s well-being with professional leaky basement repair from the trusted experts at Groundworks. Schedule your free inspection today and learn more about our comprehensive warranty. 

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Basement waterproofing does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. Contact a professional for tailored repairs suited for your home.Common applications for basement waterproofing include interior drainage, insulation, sump pumps, and dehumidifiers. In severe cases, bowing walls and sinking floors are addressed. 

Basement leak repairs require attention both inside or outside the home, but mostly on the inside. Exterior forces are pushing in against your home, and the water gets through the cracks these forces create. Waterproofing and reinforcing your basement walls from the inside is the primary action you need to take to effectively prevent basement moisture issues. Exterior waterproofing methods like so-called “french drains” don’t offer a permanent solution to the problem, but some exterior excavation may be necessary to install interior, permanent solutions. It is best to contact a basement professional for waterproofing repairs.

Basement leaks are caused by water accumulation near the foundation, stemming from drainage issues like improper grading, overflowing gutters, short downspouts, or clogged window wells, resulting in pooling problems. Foundation cracks, porous concrete, and the impact of hydrostatic pressure often worsen basement leaks.

How to Prevent and Repair Basement Leaks 

No, Your Foundation Isn’t Waterproof (But It Can Be) 

How Much Does Basement Waterproofing Cost?

Michael Wilcher

Michael Wilcher

Michael Wilcher is the Content Lead at Groundworks, helping us to answer all of our customers biggest questions about foundation repair, basement waterproofing, crawl space encapsulation, and concrete lifting. In his free time, Michael enjoys collecting vinyl records, watching Formula 1 Racing, and reading philosophy. He holds an MPhil from the University of Cambridge.