Is It Time to Waterproof Your Basement? Here’s What You Should Know

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Now that we’re at the peak of hurricane season and possible relentless rainstorms, it might be a good time to make sure your basement is completely waterproofed.

Basement waterproofing is essential, as excess water that saturates the ground can damage the foundation, says Mark McAlpin, owner of Islip-based ACM Basement Waterproofing.

“It’s really a question of water management,” McAlpin says. “You can live in a house for 40 years without a problem and all of a sudden you walk down and there’s water all over.”

Signs of Water Damage

Though your basement may have never flooded, you might still see signs that water is seeping in by examining the interior walls, advises McAlpin. Indications of water damage include white powder on the walls; peeling paint, especially towards the floor; and cracks in the floor and walls.

Basement Moisture Hazards

In its early stages, mold may not be clearly visible to the naked eye, but it can still be there and potentially wreaking havoc on our health. 

Though we all may be breathing in mold to some degree each day, high concentrations of mold can cause respiratory complications, allergies, asthma, bronchitis, and even compromised immune systems.

Over time, moisture can damage the structure of the home, as well as ruin the insulation, which can lead to increased energy consumption, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

As the weather is predicted to become more and more extreme over time, you should add waterproofing to the budget before you invest in other basement improvements, advises McAlpin, who notes that it’s cheaper to tackle waterproofing before you incur water-damaged furnishings. 

Waterproofing Techniques

Generally, the only way to guarantee a dry basement is to add an interior French drain (named after inventor Henry French), a drainage system under the floor of the basement that captures the water and leads it out to a sump pump. 

“The pump comes on automatically and takes the water outside,” notes McAlpin, adding that there’s a battery backup in case of power outages.

Installing a French drain entails breaking apart the basement’s concrete floor, digging down along the perimeter of the home, removing concrete and dirt, placing the French drain with perforated piping and gravel in the trench, recementing the floor, and adding wall drainage, explains McAlpin. The entire process takes between three and six days. 

“You can do half the perimeter, but it’s really recommended to do the full perimeter,” McAlpin says.

Homeowners should also maintain their roof gutters, keeping them clear of debris and efficiently directing the water away.

“But the bigger problem is the underground water,” he says. “That’s the root of it: underground water on a sunny day.” 

Ventilation Essential

The Environmental Protection Agency advises that everyone should be ventilating their basements, subterranean areas where there’s typically limited airflow, says McAlpin.

“Up top, there’s plenty of air leakage,” he says. “Downstairs, it’s a concrete vault and there’s almost no air coming in.”

ACM Basement Waterproofing utilizes an EZ Breathe Ventilation System that’s placed on the wall and draws moist air off the floor, exhausts it outside, and draws better air from upstairs.

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