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The Truth About Basement Waterproofing

How do you fix a leaky basement? Believe it or not, you’ll get different answers depending on who you ask. Ask someone who only water-poofs basements from the inside, and they will almost always give you the solution to waterproof the inside walls of your basement. Ask someone who specializes in interior basement drainage solutions, and they will most likely sell you on an interior drainage system, even though that will never fix your water problems.

There’s a lot of hype around fixing leaky Toronto basements these days. It’s become fashionable to cloak this in technology the average Canadian homeowner will never understand. Here we’re going to distill this down to basics in the hope this helps you select the right bid from an honest contractor.

Fixing Leaking Buckets

Let’s say you have a leaky bucket and want to fix it. It’s a crazy example but bear with me please. All you have available is some window putty. Do you apply it on the outside? Of course not! You put it on the inside so the water pressure helps it stick.

Conversely if you wanted to stop water entering from the outside you’d put the putty on the outside too. That way you could immerse the bucket in the swimming pool right up to the rim and the contents would stay dry all day.

You just learned how to waterproof a basement which is comparable to a bucket in a swimming pool. The earth outside is damp and the hydrostatic pressure can be quite immense. If there’s a crack it’s going to find a way through. And if you try to patch it with a blob of putty from the inside you know what to expect.

Water Management versus Water Proofing

Waterproofing a leaky basement from the outside is a messy, and sometimes expensive business. It involves excavation and special drainage systems and can disrupt the family’s leisure time for weeks. Most Toronto homeowners are ecstatic when a basement spin-doctor promises them a fast and cheaper solution. This will likely be one of these two ways out.

  • Paint Something On The Inside Wall – In theory all that’s needed is to chip out a few cracks, close them with epoxy and paint a cement-based product over. In practice a basement wall’s a living thing. As it flexes in response to outside temperatures and microscopic ground movements it undoes undoes the work in anything beyond very minor cracks and leaks.

  • Drain the Water Away as It Comes In – After blaming your basement for the failure (which is technically correct) you’ll be faced with the “only other alternative” which is akin to putting a pump in a leaky bucket instead of fixing the hole properly. In some cases, this may be your only solution for a wet basement, but many times it’s seen as a cheaper alternative to actually fixing the problem from the outside of the foundation. This involves:

  1. Chipping a drain out in the concrete floor beneath the troubled wall. This needs to slope to a convenient point.

  2. Digging a hole at the bottom end that acts as a sump to accumulate the water.

  3. Putting an automated electric pump in the sump and finding somewhere to pump the water to.

  4. Accepting the fact that you are admitting water contaminated with who knows what into your home.

  5. Concealing the entire installation behind a screen wall so you can pretend the problem’s gone away.

We call this “water management” and not proper waterproofing. What the some contractors and plumbers don’t tell you is that the water seeping through your basement wall is gradually degrading it – and that an astute home buyer will back off fast when they see what you have attempted. There’s only one way to fix a leaking bucket. The only way to fix a damp basement properly is to do so from the correct side too.

Have questions about your damp or leaky basement? Feel free to contact us, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have.



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