This post is my personal DIY basement waterproofing journey. Disclaimer: In this post, I’m going to explain what I did/ what I’m doing to try to waterproof or at least manage the rainwater away from my foundation and out of my basement. I’m just sharing my experience and opinions. If you decide to try my method, you’re doing it at your own risk. I don’t guarantee what works for me will work for you…. and who knows, it may not even be code in your area.
A Little History
My house was built in 1922. It has a block basement. Right now as I type up this post, my basement smells musty. Efflorescens are coming through the walls like nobodies business, and every once in awhile (about 6 times or less since we’ve owned the house) during a hard rain, water seeps in our basement.
We thought we had the rainwater problem fixed as we haven’t seen any water seepage for a few years. We were surprised after the last two heavy rains that water began to puddle up again. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Our main concern was water getting to our furnace. We’ve had water destroy two control boards in our furnace since we lived in our house. Thankfully the furnace was under warranty both times that happened. We felt like we have to do something more than the every 2 -3 year caulking around the outside of the foundation thing. It was time to either get a basement waterproofing company out or do it myself. During the process, I did have a basement waterproofing company come out and give me a quote.
My Basement Waterproofing Research
I’ve been researching basement waterproofing for almost as long as I lived in our house (10+ years). I’m very aware what my options are. There are many basement waterproofing techniques out there, but it really comes down to two options. Do it yourself or hire a professional. However, I don’t currently have the cash to drop for a basement waterproofing company, and I wasn’t ready for the DIY basement waterproofing gig until my neighbor, who happens to be a home inspector, came and checked out our issue. His house was built around the same time as ours and he had the same problems that we have. We don’t have a high water table here and there aren’t any signs of water trying to force it’s way through our floor. My walls don’t look so bad on the north and south sides, but the east and west walls of my basement look horrendous. My roof runs off on the east and west side of my house.
My neighbor pointed out that my problem is rainwater and I just need to manage it better. I knew that, but sometimes it takes another person saying it so that I get the full revelation. My neighbor suggested widening our driveway all the way up to the house and then grading the portion right up by the house so the water runs away from the house. We went back and forth with it. Part of my concern is that the cement might be part of the problem. We called a concrete guy and found out it is too late in the year for them to come out. I’m pretty sure it would be quite costly to do what we would want done.
DIY Basement Waterproofing
If you plan to waterproof your basement, you first have to determine what the cause of the problem is. Is it rainwater attacking your foundation? Or do you have a high water table and water is forcing it’s way up from the floor? After you determine the source of your water problem, you can attempt to fix it appropriately.
Since I don’t have a high water table and it appears that most (if not all) of my efflorescence and water seepage has been caused by the rainwater rolling off my roof and up against my foundation, I decided to do what I could to divert the water away from my foundation. In my opinion, being that it’s the cheapest and easiest way to get a dry basement, it should be tried first. You may find out that you need to do more than just divert water, but it’s a real good start.
There are many ways to help divert rainwater from your home.
- Get gutters on your house (During heavy rains, water pours over the top of my gutters.)
- Make sure your gutters channel the water away from your house. This could require that you install an underground drainage system made of PVC pipe. (In my case, water was puddling up next to my house because the cement around my house was lower than the grass creating a pond next to my foundation.)
- You can grade the soil away from your house and create a french drain.
- You can do all the above.
Intro to the French/Trench Drain
The French/trench drain concept was first introduced to me by a co-worker named Pat. Pat has had two houses that has experienced basement water problems. The first was his own house and the second, his daughter’s. He fixed his own leaky basement over 10 years ago after getting an idea from This Old House. He was able to finish his daughter’s basement after using the technique mentioned in this post.
The basic thought is to dig a trench 3′ – 4′ feet out from your foundation grading it away from your house, and then lining the trench with plastic. By the time rain water seeps down into your soil, it doesn’t reach your foundation.
My co-worker didn’t add drainage pipe in his last project, but I did. (You can see pictures from Pat’s work in the slider above or to the left.) I’ve been studying this as a viable basement waterproofing option and saw that others have had success with this method. Read this article and this guy talks a lot about French drains. These two articles in particular have people talking about the success they had with the french drain. I even found a professional waterproofer that uses this technique. He calls it grading and regrading.
How I Did It
Taking all the information that I compiled over the years, hearing about and reading about others having success with this method, realizing that every time it rained hard or any time the outside faucet was left on for a long period of time, water puddled up on the cement next to my foundation, I figured I should just go for it.
I ended up renting an electric jackhammer to bust up the concrete next to my foundation. (If I end up doing this for the east side of my house, I might use something a little less intrusive next time.)
I made my french drain similar to Pat’s. The only difference is:
- I put in a drain pipe.
- I went 4 feet out instead of 3 feet.
- Pat went about 4 inches down next to the foundation and then 10 to 12 inches in the deepest part of his trench. I had nowhere to put the dirt that I was digging out so threw some of the dirt next to the foundation so that I started grading at ground level. The deepest part of my trench was about 18 inches.
See images and my supply list below.