7 Tips and Tricks for Basement Waterproofing

There’s a lot you can do to help keep water out of your basement

Photos, furniture, seasonal clothing, decorations and other items stored in your basement can become one drenched mess if water gets in. In fact, if you find water in your basement — even a little, even just once — you’ll want to investigate immediately. To determine the cause of the problem, work your way down the house.

1. Downspouts and gutters
Clogged gutters and downspouts that aren’t working properly can lead to puddles or saturated soil. This water then works its way through cracks or weaknesses in your basement wall.

If this is the problem, keeping downspouts and gutters clear of debris could help. Place a screen across gutters that collect leaves and twigs from nearby trees, and install concrete gutters or splash blocks to extend downspouts and move water further away from the house.

2. Your lot’s slope
Next, check the slope of your lot. Land sloping toward your home can direct water into your basement through window wells, holes, foundation cracks, over the foundation, or through wall and floor joints.

Grading your lot so it slopes away from your house may help if this is the problem.

3. Basement windows
Water can get into your basement through broken basement windows or windows that are poorly sealed.

Repairing broken windows is an important first step. Proper sealing also helps prevent water from getting in through windows. Finally, if your home’s window wells fill with heavy rains, installing window well covers may help.

4. Foundation walls
Water can seep into basements through cracks in the foundation wall. Whether you spot the start of a crack, a hairline fracture or a more mature crack, take action to prevent additional damage.

Fill these cracks with an epoxy and then apply a sealer. If cracks reappear, this may be a sign of a bigger problem, possibly a buildup of water pressure surrounding the foundation. Keep reading for ideas on what to do in that situation.

5. Water pressure on the foundation
Larger or recurring basement cracks may be a sign of significant water pressure on the foundation. In cases like this, draining the water from outside or inside your home is crucial and a water collection system and/or sump pump come may be in your home’s future.

You can install drain tile by breaking up the floor around the edge of the basement. This drain tile trench collect waters that pushes against the basement walls and carries it to a sump pump for removal from the house. Alternatively, an external pipe around the outside of the house could be installed. The water collected in the pipe then flows to a sump pump, where it can be pumped away from the house.

6. Service holes
In many homes, the foundation contains holes or openings for air conditioning, gas, pipes, laundry exhaust or electrical wires.

If your home has holes like this, double-check to be sure you’ve sealed them on both the inside and outside. Use epoxy, caulk, silicon or expanding foam to create a powerful seal.

7. Condensation
Poor basement ventilation may lead to condensation on cool surfaces, especially cold-water pipes, walls and floors. This is particularly likely to occur when the temperature inside your home is far different than the temperature outside your home.

If your home’s basement feels damp, add a dehumidifier during hot weather or heat the basement during cold weather to help prevent condensation from collecting. Insulating cold-water pipes may also help prevent basement condensation.

If water is still appearing in your basement after you have taken these preventive measures, you may want to consult with a contractor who specializes in dry basements.

Whether you’ve had a one-time experience with water in your basement or you’re concerned that it’s becoming a regular occurrence, check your insurance coverage. Most policies exclude damage that occurs over a long period of time, and there are often other exclusions based on how water enters a home. A Water Backup and Sump Overflow endorsement may be added to cover water damage resulting from a sump overflowing or water backing up from a sewer system. Choices vary by state, so contact your insurance company to discuss the options in your area.

Finally, it’s important to understand the differences between Water Backup coverage and flood insurance. Standard home insurance policies do not cover flood damage. To find out whether you live in a flood plain or need flood insurance, check out the National Flood Insurance Program.