More homeowners than ever are looking to maximize living space in the home. Because basement finishing represents one of the best ways to gain extra usable living space, waterproofing has become an important issue.
Where Does a Water Problem Occur?
Nearly 85% of newly constructed homes experience a water problem of some sort within the first 3 years; a staggering fact, to be sure.
There are three potential types of a water problem in a home:
- Roof leaks - a very common type of water problem. Water either intrudes into the home through a faulty or worn-out roof that needs replacing. Or else through faulty or improperly installed flashing that allows water intrusion. Prime locations include where a one story roof joins the wall of a two or three story section of the home, roof valleys, and areas of wall or chimney flashing. Chimney flashing can be especially tricky to install properly or repair. This should be done only by a qualified, experienced roofing contractor or chimney repair contractor. Another problem area is flat roof areas - especially common for commercial buildings. A flat roof normally requires a drain tile system to keep standing water from accumulating on the roof surface. Flat roof waterproofing is accomplished with a special one piece rubber membrane or multiple layers of asphalt roofing (hot roof.)
- Exterior siding and sheathing can allow water intrusion under extreme conditions; such as driving rain or ice dams. Structural waterproofing is normally accomplished with the application of a waterproofing membrane to the exterior wall sheathing during construction, before siding is applied. Commonly called â€œhousewrapâ€, this extremely durable plastic sheeting prevents water from penetrating exterior walls.
- A basement water problem - the most common area of the home for a water problem; usually from one of the following sources;
- Condensation - occurring when excess moisture in the air condenses and collects on cool basement surfaces. This can be remedied by insulating water pipes, installing a basement dehumidifier, and with adequate ventilation.
- Capillary action - which occurs when ground water tables are higher than the foundation and basement floor. The result is water seeping up through the floor and foundation. The best cure is prevention. Adequate ground water study and planning before construction, to include a basement sump pump system or French drain system, installed under the foundation. As ground water rises, a sump pump installation or French drain system (a type of foundation drain tile system) drains water out of the area before it rises to the level of the foundation or basement floor. This type planning is critical; rising water tables can exert extreme water pressure or â€œhydrostaticâ€ pressure on exterior basement foundation walls, causing them to collapse into the basement.
- Runoff pools around the perimeter of the home - causing water to seep into the home through basement walls. This can be prevented or corrected using a 2-step process: a sloping grade around the perimeter of the home (allowing the water to properly drain away from the foundation), and the application of basement waterproofing on exterior wall surfaces. While a basement waterproofing product is usually applied to exterior surfaces in coats, there is another type of waterproofing product available. A plastic vapor barrier applied directly to the interior wall.
Prevention Planning for New Construction and Retrofit for Existing Homes
Any size or scope basement waterproofing system can be retrofitted to an existing home. The best and most cost effective way to install one, however, is at the time of construction.
French drain and sump pump installation, whether done at the time of construction or as a retrofit, should be designed and installed by an experienced, trained professional.
What About DIY Basement Waterproofing?
Application of foundation waterproofing or concrete waterproofing is a viable DIY project requiring a low level of skill and expertise. A quality waterproofing product, whether spray waterproofing or waterproofing paint, is applied to exterior basement wall surfaces. Most latex or asphalt concrete sealers are simply brushed or rolled on; carefully follow individual product preparation and application directions.
For a more complicated process of waterproofing system installation or design, or for a retrofit, the best choice might be to hire a basement waterproofing contractor.
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