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Exterior Basement Waterproofing Demystified
If you are considering Exterior (Outside) WaterproofingYou Owe it to Yourself to:READ THIS NOW!!!
Don’t Pay to Fix Your Basement Twice Like Many, Many of our Past Customers Who Hired Substandard Contractors (Some of them Large Companies With Fancy Marketing and Slick Salesmen)!!!
In Order to Help You Wade Through All The B.S. (That’s Baloney Stuff, Folks!) in Your Estimates and Understand This Kind of Project:
I Will Explain to You Why Most Companies Who Call Themselves Basement Waterproofers Aren’t Actually Waterproofers;And I Will Explain The Systems Commonly Employed Nationally Especially What is WRONG With Them;
I will Explain How To Fix Your Problems;And What We Recommend that You Do Differently
First. what is commonly described as basement waterproofing is to actually excavate the foundation, meaning the foundation is dug up. In other words it means: to remove all the dirt for a couple of feet all the way around the house all the way down to the bottom of the footing.This is generally referred to as waterproofing ( but I can assure you that the way its done nationally typically, IT ISN’T). Most of the guys that do this are small 1-8 men outfits. They learned to do what they do, from someone who learned it from someone etc.
When a basement is built what the code minimums require is damp proofing. Damp proofing is to trowel a mortar parge coat on the wall which is basically trowelling mortar on the wall like stucco; then applying a damproof tar or asphalt sealant.This basic technique has been used for the last 100 years.
Just imagine all of the advances that have been made in the last hundred years yet builders still seal the wall using this archaic process!It is Guaranteed to fail every time; in fact in Cleveland, Ohio alone there are over 125 water-proofing companies in the yellow pages !!! What these “so-called water-proofers” do is dig up the basement and actually RE-APPLY the EXACT SAME SEALANTS and utilize the exact same techniques that already FAILED in the first place!
Does that make any sense whatsoever???
This usually means re-parging the wall with porous mortar and smearing some tar on it like a monkey! Have you ever known anyone that had an asphalt driveway? How often did they Have-To Re- Seal it? I can tell you I have, known many people with black top drives. When I was a kid growing up two of my neighbors had an ongoing debate about their driveways.
The first neighbor swore you needed to seal it every single year, and he did. The second neighbor swore every two years was enough.
I can still hear them arguing now in my mind’s eye… LOL.The sad truth is that according to the US Bureau of Standards asphalt sealants begin to break down in only 18 months, YIKES! You see the sad truth is they were both right!
And these so called water-proofers charge an average of ten to fifteen grand just to dig up the basement and seal it again using what FAILED already… You See Tar Has Never Been Rated as Waterproof. When I discovered this, it sent my head spinning! You see the reason why was, that every single “waterproofer” I knew used tar (asphalt based sealants)!!
They couldn’t ALL be wrong…. Or could they????? Did you know that in the building codes there are actually two separate definitions for damp-proofing (tar) and waterproofing. Damp proofing: by definition means “something that helps to slow the penetration of water into the substrate”.
HHMMM “helps to slow” sounds quite different than the definition of; Waterproofing: “something that prevents the penetration of water” and further must pass a bending test where the membrane must be able to be bent around a cylinder.
Water proof sealants are almost all exclusively used and installed COMMERCIALLY…(that’s because they are more expensive).The extra costs are what stop the average contractor from offering you , the homeowner, a product that is effective and will last and “stand the test of time”. We developed and recommend you use MULTI-STEP EXTERIOR WATERPROOFING SYSTEM which, uses a cement-based fiber re-enforced wall resurfacing system and NO LESS than two waterproof rated sealants.This is by no means the cheapest of methods, however, and it may or may not be the BEST system to put into place. Which system you should use depends entirely on the specific nature of YOUR problem. There are NO miracle systems than can solve ALL basement problems.
The thing I can guarantee is if you install a true outside waterproofing system, it will actively drain water away from the foundation, and the water leak will be a thing of the past, not only that, but better sealants will outlast the wood on your house GUARANTEED!
I’d like to tell you a story you’ve got to hear about a job I recently did for a Mr. Ron Sewyak on state route 20 in Oberlin.This is a sad story about a man who had to have his basement fixed THREE TIMES in ten short years!!!! Mr Sewyak had had the walls of his home rebuilt ten years ago using conventional masonry techniques.They were rebuilt using 12″ blocks and type n mortar. A conventional parge coat was applied and tar. New tiles and backfill were added. This is what is considered “outside waterp-proofing”. Four years later the walls were leaking again!!! Exasperated the homeowner had Ohio State Waterproofing install their inside outside “waterproofing system” (inside) and they hoped their problems were over.
Again he thought his problem was solved!
Sadly, I met Ron a few months ago.He asked me to come out to his house because his basement walls were severely bowed bulging and shifted off the first course and out of plumb.I was able to observe portions of the outside “waterproofing ” system from ten years ago and the inside/outside system from six years ago both had fatal flaws but…. Neither system was the cause of the problem. After careful inspection I assessed the real problem—-BAD FRAMING!!!!That’s right, it turned out that the first contractor (who did many things poorly) built the walls directly back up to and underneath the existing framing deficiency which caused the wall system to fail in the first place! bA partial sill plate and a lack of cribbing on the gable end walls were behind their basements problems from the beginning. After the first winter ten years ago, the newly re-built wall began to crack… this opened water ways which made the walls leak. Ron’s second contractor performed an inside system which, while done poorly, also stopped active water puddles on the floor.Unfortunately it did nothing to stop the structural issues, which worsened and worsened, until he was forced to call me.
So in a ten year period the walls have been repaired three times!!!!
Can you imagine???
Fortunately, for Ron I fixed them once and for all by first correcting the framing issues and repairing the sill plate; then performing a complete excavation.Only once the earth was removed completely; all the way down to the bottom of the footer, was I able to push the walls back in line and use my surface bonding structural repair solution.bThen of course I applied three sealants to the wall one damp-proof two of them waterproof. Then I replaced the drainage system with new thick wall pipe and stone all the way to 12″ of grade separated from the top soil with filter fabric!!!!!
So why didn’t I fix them from the inside???
Because in his situation, it would not work; it was not the source of the problem.
I always recommend examining all of options .Then I tell them what I would do if I was in their shoes.Regardless of your suppositions, not all homeowners can afford an outside system…. worse… most outside contractors do not know how to install a true WATER-PROOFING system. So the poor homeowner is left buying a repair that involves excavating the wall and using the same techniques that FAILED ALREADY!!! If you are considering outside excavation and water-proofing you need to learn what makes a system actually waterproof and why actual waterproofing is the BEST and why you would never ever want any other technique to be attempted.To re-cap the typical outside waterproofing contractor first excavates the wall then applies a basic mortar parge. Mortar is very porous, it soaks up water like a sponge.
Some of the old timers will apply a Portland cement and ironite coating. This is Portland cement mixed with powdered iron ore filings. The idea is that as the iron ore filings oxidize they will expand helping to stop the absorption; while this is less porous than a plain mortar parge the fact it still soaks up water like a sponge. A better newer cement base coating is called thoro-seal it is a capillary blocked cement coating. While it is much better than an old fashioned mortar parge.
It is not however comparable to the first step in a Multi- Step system.
There are several reasons for this; namely that ordinary mortar parges rely on a porosity bond to adhere to the wall. This means it is a physical bond that is locked only into the nooks and crannies of the block face. The first coating that we apply and should be applied to the wall is a waterproofed below grade surface bonding cement. The product was originally developed to glue blocks together from the surface that had absolutely no mortar in between them. When used as a parge coat we mix it and recommend mixing it with an acrylic bonding adhesive, this gives it both porosity adhesion as well as a superior chemical adhesion to the wall; which really means once we put it on it is there to stay!
Next not only is it non-porous like thoro-seal it also is capable of holding a four foot head of water with out block penetration! That’s amazing! Not only is it more waterproof and chemically bonded to the wall, it is reinforced with thousands and thousands of tiny cat hair length nylon fibers, which make it incredibly tuff and strong!!! The manufacturer claims it is the only sealant required to keep the basement dry; why do we recommend two more coatings and recommend others do too????
Well the simple answer is concrete only based sealants have a fatal flaw namely expansion and contraction of the soil. You see concrete can always develop hairline cracks, which is the reason we go over it twice! Do you remember the story in the Bible when the Israelites were in captivity in Egypt?? They were forced to mixed straw fibers into the mud for making bricks…. You see the basic concept of introducing a fiber matrix into a masonry product to increase strength is very, very old!!!!
The next step that is done by most outside contractors is to spray or brush an asphalt (tar) based seal on the wall…. Just like the story from above about the two driveways, tar is not and never will be, waterproof!!! There are a few polymer modified tars that last slightly longer than basic tar but most are not rated for more than 60 months before they get hard set and crack!!!!
That’s only 5 years!!! Crazy!!! They can be marketed under names like Tuff-n-Dri and others but they are still inferior sealants.These guys then will cover the tar with either plastic sheeting or foam board.Plastic sheeting is a big booby trap that will separate from the tar as it hardens and then can trap water in between the wall and the plastic creating a worse problem than before the so called repair!!! The foam board will help to keep the tar from being scratched as it is being back-filled but is not waterproof and can often attract fungal growth between the foam and tar breaking the tar down even faster !!!
The next coating in a Multi-Step System is to apply either a vulcanized rubber or a flashing grade elasto-meric acrylic latex resin. Both are derived from latex rubber and truly deserve the moniker of Water Proof! Both were developed as an improvement to tar based flat roofing applications where the tar inevitably failed!!!!
The final coating we use and recommend others use was developed for underground parking garages and military bases, originally in Germany. A Canadian inventor then improved the technology and ironed out the rest of the bugs with the system so it would work permanently on regular houses. It is called an air-gap drainage membrane/ blanket system. It is the best membrane system ever developed in the authors opinion. There a many reasons why, but here are a few: it is made of polyethylene plastic which is terrible in our landfills because it does not break down but awesome as a waterproofing blanket as it will outlast the wood on your house guaranteed. It has no natural enemies other than sunlight and it is buried so it will never see the sun. It traps an air gap or blanket of air between the wall and the back fill dirt. It does this because of the thousands of dimples impressed into the membrane when it is being made. Even if the membrane is punctured it will not allow water penetration because unless the water is pressurized it cannot jump across an air gap.
After the wall is sealed the other aspects of a Multi Step System are also superior to typica damp proofing… including: We never recommend the use thin wall pipe only the thicker walled rigid pipes – this is so one never needs to worry about chunks in the backfill crushing the pipes . We always leave a geo-textile fabric under the pipes and recommend you should too, before adding the bed of stone being used to pitch the pipes, this prevents mud from clogging them and silt from migrating into them from underneath.We back fill the wall all the way to within a few feet of grade with clean stone and recommend that you do too,— this is to prevent the extra pressure from wet soil from being added to the wall itself!
Stone stacks on itself and drains, soil absorbs water weight!! We recommend that one separate the soil back fill over the stone ,from the stone, using the afore-mentioned geo-textile. This keeps the air gaps in the stone intact and prevents the soils from rinsing down into the stone bed and filling/clogging the drainage pipes!
One should always replace the downspout lines bedded in stone and never ever fill soil under new driveways or concrete patio pads instead one should use layers of compacted premium fill in these areas, to prevent settlement.
With this new found knowledge, After installing a mutistep exterior waterproofing system You can now feel confident and get the assurance that your basement will remain dry and can be re-modeled any way you like it! Remember you house is your biggest investment- when you need basement help, why skimp?
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