How To Waterproof A Basement
Moisture in a basement tends to leave the area smelling musty from the mold spores that thrive on dampness. Learn to waterproof your basement.
Clearing a flooded basement or attempting to keep moisture out is a dreary chore. Moisture of any kind in a basement area tends to leave the whole area smelling musty from the mold spores that thrive on dampness. If you're an allergy sufferer, this can create a very uncomfortable situation. Since moisture conducts electricity, it can also create a life threatening situation when too much is present. If you're tired of finding your basement flooded or reeking from moisture, these tips will help you to waterproof this important room in your home.
To begin, remember that, should your basement flood, the most important thing to do is get rid of the water as quickly as possible. When a pipe has ruptured shut off the water supply immediately. If you find it necessary to walk in the basement with any amount of water on the floor you should wear heavy rubber boots that come up high on your legs. You will also need thick rubber gloves that are thoroughly dry and will not leak. Use a wooden chair or stool to turn off the power to the basement area. It is best to use a dry broom handle to flip the main switches or pull out the fuse block. Be sure not to touch a wall or any other item until the power is completely off.
If you have a rather shallow flood of an inch or so of water, you can then clean it up with mops or sponges and a bucket. Even a wet vacuum cleaner works well for this chore. If the water is deeper you will need to use an electric pump. These submersible pumps, which are called puddle suckers, can be rented from most rental stores. They will draw water in through the base and pump it out through a water hose. The hose can be run through a window in the basement so the water can be pumped outside. But be sure the hose is long enough so the run-off will flow away from the house. Be sure to plug the machine in at a safe location that is not in the basement. Keep the intake area of the pump clean from debris so it will not clog the pump and burn out the motor. When the basement is clear of water open all the windows and allow it to dry out. You can also rent a blower that can be left in the area to help the drying process along.
If your problem is not flooding, the moisture is probably due to condensation, leakage or seepage. In these cases there are several things you can do. Begin by wrapping any sweaty cold water pipes with fiberglass insulation. Use a dehumidifier in the room to dry out sweaty walls. Have the drains in your basement checked to see if they have become clogged by debris or roots. If you find that they are, have them unclogged, repaired or replaced. Go around the outside of your home and check all your rain gutters. If you find any that are broken or clogged make sure they are unclogged, replaced or repaired. While you are outside it is wise to check and see if the earth around your house has settled. If this has occurred, you should add dirt to make sure that the grade slopes away from your house. Quite often this is once of the main problems with basements. Moisture dripping off the roof of a house will eventually wear away the earth, creating a shallow ditch area around the base. This allows moisture to sit until it is absorbed by the base of the house or evaporates. If the dirt around your house forms a half hill with the highest part meeting the base or bottom of the house, moisture will run away from the house and help water the lawn.
Although many times a dehumidifier will take care of weeping walls in a basement, when it does not there are other alternatives. The first thing you should do is check the walls for cracks of any type and repair them. If the walls are made of cinder block or concrete you can scrub them with TSP or trisodium phosphate. Even a mild muric acid will work well in this situation. When the walls are only weeping occasionally you can use a latex masonry sealer paint to solve the problem. When the dampness is persistent you should try a two part epoxy masonry sealer to treat the walls. This is the same type of sealer used on concrete floors and should be applied in the same manner. If your floor is not concrete you should consider having a concrete floor poured. Floors made out of gravel or dirt tend to allow more moisture into the area.
Continued basement flooding requires a more advanced remedy. Installing a drain or drainage system is often necessary. In some cases a sump pump can help. A sump pump is a pump that sits in a small pit in the basement floor. When water reaches a given depth a float operated switch turns the pump on and pumps the water out of the basement. When enough water is pumped out the switch turns off automatically. If you install a sump pump, it is best to use a 24 inch diameter sewer tile on a gravel base and 1\4 inch plastic pipe to carry the water from the pump to the drain. Be sure to install a brass check valve to prevent back flow. Always be sure to repair gaps or large cracks in a basement wall from the outside if they are above ground level or easily accessible with only a small amount of digging. The best substance to use for repairs is mortar. When the patches have dried you should coat the with pargeting or a vinyl spray. If there is no way to get to the crack from the outside you can make the repairs with quick cure concrete inside the basement. But remember, this will only create a temporary repair for the basement and will eventually leak. As a last resort you can water proof the exterior foundation walls. This will entail removing all plantings from around the outside base of your home and excavating the dirt down to the footings. You can then clean the walls and coat them with pargeting. When this is dry, replace the dirt and plants.